We see and hear it everywhere now don't we? Eat less meat, plant more trees, use reusable cups and large businesses advertising on TV to demonstrate how environmentally friendly they are. this is not without coincidence or for bragging rights; it is absolutely necessary if we are to avoid a large shift in the way we live on our amazing planet. It can be easy to think it won't affect us and that it is someone else's 'problem' but that someone else will be your children and their children. It is that close and the time to act is now.
No time to waste
We emit greenhouse gases from lots of activities but most from activities such as transport, using fuels, wasting food, heating our homes and businesses and our growth of the meat industry. Due to their size, businesses generally output more greenhouse gases than domestic households, which is why they are stepping up to show what they are doing to reduce their damage. Gone are the days where it sufficed to pop a few stickers on light switches and remind people to turn off lights and computers and recycle their paper. Whilst these are all 'quick wins' that can contribute to our overall carbon footprint, more needs doing and it needs doing quickly.
Because of our habits changing, we now emit more harmful gases into the atmosphere than ever before and especially since we became more industrial (1850 onwards). Because of this, we are damaging the earth and heating it up at an alarming rate. This is what we are now terming global warming. The world is already 1.1° C (1.9° F) hotter than it was between 1850 and 1900 and if this continues to rise to 1.5 ° C, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ stated it would be a ‘catastrophic disaster’. Th effect's on businesses and domestic life alike has already been felt by most - irregular and extreme weather being the most noticeable. Aside from being unacceptable damage to our planet for future generations, this affects wildlife and the eco system too, which in turn affects us. Weather affects how we can grow crops, transport & distribution disruptions and costs, flooding of homes and businesses, cancelled deliveries, downtime of work due to extreme temperatures and higher winds, employee time off due to lost journeys and much more. The question now should be 'can we afford not to do something?'
In 2019, the UK government declared a climate emergency in 2019, and many other nations around the world have done the same. To address the problem, in June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass legislation that commits the country to net zero emissions by 2050. This means reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 100%, relative to 1990 levels, by the middle of this century. 163 countries from around the world have pledged to commit too. The statistics are shocking, but its all we have at the moment. Even if we as a world meet our pledge of NetZero, there's still only a 50% chance we will meet our goal of stopping the 1,5% being reached. At this point is it considered there will be significant changes to our every day lifestyle and we are giving this to our children?
Action speaks louder than words
Whilst it might be appealing to jump on the environmental bandwagon as a business and have a flashy policy and pledge towards environmental awareness and sustainability, it won't make a jot of difference if we don't 'do the do'. We need to live by our aims and objectives and constantly monitor to ensure we are getting towards our end goal. This is a topic that most certainly cannot be a tick in a box, or it will all be in vain.
So what can we do?
Firstly we need to be aware. What is our carbon footprint? What is environmental sustainability? What does it look like practically?
Firstly, our carbon footprint as a business is essentially how much damage we do to the environment whilst conducting our business as a whole. This includes supply chain, employee travel and all manner of other considerations. It is also affected by recycling, waste, emissions and other more common environmental aspects. Being Carbon neutral means you have managed to offset the carbon emitted by contributing to positive impact such as reducing fossil fuel use, supporting a local not for profit environmental charity, and for the larger businesses, yes maybe planting trees!
Environmental sustainability means to achieve a state of balance, whereby as much is given back as is caused, creating a sustainable state and with future generations in mind. It means that you run your business in a way that looks forward to what impact it may have in the future, and using it to mould your decisions now. It's ethical.
In order to put real steps into practice that can make a difference, we must start from the beginning.
Buy in from the top - your CEO must be the one that sets the aims & objectives.
Resource - What can you feasibly afford in terms of time, people and money?
How long will things take? Your goals must be feasible based on your resources. There no point saying you'll overhaul all your lights to LED in year one if this would cost £50k and you don't have it.
Set your aims and objectives and stick to them. Monitor them and review them.
Once you've done the above, this will generate your 'to do' list.
There are usually some really quick improvements that can be made and al of these are easier to achieve with the golden ticket - employee buy in!
"Ensuring your staff are aware of the company's objectives and how to contribute will affect the success of all of your goals"
Setting the wheels in motion
Consider employee awareness training for everyone, just a simple E-learning course would suffice, or a stand down day, a memo, series of posters or a combination.
Look for the 'quick wins' we mentioned. Brief staff on turning off equipment when not in use, closing doors when needing to heat a room, only filling the kettle with as much water as needed, recycling where possible and reducing food waste. Remember to create a true habitual culture, this often succeeds by thinking about what we do daily through life at home, not just at work so you may want to include some pointers on that too.
Do you have a health and safety committee? Does it include a section on environmental? It should and having environmental champions can be a great idea.
Could you consider whenever lighting needs upgrading, switching to PIR sensors so that lights can't be left on? Could you consider insulation upgrades or more energy efficient windows upon replacement? What about LED upgrades to lighting
Check final doors stay closed properly and don't allow a draught and heat loss
Check for areas where there's blow heaters or heating and roller shutters being left open
Could you consider hybrid or electric vehicles for your fleet? A charging point for any employee to use to encourage electric cars?
Ensure plant and equipment is properly maintained and in line with their schedule. Are filters replaced often enough on LEV?
Monitor usage of utilities and find ways to cut down.
There are so many other ways we could contribute and as you can see, many of them don't have a cost attached, just a little time. Anything is better than nothing.
The future for businesses
At present, there are already many pieces of legislation that cover our environmental duties, from COSHH to REACH and more, but some of what is mentioned above is NOT legislative. The reason you will see companies trying to do as much as they can to contribute is because we should and we must. There is not only a legal requirement here but an ethical one. It is becoming increasingly popular for Clients to ask suppliers and contractors for their environmental commitment when awarding work and this will only ramp up going forward.
My personal opinion is that over the next 3 - 5 years, we will see the government moving from allowing much of this to be an ethical choice to a legislative one, bringing sanctions for the larger companies who do not comply, later including the smaller companies.
So, we can either act now, or have a panic when it all needs doing urgently and everyone has left it until the last minute. We know in business how much money planning can save, and my advice is to start now, start sensibly and commit to contributing to a better world.
If would like any help or advice with any of the above, please feel free to contact us.
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