Many people might think the private sector combating climate change seems like an oxymoron, but the considerable power and influence wielded by for-profit businesses means they are, perhaps uniquely, poised to make outsized contributions. There is both money to be made in new, greener, more sustainable business models, as well as a moral and ethical obligation to consider. Below are three things that the private sector can do to fight climate change that do not require unending business models or taking significant losses.
One of the main ways the private sector can have an outsized impact on the fight against climate change is through the financial institutions with which they choose to do business. There is a growing contingent of green banks around the world that do things like actively invest in companies that are trying to reorient their operations and business towards more sustainable models or new green ventures and divest from the fossil fuel industry and major polluters. They also usually offer green credit cards that earmark a percentage of each dollar spent for donation to charities and nonprofits that are trying to fight climate change, counteract biodiversity loss, etcetera.
There are always ways to cut down on energy consumption, no matter what size your business is. Whether you are a small brick and mortar in a compact commercial space or a large company renting out multiple floors in a 50-story tower, there are many changes you can make. You can make easy upgrades to lighting and windows that will improve their energy efficiency–and also enjoy savings on utilities and tax breaks in the process–you can change your toilets to conserve water and even change your dress codes to allow employees to wear more climate appropriate attire to work, thereby reducing the need for central heating and cooling all year long.
Another great way to save energy is to do so through your employees. Subsidizing passes for commuting on public transportation, bicycles, more energy-efficient vehicles and, for remote workers, helping them make their homes more energy-efficient is an effective way to amplify your green efforts. Companies exert enormous influence over the lives of their workers and, as such, should use this influence to help make the world a better place. This is also because a growing number of employees indicate that they feel more engaged when they know they are working for an environmentally friendly company.
Another way businesses can amplify their impact through their employees is by making education a priority. Despite massive increases in public consciousness in the last few years regarding climate change, only 69 percent of Americans, for instance, think global warming is happening. That is many millions of people whose minds could be changed, and information levels improved.
Whether through an increased focus on climate as part of corporate social responsibility or directly through training and educational seminars, companies can maximize their impact by equipping their employees with better knowledge and understanding of the issues.
Both businesses and consumers, as well as governments, are waking up to the fact that the private sector has a role–perhaps an outsized one–to play in the global fight against climate change. Governments are not always financially or organizationally equipped to make the kinds of changes necessary to reorient how our economies function.
Corporations, in our corporate capitalist system, wield a tremendous amount of power and influence, and it is up to them to use it for good. The above three things are just some but undoubtedly very important measures that businesses can take to help combat climate change and global warming.