Sustainability has become a buzzword in recent years. Customers want sustainable, eco-friendly products, and they want them now. More importantly, they want businesses to begin taking responsibility for their role in the climate crisis. With just 100 companies responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, however, a lone consumer may feel they can only do so much to protect the earth. But they can educate themselves and speak up on the issues that matter to them. With that in mind, here are a few things businesses can do – with your encouragement – to steer the world in the right direction.
Improve Oversight and Efficiency
Brands that sell physical products must oversee the entire supply chain to ensure each item ends up with the correct customer. However, nearly 70% of companies don’t have full visibility of these processes. Consequently, many of them experience supply chain disruptions that impact their finances, reputation and logistics. More notably, these delays waste resources like electricity and packaging materials, thereby negatively affecting the planet.
If businesses expand their supply chain oversight, they could streamline their processes and make them more efficient. Doing so could ultimately minimize waste, energy consumption and the company’s overall carbon footprint, all while enhancing their return on investment.
Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestle and Danone produce 6 million tons of plastic each year. Meanwhile, just 150 companies account for 20% of the plastic packaging produced worldwide. This plastic — and other waste materials — makes it way into landfills and both marine and land environments. Luckily, many of these companies are taking personal responsibility for their actions and have made commitments to minimize waste and recycle more materials.
Still, businesses will have to do more than recycle to make a noticeable impact. In addition to any recycling initiatives, they should also focus on using less packaging, embracing alternatives like glass and metal and eliminating single-use items. Employees must have an active role in these efforts for sustainability to become an integral part of company culture.
Businesses can also embrace responsibility for the planet by using green building designs when they construct offices, brick-and-mortar stores, warehouses and distribution centers. Instead of relying on materials like plastic and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to construct their buildings, businesses can use eco-friendly ones like bamboo, precast concrete and recycled or salvaged supplies. Building with recycled and recyclable materials will also minimize waste during construction and demolition.
Effectively reducing their carbon footprint will also require businesses to maximize energy efficiency. Installing insulation, sealing up drafts and investing in high-quality doors and windows will ensure buildings are as efficient as they can be. Low-flow faucet fixtures, Energy Star appliances and a passive solar design play an important role in eco-friendly construction too. Typically, these initiatives are easier to implement from the get-go. But businesses can still embrace sustainable alternatives through renovations later on.
Invest in Renewable Energy
If businesses take the initiative and implement some of these more eco-friendly solutions, they’ll naturally reduce energy consumption. Meanwhile, their bottom line will continue growing as utility bills become cheaper. However, if companies want to make an even bigger impact on the planet, they should invest in renewable energy like solar, geothermal, wind and hydropower. These renewable resources produce little to no carbon emissions and would eventually eliminate the demand for fossil fuels altogether.
Many companies haven’t yet switched to renewables because these require a large initial investment, and sticking with gas and electricity is easier than instituting change. Consumer pressure, however, has prompted some businesses to take action sooner rather than later. For instance, Lego recently announced their switch to 100% renewable energy three years before schedule with the help of offshore wind projects.
Transparency is Key
As the climate crisis becomes an increasingly pressing issue, more consumers will undoubtedly push for more sustainable products and businesses that embrace responsibility for the planet. Ultimately, shoppers value transparency and, when companies have nothing to hide, they’ll likely be upfront with their values and practices. Instead of trying to hide their waste, they’ll share their renewable energy initiatives and the things they’re doing to actively reduce waste and emissions.
Those who are transparent with their customers and shareholders will likely outpace less forthcoming competitors and force them to embrace responsibility or perish along with the planet they’re affecting. The stakes are high but, luckily, there’s already a steady push in the right direction. In time, the businesses that once spelled earth’s doom may be the very ones to save it.
Jane Marsh, founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co, is passionate about helping people reduce their carbon footprint and live a greener lifestyle.