How Can Businesses Move From Incremental to Bold Climate Action?
The time to take small actions is gone. It's time to take bold steps now.
- By Jane Marsh
- Dec 23, 2022
As climate change increases the rate of global catastrophes such as wildfires, droughts and hurricanes, the time for taking small, incremental actions is long gone. Corporations must take bold steps to address their negative effects on the environment, and they need to do it sooner rather than later. What’s their best move?
All Bark, Little Bite
Businesses play a crucial role in helping the world reach its environmental goals. And although most companies claim that reducing climate change is one of their top priorities, few companies promise to do anything about it, with even fewer following through on that promise.
Having a sustainability report is a good start. But it doesn’t mean much when it isn’t backed by changes in company policy, infrastructure, and spending.
How Businesses Should Take Action
Instead of making empty promises to appease the public, companies should engage in corporate social responsibility and regulate themselves for the sake of social good. Here are some ways they can accomplish it:
1. Set 1.5 Degrees Celsius Maximum Increase Targets. 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) is the maximum temperature increase Earth can withstand without experiencing catastrophic ecological effects. For reference, the current global temperature is only 1.1 degrees Celsius hotter than it was in pre-industrial times, and it’s already wreaking havoc on the environment.
At an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, coral reefs will decline by 70 to 90 percent. At 2 degrees Celsius higher, most of them will go extinct. The ideal goal would be to not let the temperature increase at all, but 1.5 degrees Celsius above the baseline is still better than letting it go unchecked. Businesses should set stringent policies to reach this target.
2. Switch to Renewable Energy. Most large companies have complex and wide-reaching energy infrastructures to power their operations. They can massively reduce their carbon footprint by switching to wind, solar or hydroelectric power since these technologies don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses can phase out technologies like gas-powered heating in their buildings, replacing it with electric power generated by green energy sources.
3. Reduce Waste. Businesses should strive to cut down on waste during their packaging, manufacturing, shipping and disposal processes as well as install LED light bulbs, low-flow water fixtures and recycling bins in their buildings. They can install smart meters to monitor and control energy usage.
They should also set policies to phase out the use of plastic and implement end-of-life recycling programs for their used products.
4. Donate to Environmental Organizations. To offset some of their ecological harm, businesses should partner with environmental organizations and make large, recurring contributions to them. Companies can pair up with environmental groups that align with their industry.
For example, a logging operation can donate to a group that’s committed to reforestation. It’s important to note that they should do this in addition to taking positive steps to reduce climate change, not as justification for continuing to harm the environment. It’s a way of making up for past damage.
5. Choose Sustainable Materials. Everything from building construction to packaging choice can be done more sustainably. Rather than using virgin wood for construction, for example, companies can pledge to only use recycled wood sourced from demolition debris. When shipping products, they can use biodegradable packing peanuts, recycled paper and cardboard, paper tape and smaller shipping containers.
Companies should also strive to create long-lasting products to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills. The business model of planned obsolescence has no place in a circular economy.
Taking Bold Climate Action
Businesses have a responsibility to be more sustainable. Climate change is no longer a vague, looming threat, but rather a reality that everyone must deal with. When companies hold themselves accountable for their actions, both they and their consumers will benefit in the long run.
Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site Environment.co.