Formalise Your Commitment Toward Sustainability
While international coalitions and regulations have mandated adoption of sustainable practices for business, organisations often find it difficult to formalise this commitment towards sustainability as part of their day to day operations. Today, the economy is dynamic and has spread beyond national and international boundaries. With an effective increase in location of operations, businesses today must operate at a greater environmental and social cost. This has brought about a need to understand what and how one contributes to the economy and what the exact cost of doing business is.
For a long time, this social and environmental cost was ignored which led to over-exploitation of resources with life-altering consequences. In our previous article, we had analysed how environmental risks lead to severe economic implications. Like every other risk that is taken into consideration, it is imperative to understand the “How” and “Why” behind addressing Environmental Risks and formalise the commitment towards sustainability by inclusion in all business processes.
How can Businesses Approach Environmental Risks?
- Know Your Footprint
The Cambridge dictionary defines environmental footprint as ‘the effect that a person, company, activity has on the environment, for example the amount of natural resources that they use which leads to the production of a certain amount of harmful gases.’ Few common footprints are Water Footprint, Carbon Footprint and Land Footprint. Organisations need to ascertain the effect of their business processes on all relevant parameters to be able to assess their Footprint.
- Set Realistic Targets
Once the organisation is aware of its footprint, it must identify its problem areas and set realistic targets and processes to overcome inefficiencies. For example, existing lighting infrastructure can be replaced with Energy efficient LED lights to reduce energy consumption and electricity costs.
- Monitor Progress
Once the organisation has successfully set targets, the next step towards ensuring sustainability in business operations is to establish a robust monitoring mechanism for implementation of targets. Businesses must initiate a fair and transparent procedure for monitoring progress on set timelines.
Commonly Adopted Measures for Mitigating Environmental Risks
- Waste Management- Know your waste streams. Segregate waste at source and manage waste considering its chemical composition, source of production, future utility and options for disposal.
- Optimal Utilisation of Resources- Incorporate lean processes to ensure optimal utilisation of resources and avoid any waste. Adopt 3M Classification of inefficiencies in allocation of resources.
- Cradle to Grave Approach- The cradle to grave approach suggests an alternative way of looking at an organisation’s economic offering. The concept looks at the complete lifecycle of products and follows the impact the organisation’s product has on all stakeholders, from its conception till its disposal. The Cradle to Grave approach calls for the organisation’s complete ownership of their product and its implications even beyond the point of sale.
- Circular Economy- A circular economy is a system of closed loops in which raw materials, resources and products lose as little value as possible via its continuous use and re-use. This relies heavily on renewable energy sources and systems thinking.
- Water & Energy Conservation- Water and electricity are daily consumables which are a part of any core as well as non-core business activity. Efficient and responsible consumption and utilisation of water and electricity can help cut down operating costs by significant margins. Simple measures like switching to energy efficient lighting solutions, renewable energy sources, installing motion-sensor faucets in washrooms, can prove to be significantly beneficial.
- Switch to digital forms of communication- Digital forms of communication provide a perfect alternative to paper. Businesses should encourage employees to use paper only when necessary. Paper and paper-based products used in offices can be recycled and re-used again in various forms.
- Carbon Offsetting- Businesses can invest in carbon-offsetting projects certified by Gold Standard, United Nations or other recognised authorising agencies. Carbon offsetting allows businesses to offset their own carbon emissions via funding ‘green’ projects that aim to eventually reduce dependency on carbon-emitting operations. Carbon offsets are programs designed to counterbalance or green our unavoidable footprint by buying carbon credits from carbon credits trading exchange companies. Simply stated, carbon offsets are credits for greenhouse gas cutbacks garnered by one individual or entity that are able to be purchased and utilized to offset(compensate) the emissions contributed by another individual or entity. Carbon offsets are normally measured in tons of CO2-equivalents, commonly abbreviated as CO2e.
In the 21st Century it is essential for businesses to focus on more than just products, sales and profits to succeed. Sustainability of any business is dependent on whether the organisation has the ability to maintain existing practices without placing future resources at risk. From an economic standpoint, long-term strategies of business development and growth must consider sustainability as a larger goal incorporating all aspects of day to day business.
Written by Akhyata
Akhyata is an inquisitive and passionate Sustainability Professional who works at Goodera assisting delivery of strategic CSR and Sustainability solutions.