How to create your company’s environmental strategy

The environment is hot news right now. Here’s how to make sure your business has an environmental strategy that really makes a difference

By Ernest Richardson

In the rare moments of quiet between Brexit news, there is one other story that has dominated the headlines this summer: climate change.

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of teenage activist Greta Thunberg as she sailed across the Atlantic to attend a climate conference in New York, the issue has never been more prominent in the UK.

Coupled with the disaster of the Amazon rainforest fires and the ongoing advocacy of high-profile figures like Sir David Attenborough, few people could claim to be unaware of the problems facing our planet.

    While there is much that can be done at an individual level to arrest climate change, a weight of responsibility falls onto businesses.  

While there is much that can be done at an individual level to arrest climate change, a weight of responsibility falls onto businesses. By making the right decision in relation to their care of the environment, companies can have a huge impact on the climate – making the world a better place for everyone.

All of which begs a question: if you haven’t considered it before, how do you go about creating an environmental strategy? Here are five tips to help.

1. Work out where you are now

It is hard to set realistic targets in any area of business unless you have a sense of your starting point. That applies as much for reducing an organisation’s impact on the environment as it does for trying to increase profitability.

So the best advice is to work out the contribution your company makes to climate change before trying to identify ways of improving. Organisations like The Carbon Trust help businesses measure their carbon footprint. This can provide a good starting point, because you’ll identify where your impact on the environment is most pronounced.

Work out where you are now and you’ll find it much easier to build a cohesive strategy for the months and years ahead.

2. Identify low-hanging fruit

There is nothing more dispiriting than establishing a strategy for your business that doesn’t yield results in the short term. So as you design your environmental policy, look for quick wins that will yield a quick return.

Encouraging staff to be energy efficient is a good first step. For example, you could introduce an awareness-raising campaign about turning off lights, computers and air conditioning units when rooms are not in use. That will deliver short-term gains in reducing your carbon footprint as well as cutting costs. It’s a win-win for all parties.

3. Ask the experts

As corporations wise up to their impact on the environment, they’ve come to realise the need for professional support. Climate change consultants are people with extensive experience of helping organisations mitigate the environmental impacts of their activities. They can help you develop a strategy that will help you tread lightly on the planet without sacrificing your bottom line.

It can also be worth seeking guidance from other specialists. For example, The Wildlife Trusts are keen to work with companies in encouraging biodiversity and aiding species to thrive. Contact them for advice and insight and you know you’ll be in good hands.

4. Be realistic in setting targets

When tech company HP launched its sustainability strategy it hoped to achieve year-on-year reductions in the size of its carbon footprint. But in 2018, the company’s carbon emissions actually went up by 9pc as a result of increased PC and printer sales.

This is an interesting case study because it shows the dangers of setting absolute targets. Far better to pursue a proportional approach: aim to cut carbon emissions as a proportion of goods and services created or sold. That way, an increase in the size of your operation won’t derail your corporate environmental strategy, or leave you with a tricky result to message.

5. Know the nuances

There’s a difference between how the types of emissions your company produces are categorised. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol organises them as Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions.

Scope 1 emissions are those over which your company has direct control, such as emissions created in the manufacture of a product (pollutants from a factory, for example) or in the delivery of your services (company car use, say, or emissions from your offices).

Scope 2 emissions come from energy suppliers, whose gas and electricity you consume to run your business.

Scope 3 emissions cover everything else, such as emissions from goods and services you buy, investments or leased assets.

While in a number of cases it is easy for you to control Scope 1 emissions, you have much less control over Scope 2 and 3 emissions. So it pays to understand the nuances, in order that you can set targets that are within your reach to achieve.

Published: 10 September 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Saving the planet or salving your conscience?

You may also enjoy: “We just need to get serious about climate change”: a teenager’s perspective on global warming

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