climate change

Companies, especially large conglomerates, are facing a lot of anger on climate change. Activists point out that companies are responsible for a vast majority of the carbon emissions that are warming our planet. Asking individuals to adopt dietary or consumption changes without also asking companies to change their behavior is tantamount to greenwashing.

They have a point.

The time for companies to act is now. Companies should be focusing on enacting systematic changes to their operations to help fight climate change. Such large, sweeping modifications to how companies operate day-to-day will require a more proactive approach that leans less on PR and more on genuine change.

If your company is thinking about doing its part to fight climate change, you must do it correctly and without shortcuts. Consumers today gravitate toward authenticity. If you want to engage your consumer base, you must make meaningful, systemic changes and leave your marketing to word-of-mouth.

While there are plenty of ways to fight climate change, the four actions below are a great place to start:

Change the Way You Think About Garbage

Companies typically pay a lot not to think about their garbage. According to statistics collected in 2018, The United States produced 292.41 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018, and 49.97% of it was landfilled.

Three critical unknown facts reveal the whole story: (1) 24% of this waste was food; (2) our national recycling rate is just 32.1% out of the 75% that is recyclable; and (3) landfills are the third-largest source (15.1%) of methane emissions in the United States caused by humans.

This is a huge opportunity for companies to rethink their waste management strategies. Food waste, in particular, takes up valuable landfill space and emits potent greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere when it decomposes.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), increasing the country’s recycling rate from 30% to 35% could cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 10 million metric tons of carbon equivalent.

If you’re starting a business, it’s best to lay out the groundwork for effective waste management from the beginning. Choose a sustainable packaging solution so that your containers can be reused or recycled. And if you produce food waste, be sure to compost.

Keep Business Travel to a Minimum

This is somewhat mitigated by the current pandemic but it is worth mentioning. Business travel, especially in the air, has been proven to be a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.

The numbers are alarming. Overall, transportation accounted for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gases released into the environment in 2019. Commercial air travel alone produced an an estimated 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion and other sources—32% higher from the figure five years earlier.

Companies should be encouraging the use of video conferencing and other remote work technologies to reduce the need for travel. If regional travel is required, traveling by bus or train is much more carbon-efficient than flying.

Partner with Other Sustainable Companies

When it comes to fighting climate change, two heads are better than one. Working with suppliers and other businesses who prioritize sustainability can help empower sustainability management practices within your own company.

This is especially important when it comes to the sourcing of materials and products. For example, if you’re a manufacturer looking for a new supplier of paper, working with a supplier who uses sustainable forestry practices will be better for the environment in the long run.

In addition, developing a sustainability strategy can help your company win new customers. Sustainable businesses are growing at twice the rate of their counterparts and consumers are increasingly interested in buying from them.

Look for partners that:

  • Use recycled or post-consumer materials in their products
  • Be mindful about greenhouse gas emissions from their supply chains
  • Are environmentally responsible certified by an organization like the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)
  • Uses a closed-loop process

Be More Energy-Efficient

What can you do to cut back on energy consumption in your workplace?

It sounds simple but it’s actually a lot easier said than done. Operating an office means operating lights, computers, printers and other devices that consume electricity when they are plugged into the wall. The best way to combat this is by being proactive about managing power use across all devices in the office.

A few ideas to get started:

  • Unplug devices that aren’t being used—this can reduce energy consumption by up to 50% at peak times when electricity use is highest
  • Replace old light bulbs with LED lights, which are much more energy efficient. This simple switch will reduce your electric bill by up to 80%. If you have access to daylight or skylights in the office, make sure they’re not blocked off when it’s dark out—this can help cut down on lighting costs substantially.
  • Replace air filters in your HVAC system regularly to ensure optimal performance and reduce energy consumption.
  • Shut down computers, copiers, and other electronics when they’re not in use.
  • Invest in Energy Star-certified devices

 Pivoting to a more sustainable business model can help companies cut long-term costs, improve their public image and do something good for the environment. The value of watching your future grandchildren playing in the grass, as you did in your youth, is hard to quantify but priceless.

Implementing the four actions we outlined above can help get your company started. But the actual fight against climate change will require the concerted effort of businesses from all industries. Fortunately, there are a number of simple things companies can do to reduce their environmental impact and become more sustainable.

From reducing energy consumption to partnering with other environmentally responsible businesses, there are many ways for companies to get started on the path to sustainability. What will you do?