Audio version available below.
Greenwashing. Ecocide. Climate catastrophe. The plethora of ecological terms is ever growing and, understandably, it can make you feel at a loss of what you could, or should, be doing to help.
As individuals, we can all make a difference to the way we treat our planet. But, as reported by the CDP, just 100 companies made up 70% of emissions since 1988- showcasing the magnified impact businesses have on the environment.
Yes, these 100 companies are global fossil fuel conglomerates, but the case stands that as groups we have a much more powerful effect on the environment around us- for good, or for bad.
To really drive the importance of the need for climate awareness, the UN Secretary-General reported this year that we are “on a fast track to climate disaster”. Luckily, the world seems to be listening, and with more and more companies setting out roadmaps to reduce their carbon emissions, it is high time that everyone gets on board.
Through events such as Sustainability LIVE London, industry heavyweights including Microsoft, Google, HSBC, and Nespresso discussed how they are making changes to the way they operate.
So what will your business do?
Outlined below are just a few ways a sustainability consultant can help your business do its bit to make the world that much more of a better place- for you, for your employees, for your planet.
You’ve probably heard tips and tricks for around the home; use the washing machine between 10 pm-5 am, only ever wash at 30 degrees, and don’t peek in that oven while you’re cooking!
When scaled up, similar, but business-oriented, recommendations and subsequent changes can have a real impact on your company's efficiency- and could save you a bunch of money. This is known as a resource efficiency assessment. Running an audit of your company’s energy use and wastage, a sustainability consultant will assess where there is unnecessary overuse, misuse, or problems relating to energy-reliant areas within your company, reducing the input you use.
In the UK we find ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented energy crisis. With proof that renewables are generating cheaper and better energy than coal, it’s likely worthwhile for you to switch to solar or wind energy sources.
Sticking with your current supplier may be cheaper now, but look at the long-term projections for your energy consumption. By installing your own solar panels or wind turbines and generating your own clean energy, you could recoup money otherwise spent on rising fossil fuel-based energy sources- and help yourself become a Green-E certified company while you’re at it.
UK businesses generate a lot of waste; around a whopping 41.1 million tonnes per year to be precise. By setting you up with an ethical waste management company like First Mile and utilising the structures such companies have put in place, you can streamline the amount and types of waste you produce- leading to more resourcefulness and ensuing reduction of costs of new materials.
Brand image and reputation.
Perhaps the most obvious and outwardly-recognisable benefit to your business is the increased positivity surrounding how you look to customers, competitors, and the public- and the potential resulting increase in market share.
Surveys have shown a sharp increase in ‘conscious consumerism'. People are buying less, with an eye for companies putting things like recycled packaging, zero-carbon footprint, and ethical practices at the forefront. When “68 percent of [UK customers] will go out of their way to connect with brands who they feel share the same moral compass”, it is clear as day that by listening to what the people want- and shaping your business as one that positions itself accordingly- you simultaneously cast a wider net for customers and have an edge over competitors.
However, this must be carried out in an authentic way. With the aid of a sustainability consultant, you can evaluate what changes must be made to align yourself with these outlined customer desires. To be a “sustainable business” it will take more than planting a few trees outside the office. From your supply chain to your labour practices, to the packaging your product is wrapped in, everything is evaluated in what makes up conscious practice. Transparency is key in 2022, and clients and customers alike may scrutinise everything from the material supplier to your stockist before deciding to purchase your product over your competition’s.
Historically, environmentalism and business have been at heads with one another, with CEOs lamenting about the focus on sustainability detracting from their time and profits. This is misguided. Even during the last recession, it was outlined that the “quest for sustainability is already starting to transform the competitive landscape”. Now there is evidence supporting this claim as true, it should be mandatory for every business to operate sustainably. Your customers are demanding it and in business, where there is demand, supply is created.
The backbone of every business is its workforce. A united, passionate, and engaged workforce will undoubtedly lead to a successful working environment where you will see your team, and your business, flourish.
In an ever increasingly eco-conscious world, more people are engaging personally with the message that we must enact and see change in regards to the way we treat our environment.
By showing your employees that you too are engaged with this message, you can create a cohesive team spirit, motivating and enthusing everyone. This can help ensure you retain employees, forging an enduring team that works productively with you and each other, and results in a lower turnover- a never-more-important thing to prioritise in the age of the “Great Resignation”.
The case for aligning yourself with the mindset of your employees and putting them at the forefront of your business has been backed up by industry professionals and academics alike.
CEO Stephan Scholl has said “Corporations that put the employee experience first will have a stronger, more engaged workforce that wants to stay” while NYU Professor of Sustainability Jeffrey Hollender has spoken to Business Insider on the importance of “how the company treats its employees, all the way through its supply chain”.
Long term benefits
Tax breaks. Grants. Subsidiaries. Are any of these sounding appealing to you?
By being aware of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the UN, businesses can work towards becoming B-Corp and Green-E certified.
With inflow into sustainable funds rising from $5 billion in 2018 to $70 billion in 2021, it is clear that investment in this area is of great interest to the financial sector. This can feed into your business if you are recognised as a player in the field of sustainability.
Whether it be through private investment, or through government or council grants for things like renewable energy, there is a growing network of financial aid out there if you can prove you are sustainably focused.
Economically, socially, and politically; it is inarguable that a focus on sustainability is pivotal for any business to endure in today’s society. The people have spoken, and governments and business titans are implementing more and more mainframes for the economy to follow in regards to playing a part alongside nature.
If now is not the time to hire a sustainability consultant and get on board, I don’t know when is.
Audio reading: "Sustainability Consultancy; Empowering businesses to make an impact."