Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 5 years or so, you should surely know that the environment is in grave peril. Not only are the oceans filling up with plastic but the land is filling up with waste, the air is filling up with fumes and unless we do something about it the prognosis isn’t good for the planet or any of its inhabitants.
But pointing out that our habits are killing the planet seems to be getting us nowhere. Focusing on the solutions rather than continuing to rehash the problems would certainly be a good start but the thing that will really make a difference is action and change.
Though businesses are not the sole cause of the changing environment, and individuals must take some responsibility too, businesses are in a good position to set a good example. Plus, given the scale of business, there is plenty of room for small improvements that will have a big impact.
Whether you are a small company of just one person or a large conglomerate with offices around the world and a huge network of suppliers and clients, your business can make a difference.
Waste and Resource Management
Every business produces some form of waste. From the small town baker who throws out a bad batch to a massive construction company that requires soil removal before it can get started on the foundations. But no matter what type of waste your business produces, it is vital that it is dealt with responsibly and in an environmentally friendly way.
The waste hierarchy is a good place for you to start. This is essentially a list of priorities you should work down to find the most suitable method for disposal. A very basic version of this might include:
- Landfill disposal
So, if you can reduce the amount of waste paper (for example) this would be ideal but, reusing waste paper for making notes is a close second best. Then, recycling the paper should be the next priority.
But what if the product cannot be recycled? The next phase is to recover the waste which essentially means burning it in order to produce energy. While this isn’t as environmentally friendly as the methods higher up the hierarchy, it is better than landfill as it does at least put the waste to another use and may replace some fossil fuels. In fact, some countries like Sweden and China are importing waste for this purpose.
The last option for waste disposal is landfill. Unfortunately, landfill is the only option for some types of waste, particularly hazardous waste which must be kept secure. The main thing is that you choose the most suitable method from this list, working down the list of priorities. This way you can ensure that you are using the most environmentally friendly method of disposal.
Schemes to Improve Environmental Impact
As well as ensuring proper waste management methods, businesses should also look at schemes to make their business more environmentally friendly. This might include choosing to manufacture products closer to home or reducing the amount of packaging used to transport as well as present your product to the consumer.
A simple swap from a non-recyclable plastic to a recyclable polymer could be a really great start to your scheme but there are plenty of other material swaps you could go for too. Many countries around the world are bringing new methods for reducing the number of single-use plastics with single-use plastic bags the focus of many campaigns. Though the route has been bumpy in Australia so far, the example that the rest of the world is showing is a big hint to businesses here too.
If you have a large supply chain, you should also endeavour to make sure that your entire network is as environmentally friendly as possible. This may mean that you need to change suppliers but sometimes this can lead to a better deal and it is certainly a better deal for the environment!
You might also like to consider schemes to offset your carbon emissions. For example, you could plant trees to balance out the amount of carbon you produce. In fact, there are companies that will plant the trees for you such as Greenfleet. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of carbon you use, from planting trees to reducing packaging will help to reduce your impact on the environment.
Clean Energy and Reducing Pollution
In order to run properly, many businesses require a lot of energy. Whether this is to run an office full of computers or large machinery, the fact is that unless you are using clean energy sources, your activities are having a negative effect on the environment.
While you might not be able to install solar panels (for example), you certainly can switch to an energy supplier that offers clean energy. There are now lots of energy suppliers who are offering energy which is entirely renewable and may not even have a contract to purchase fossil fuels. You can see a list of such companies here.
Reducing your energy requirements should also be a part of your plan. Swapping to energy saving light bulbs in an office is one option but there are plenty of other things you can do too. Switching to more energy efficient machinery is a good option where possible and keeping equipment well maintained is also excellent for reducing energy consumption.
While environmental impact should probably be high on your priorities, the fact is that as a business owner, you are probably most concerned with the bottom line! And here you won’t be disappointed. Clean energy might be a large upfront investment but the expenses are coming down quickly and the savings are passed onto customers.
Introducing Modern Solutions
Though technology might be to blame for some of the environmental issues we are currently facing, it is also the best way to improve the situation too. Replacing old technologies that guzzle fossil fuels with electric versions can help to reduce your carbon footprint; updating technologies to more efficient versions can help to reduce your overall energy consumption; using modern recyclable materials is an ideal way to reduce your waste.
But technology is only the beginning. Simple ideas like introducing flexible working or opportunities for your staff to work from home are also perfect for reducing your environmental impact. It might be surprising but by giving your staff the chance to avoid rush hour – or not get into the car at all – their carbon footprints are reduced.
Getting into good habits as a staff is ideal for the environment. Not only can they take their new excellent environmental ideals home with them but they can be a part of spreading the word.
Spreading the Word
The more everyone does to help the environment, the better and by spreading the word about your own environmental efforts, you can be a part of a bigger change. This isn’t just about you telling others what they can do but also taking their ideas on board to improve your own standing. The more businesses can use their networks and contacts to spread good ideas and intentions, the faster progress everyone will make together.
Creating an environmental policy that outlines your intentions is also a good idea. Large companies tend to be a little better at this but there is no reason that smaller companies can’t do the same. Having a document that lists your schemes and goals in regards to the environmental impact you have will help you to induct new staff to your ideals. The document will also serve to inform your clients of your environmental credentials.
We humans struggle to imagine the consequences of climate change and how we affect our environment simply because the problem is so vast – expanding across an incomprehensible timeframe and space. It often feels like throwing a single-use plastic bag away or choosing to use fossil fuels instead of green energy can’t possibly be having that much impact.
The problem with this is that all these small actions are cumulative. Your one bag might not be too much of a problem but the human population uses 5 trillion plastic bags per year (we are already up to 3,410,000,000,000 in 2018).
When you look at the problem this way, it is clear that even small, token actions, if taken by everyone and all businesses, can actually have a huge impact. Imagine if no-one used single-use plastic bags anymore but chose to use recyclable paper bags instead. Wouldn’t the environment be better off?
No matter what you do or how much you do, you should never underestimate the impact your business can have. 2018 is definitely the moment for businesses to step up and begin to do more. It is not melodramatic to say that time is running out and anything we can do to prevent further damage to our only home planet will help.
Now it’s your turn.