Climate change, sustainability and eco-friendliness are a constant topic of conversation across many sectors in business. How can a business reduce their carbon footprint whilst maximising profit, and will introducing sustainability schemes be an initiative for companies to become a ‘green business’?
It’s fair to say the focus on climate change has become more concentrated over the past few years, particularly with COVID-19 shining a light on other social and environmental issues. Having said this, it seems that COVID-19 has had a positive effect on the planet, wildlife and atmosphere. When the strictest lockdown measures were in effect last Spring, the human footprint softened to a level not seen in decades. This included global air traffic halving, and road traffic in the UK falling by more than 70%. As well as this, industrial emissions in China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, were down about 18% between early February and mid-March 2020. This was a cut of 250 million tonnes.
Many experts have warned that reverting back to our old ways once lockdown is over is highly likely to create environmental issues even more severe than COVID-19. This climate crisis is particularly relevant in business, as according to the Centre for Climate Change Economics & Policy, ‘the business sector is responsible for almost 40 per cent of UK carbon dioxide emissions’.
With this in mind, we wanted to outline what Nordens are doing and what else can be done to contribute to the planet’s wellbeing for future generations. Nordens’ Sustainability Officer, Steven Brewer, shares insight on the environment, his personal eco-friendly endeavours and why he thinks businesses need to lead the way in the fight against climate change.
Current State Of Play
It’s worth noting that not one single individual will be able to reverse climate change and provide a more sustainable future. It will take the cumulative effort of millions, perhaps billions, of people changing their lifestyle in order to save our planet. This is why working cooperatively, especially in a business can help achieve long-lasting goals.
Nordens do the typical things you would expect from any SME (Small and Medium sized Enterprise), including low reliance on paper, and ensuring that water dispensers are without single use plastic cups. As well as this, there are recycling bins on each floor and a scheme to go paperless very soon.
Steven states, “Small changes such as this will help to spread awareness and hopefully kick-start the campaigns of other businesses to be as green and sustainable as possible. I anticipate things may look quite different one year from now.”
Momentum is certainly building across many sectors and it is expected to increase in line with government initiatives and enforced regulations, such as Green Taxes & Relief, in the near future. Steven predicts, “A lot of company owners will choose to do business with like minded firms. Companies who place an equal emphasis on people, planet and profit will be sustainable, and I honestly believe that those who choose profit over anything else will end up struggling in the long term. Business owners who take action now will achieve fantastic results and can spark a chain reaction.”
The past 12 months have reiterated that when it comes to immediate and necessary action, the collective strength of humans can be groundbreaking. Steven says, “The pandemic may prove to be the wakeup call we all need. It has certainly highlighted the earth’s fragility, whilst simultaneously showing that humanity can really come together in record time to create Coronavirus vaccines, which is incredible.” The collaborative effort and momentum during COVID-19 can continue with climate change, yet it all depends on whether governments and large global companies choose to heed the call and do something before it’s too late.
Infrastructure & Resources
Many people often point out that whilst action needs to be taken in relation to climate change, the infrastructure and strategies behind reducing carbon footprints and delivering a clearer future comes at a price. For example, we know that electric vehicles are the future, but they are also still in their adolescence. This means that the majority of options out there right now will price people out of the market. These prices can be extremely off-putting and unrealistic for low-income households, even businesses, and regularly are the stumbling blocks in achieving a greener future or not.
Steven believes, “I appreciate that there will always be some sort of limitation and infrastructure impediment that can slow down plans to some degree. However, change is often sped up by the will of the people. If business owners have passion, they will drive development forward by finding their own collaborators and investment opportunities along the way. For SMEs we should be talking about small changes by asking basic questions such as what cars do our employees drive? Do we as a firm recycle? Are we paperless? Do we bin plastics as general waste? Could we look at producing our own renewable energy? Could our product be made differently? Could we offset our carbon emission and plant some trees?”.
It’s imperative that business owners look at how their company can make a meaningful impact on the environment around us. The climate change issue isn’t going away anytime soon and will snowball in the coming years as the call to act grows in both the number of voices as well as magnitude. Getting a head start now can put businesses in a position wherein they’re able to advise other companies on environmental issues, generating the potential to bring in additional revenue and a possible change of direction in their strategy and offering.
Looking Towards The Future
All businesses, no matter the scale of their past achievements in sustainability, need to do more. According to National Geographic, ‘The change in minimum temperatures between 2009 and 2018 was 1.34 degrees Fahrenheit, whilst on average, the annual temperatures hover a little less than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit making it the hottest decade on record.’
We’re constantly pumped with news bites and scientific journals explaining how bad the state of the planet is, yet still the idea of change is put off by many. Working collaboratively alongside like minded people and businesses can create the potential to act quickly and meaningfully. Additionally, education around sustainability and renewable energy can only result in positive repercussions when applied by individuals and businesses. Steven also says, “Businesses need to think outside of the box, literally, by investing in projects that bring about positive change in the long term. For example, office roofs could be loaded with solar panels that provide a renewable source of energy that isn’t just eco-friendly for the planet, but for the company. Investments like this will also drive down energy costs in the long term and could save companies thousands, if not millions of pounds.”
There is so much scope for creative and innovative ideas that can propel businesses into the new generation of green and sustainable success. It’s up to businesses, and governments across the world, to reconsider the idea of immediate profit and think about the bigger picture for our planet and future generations.