For years, consumers have taken the lead with sustainability initiatives. While many people are doing their best to improve their impact on the environment, the emphasis has recently shifted to businesses as well.
It’s hard for consumers to correct negative environmental trends if the companies they patronize are racking up carbon emissions before their products and services reach their customers.
Here are three key ways companies can reduce their environmental impact while benefiting their own operational efficiency in the process.
1. Align stakeholders
If a person recycles, that’s a good statement, but it doesn’t really do much good. However, if everyone recycles, you can start to see results.
The same goes for companies. If a single company in an industry or part of a supply chain makes an effort, it can be inspiring, but it won’t do much good. If everyone aligns their interests in favor of operating sustainably, it can create a real domino effect.
Writing about sustainability in the food industry, Nicole Atchison, CEO of PURIS Holdings, a manufacturer of plant-based protein foods, states: “Food and agriculture contributed $1.1 trillion to US gross domestic product. in 2019, a 5.2% stake. This system can be a good source when all stakeholders are aligned, showing that a change is necessary, possible and profitable”.
When companies combine their collective efforts, real change can happen.
2. Embrace paperless business operations
Going paperless has been a growing movement among consumers and businesses for years, and for good reason.
Corporation! Magazine notes that while the paper itself isn’t too expensive, “the hidden costs of managing the paper could be as much as 31 times the cost of the paper.” The publication adds that US businesses waste a staggering $8 billion annually on paper management alone (before the pandemic). Record Nations also reports that US paper consumption increased 126% (to 208 million tons) in the last 20 years.
The remote revolution that came out of the pandemic helped improve some of the reliance on physical paper. However, with many leaders once again pushing for in-person operations, it’s important to continue to prioritize going paperless. The effort can prevent waste and even has hidden benefits for businesses.
3. Enable remote work
In the same way as going paperless, making all business operations digital tends to have a net positive impact on the environment. In late 2021, Forbes contributor Adi Gaskell highlighted multiple reports of how the pandemic’s “petri dish” reinforced this fact.
One study found that working remotely for four days of the workweek could reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from traffic by 10%.
Remote work has its own cost and digital activity generates its own emissions. But Gaskell addresses this: “While the consumption of digital resources, such as video conferencing, burns a considerable amount of energy in data centers, the researchers argue that the net impact is still positive, since Zoom calls emit only the 0.6% of the carbon emissions generated in a typical trip.”
Responsibility for sustainability is no longer a consumer issue. Companies are being called to account for their activity. And those who cannot show that they are trying to reduce their impact on the environment will be left behind.
Therefore, consider beneficial and effective solutions like going paperless and enabling remote work. Align your sustainability initiatives with others in your industry and supply chains as well. Do what you can to reduce your environmental impact to position your business for sustained success in an environmentally conscious future.