Global carbon emissions reduced by only 8% in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic and we run the risk of more than reversing these gains as the world economy rebounds from the crisis in 2021/22.
The government recognises the important role that corporate reporting can have on driving good corporate behaviour. As a result, large private UK companies for periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019 are now required to report on their energy and carbon emissions in detail. The aim is clear - by making these companies report on these figures they will seek to deliver year-on-year improvements in a bid to be seen as good corporate citizens. Accordingly, over time sustainability will take centre stage of every business strategy.
So, what action can the businesses take now to become more sustainable?
The start of the journey for a company often begins with a look at their carbon emissions. A lot of companies have now signed the Carbon Pledge, committing to cut their carbon footprint by 50% by 2030. Companies are looking to achieve this by promoting renewable resources and environmentally-friendly supply chains.
But being a sustainable business is not just about being environmentally friendly. It covers a wide range of areas from community engagement to diversity and inclusion. A great resource for where to start is the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “Sustainable Development Goals”, in which there are 17 intertwined goals, which they aim to achieve by 2030. In their words, it acts as “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.
It may seem like a daunting task to choose where to focus, but don’t be afraid to start small.
Begin by looking at what part of the ethos of your company are you most passionate about? Are there community initiativess you could get involved in? It can be as small as removing plastic cutlery and cups from the work place, or ensuring all staff have a set number of hours they can use to volunteer for community projects every year. In short, if a business looks to do the right thing across each area of its business, it will be well on the way to becoming more sustainable.
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It is also important to communicate your plans and your achievements to all your stakeholders both internal and external. Publish what you have done in your annual reports and share your continued effort on social media to show what you have achieved so far. Not only will this inspire your team to continue the effort, but it will inspire others in the surrounding business community and similar industries to follow suit.
Each company’s sustainability journey will be unique but it’s more critical than ever to start now and to get it right. Being seen as a sustainable business is becoming a necessity. It may seem obvious but in the future, only truly sustainable businesses will survive!