In the fight to save the planet, the efforts of every individual count. This is also true for large companies and corporations. As the adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and modern businesses can fulfill that responsibility by implementing a few strategies to lessen their impact on the environment. Here are three.
Cut back on carbon emissions and energy consumption
Considering that less than 100 companies caused more than 63 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going back as far as the industrial age, it stands to reason that corporate businesses should strive to cut down on carbon emissions. Approximately half of these emissions have been in the past 25 years, with Exxon, Chevron and BP topping the list of biggest offenders, but businesses that do not manufacture oil still create a sizable footprint.
The bulk of most companies’ carbon footprints comes from their energy usage, so conserving energy is a great way to start making a difference. Methods of doing this include installing energy-efficient lighting with sensors, making sure that all business operations and office equipment are shut down when not in use and making sure any heating, cooling and ventilation equipment is operating efficiently. Often poor insulation or faulty HVAC equipment causes incredible amounts of wasted energy, says Sustainable Business Toolkit.
Those really serious about limiting energy consumption have even begun to produce their own energy. Susan Hunt Stevens, the CEO and founder of Practically Green, for instance, uses a micro cogeneration system to partially power her business efforts, a source of renewable energy that harvests energy as heat is created and converts it into energy.
The responsibility of cutting back on energy consumption needs to be reiterated through the ranks of the company. In a business with many office workers, the employees should be accountable for their own computers and workstations, and everything should be shut off at the end of the day. Alternately, implementing energy-saving modes on all office computers and monitors would have the same effect. The electronics should be unplugged from the wall, as these instruments often siphon power even when they are in standby mode, Inhabitat.com says. During the work day, work computers should be set to “energy saver” mode so that when not in use, the monitors go to sleep more quickly.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
To best fight wasteful behavior, companies can aim to reduce waste, reuse what they already have and recycle anything that can be reimagined. Many companies have adopted this philosophy over the past few years regarding water and paper recycling, but this ideology can be expanded into other facets. For instance, in industries dealing with manufacturing, machinery and appliances, it is much more sustainable to repair rather than to buy new. Simple parts and components like o-rings, which are made from special materials, can easily be replaced in machines with moving parts to improve performance, rather than throwing out an entire machine, leaving it to sit in a landfill then buying a new one only to begin the whole wasteful process again.
A shining example in reusing and recycling is Nike vice-president of Sustainability and Business Innovation Hannah Jones, who spearheaded Nike’s Flyknit and Nike Grind campaigns, two fresh concepts that enabled the company to produce more eco-friendly products. Nike Grind concept regenerates existing products and materials into premium composite for manufacturing footwear, hence reducing waste.
Since waste that sits in landfills begins to give off methane, a greenhouse gas, throwing something out should be the very last option. Consider even sending waste to an Energy from Waste plant (EfW) which incinerates waste rather than sending it out to be stacked it up on top of more waste, Sustainable Business Toolkit suggests.
Travel smarter and less frequently
Transportation is yet another major contender in assaulting the environment, and unfortunately, many businesses require business travel. However, there are more ecologically smart methods of travel outside of the traditional one car, one worker ratio.
For companies that require fleets of vehicles, purchasing vehicles with the best fuel economy that still meet business budget and driving requirements is a good start. Better yet, electric or hybrid vehicles should be considered as old cars begin to be replaced in the fleet, as using less fuel is one of the most direct ways to positively impact the environment.
Companies and businesses with many employees can also promote (or even pay for) public transportation by offering bus passes to employees. Or employers could reward employees who carpool, walk or bicycle to work to interrupt the one driver, one car trend, as nearly 27 percent of all energy used in the U.S. is for transportation.
All in all, taking action to reduce a carbon footprint not only improves the environment, but can also save an organization quite a bit of money. Identifying and prioritizing strategies based on how well they will impact that carbon footprint and how easy it will be to implement them will help business leaders decide when and which strategies to begin with. The first step is always the hardest, though, and the first step is just to care.