In today’s world, “sustainability” in business is no longer an option. To preserve the planet as we know it and prevent further damage, it is integral that individuals and companies come together to develop and support ecologically responsible businesses. According to the 2018 IPCC Special Report, human activities have caused, “approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C.” Unfortunately, global warming is still on the rise, and if we continue as is, global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.
These numbers may not mean much to you — but they should. Even a slight increase in global temperatures can have catastrophic consequences, some of which we are already witnessing. From rising sea levels, extinction of species, and increasing occurrences of natural calamities like floods, wildfires and more, one thing is for certain — our current path is not sustainable.
Thus, it is more important than ever to implement sustainability measures across all our activities. Let us take a look at meaningful changes you can implement, as both a business entity and a consumer, to become more sustainable:
What Businesses Can Do
Depending on the size, scale and location of your business, you will have a plethora of options when it comes to becoming more sustainable. Here are just a couple of ideas:
Build a Green Team
If your business doesn’t have a sustainability program in place, building a green team is the first step to take. The green team should be in charge of brainstorming various ways to make the business for environmentally friendly, and then implementing these initiatives. Ideas include instituting a recycling program to reuse and reduce waste, finding and switching to local suppliers for office products, going paperless, and switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs.
As the business becomes sustainable in its everyday practices and sees the value in this newfound eco-friendliness, the green team can take on heftier projects so as to ingrain sustainability into the core values of the company. For instance, the green team can push for more transparency within the supply chain process. To quote a research paper from the World Development Journal, increased supply chain transparency “can help transform the sustainability of commodity production systems. Transparency can demystify complex supply chains, and help different actors identify and minimize risks and improve conditions on the ground and inform whether and where progress is being made.”
Changing old operational processes and the behaviors that underpin them into sustainable values and initiatives is not easy. However, with the right set of people and responsible leadership in place, a dedicated green team can make this happen over time.
Today’s world is a digitized one, in which technological advancements have allowed for automation on a large scale. While many have their reservations about automation, there is one particular benefit to the same that should not be overlooked: automation creates multiple opportunities for sustainable business operations such as efficiency and repeatability.
From allowing for efficient use of materials to reducing manufacturing time, automation technology has the ability to significantly reduce tangible and intangible waste. Additionally, automation creates jobs as automated machines need constant maintenance. If your business has aspects that could be automated, then consider investing in automation technology — not only will you help the planet, but you stand to make more financial profits too.
What Individuals Can Do
As a consumer, you have more power than you think to drive change. Here are some things you can do to promote sustainability.
Support the Right Businesses
Make a concerted effort to frequent only those businesses that implement sustainability measures like the ones above. Take some time to research whether the products, services, and businesses you use are actually committed to helping the environment. Be it through reducing waste, being energy efficient, or using sustainably sourced materials in their products, go through the company’s mission statement and green initiatives to learn more about its values.
Choose to support businesses that are members of the Green Business Bureau — this is one of the most recognized green business certifications for small to medium-sized businesses. Finally, boycott those businesses and products that are harming the environment. Boycotting certain businesses can ultimately force those businesses to go green — but it must be done extremely strategically to make an impact.
Make Sustainable Investments
You might not often think of it, but your financial investments could actually be hurting the planet. Often, mutual funds, retirement funds, and other financial options are invested in companies that are contributing to the degradation of our environment. As opposed to leaving your investments as they are, you can choose to use your investments to better the world — and don’t worry, you won’t be alone in doing so.
According to EarthShare, “$12 trillion worth of assets were screened for environmental, social and governance criteria in 2018.” Socially Responsible Investing and Impact Investing are trends that are slowly but surely catching on, challenging the traditional views of such investments. In fact, as stated by this infographic by Ohio University, “76% of women and 67% of millennials want investments to align with their social and environmental values.” In terms of financial gains, investors are also learning that socially responsible investing could actually yield high returns.
EarthShare’s article outlines a few tips on how to make environmentally responsible changes to your investment portfolio. These include reviewing your holdings, choosing greener mutual funds, and moving your money into a local bank so that your finances benefit the community.
Use Your Vote
Your vote is powerful. Whether at the local level or state level, your vote can make a difference. Use it to vote for leaders who care about sustainable development and environmental wellness. Go through potential candidates’ agendas and missions, and rally those around you to do the same. While not every candidate follows up on their promises once elected, systemic change has a better chance if those in power at least see the value in safeguarding the environment. As an individual, to use your vote make your demands for a cleaner and greener future heard loud and clear.
Many individuals argue that is it the responsibility of governments and state organizations to combat the threat of climate change. While large scale systemic change is definitely necessary, this argument does not give individuals and smaller businesses the leeway to continue living/working in an environmentally irresponsible manner. In reality, it is up to every one of us to help maintain our planet — so be sure to use these tips to do your part!