Sustainability in the corporate world differs from that embraced by individual households due to the magnitude of the task, from investment, application, and maintenance. Corporate sustainability is no longer just a buzzword or a temporary trend as we experience extreme weather changes across the country and discover that 17 of the 18 warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century.
As extra greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere at unprecedented rates, we are on track to experience frequent and longer heatwaves, rising sea levels and heavier rainfall if we fail to curtail toxic emissions. To instil greener and environmentally conscious strategies into our corporate policies, it is imperative for businesses to create a work culture geared around tackling the climate change crisis.
To secure a fruitful future, business longevity and customer loyalty, businesses should carefully consider their role in the fight against climate change and global warming. Take note of the contributions your business makes to the economy, society, and environment, for which your corporate social responsibility is multiplied in tandem. Claiming responsibility and taking a sustainability-first business approach can influence environmental change and establish a value-based brand.
The phrase ‘triple bottom line’ was penned by John Elkington, a globally renowned green business advisor, and refers to a framework that should be considered by businesses to secure sustainability.
The triple bottom line comprises three core factors - social, environmental, and economic. The environmental, or ecological bottom line focuses on sustainable practices embraced by your business to minimise damage to the environment. We dissect this bottom line into actionable areas that can create the basis of corporate sustainability initiatives.
Ecological footprint – Your ecological footprint addresses your dependency on nature, how fast nature can absorb your waste and regenerate new resources. By breaking down your ecological footprint, you can pinpoint areas to improve. Should your business explore alternative materials to minimise resource constraints? Your ecological footprint will also take into consideration areas such as energy, transportation, materials, and waste management.
Energy consumption – Renewable energy is easily accessible through multiple sources and can prove financially efficient over the long term when selecting the right solution for your business. This will be determined by your energy usage, location, and the amount you are willing to invest to adopt a greener energy source.
Waste management – When assessing your waste output and dividing this between recyclable and landfill waste, you will be able to identify where you can minimise waste and encourage cleaner methods of waste disposal. Landfills are key contributors to pollution as they release landfill gases that speed up the global warming process.
This is where a zero-waste initiative can help tackle the percentage of non-recyclable waste generated by your business. Assess the lifespan of company resources, install recycling stations, and eliminate single-use plastic by replacing this with biodegradable options. Doing so can reduce your contribution to the release of harmful toxins, leachate, and greenhouse gases from landfills.
Supply chain practices - Holding an investigation into supply chain work practices and tracking the production journey from start to finish can unveil if environmental harm is addressed during the production process. For example, if your supply chain pushes towards the use of cheap labour and neglects the impact this has on the environment, this will directly interfere with your economic bottom line.
By tracking the ecological footprint of your business, you can pinpoint the weakest areas of your business and set targets that are realistically achievable. In April 2020, the UK government set a target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. This means that all-sized businesses will need to adopt a strategy early to help reduce emissions.
Small businesses make up 99% of the business population in the UK, making it a shared responsibility to pursue a sustainable future and embrace eco-friendly trends.
Sustainable practices are often self-imposed by empowered businesses or forced upon corporate institutions as a result of petitions from consumers and the media. Public perception and the way customers react to your working practices can influence the roll-out of pioneering sustainability initiatives and dictate the immediacy of such action. Your efforts towards building a greener workplace can mitigate consumer loyalty, employee retention rates and educate generations of consumers.
By operating transparently and taking the lead in your sector to embrace a sustainable approach, you can encourage market competition and inspire competitors to follow suit. By following the ‘triple bottom line’ circle, your business can secure sustainability and pave the track to a profitable future and a greener world.
Jon Munnery is a partner at UK Liquidators, part of Begbies Traynor Group. As a licensed insolvency practitioner with decades of experience under his belt, he is well versed in aiding financially distressed businesses on the road to recovery and providing company liquidation advice. Along with stapling his position as a veteran in the corporate insolvency industry, Jon is a strong supporter of sustainable working practices to build a greener future.
In 2019, the UK Government and the devolved administrations committed to the Net Zero target as recommended by the Climate Change Committee. According to the 2021 budget, the “green industrial revolution” will require significant infrastructural investment.
In order to facilitate this transition, the public sector needs to collaborate and develop flexible frameworks across energy systems, create new insights and use evidence to push for new solutions and policy recommendations.
Our Climate Change in the Public Sector 2021 event will explore the current challenges facing the public sector, open space for discussion on how to fulfil green targets, develop local climate action strategies and plans, build sustainable housing, train and attract current and new talent in the environmental sustainability space and work towards achieving bigger goals like net-zero emissions by 2050.
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