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  • Writer's pictureRussell Burton

Steps to reduce carbon footprint in the workplace. (It's not too late!)

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Climate change and the environmental emergency isn’t new news. The media inform us of it daily, even more so in the past year. Global temperatures have increased by around 1°C since the pre-industrial era due to green-house gases trapping heat in the atmosphere. We’re all aware of it, but what are we doing about it? Unless instrumental action is taken to mitigate the effects of global warming, it has been predicted that global temperatures could increase by a further 2-5°C by the end of the century.

Single figure temperature increases may not seem monumental, but they are the cause of the freak weather, natural disasters, melting ice-caps, wild-fires, and more that we see on the news, impacting the natural world around us.

It’s not only the natural world affected, there’s an impact on business, too. As more and more of society (particularly millennials and Gen Z) seek jobs that align with their ambition to mitigate climate change, companies without strong environmental credentials could struggle for talent and face high workforce turnover. What’s more, according to the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2020, worldwide economic stress and damage from natural disasters in 2018 totaled US$165 billion. And, heat stress resulting from global warming is projected to cause productivity losses equal to 80 million full-time jobs in 2030. It’s not just the first industries that spring to mind that will be impacted, as well as agriculture suffering from dying biodiversity and unstable weather, buildings around the world can be damaged by freak weather, so we are all at risk.

However, I don’t want this post to be all ‘doom and gloom’. The point of this is that there is still time to make the move to become carbon neutral, to protect the planet and the economy. So, let’s start with the why and we’ll move on to the how. From the cause to the solution…

As reported by The Guardian, just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. The report also found that a fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions is backed by public investment. So, it’s clear – large businesses are contributing significantly to climate change and the public is helping to fund that.

As a society, we are able to make seismic improvements in business and industry sustainability. Public preferences can influence a movement. So, instead of investing in businesses that rely on fossil fuels, use an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) portfolio that invests in renewable energy. You’ll likely be ahead of the game; with the government’s plan for a Green Recovery, it is inevitable that fossil fuels will begin to die out and lose value in the future.

Businesses are already making green changes due to public demand, just think of the transition of many companies to remove plastic packaging. It is possible to influence industry change, we just all need to play our part.

In terms of what you can do within your own business or workplace, start with being aware of your own carbon emissions. Only once you know the effect you have; can you start to make a plan to mitigate it with an emissions-reduction project. Look towards economic modeling to identify project opportunities and the environmental impact of your investment. You can also benefit from Green Finance and government grants. If the weight of the project is overwhelming, consider an Environmental Consultant to guide you through, solve resource and knowledge gaps, and become an interim part of the team. Lastly, educate colleagues on how your business impacts the environment, what you are doing to solve that, and get them involved. By motivating them to become sustainability advocates, too they will feel positive about any changes you are making and the transition will be smoother. Plus, they will take the environmental changes into their own homes, making the movement even more impactful.

The generation about to step into the world of work is another group of people we need to focus on, too. Spending time at the Green Horizon Summit 2020 and the EAUC Global Climate Conference, it became clear that there are many students who want to actively support the change and the financial sector is encouraging a pivotal change within their industry, as well. If more and more industries begin to wake up to the need for a transformation, we need to support upcoming workforce talent to help foster climate action. How can your business share sustainability plans and support the education sector in training students to become environmental advocates? On the other hand, how can your school, college, or university make links with businesses to set students up for success?

The target has been set, the government has challenged businesses to reach net-zero by 2050. According to the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2020, that means global emissions need to peak almost immediately and decline quickly—by 7.6% each year between 2020 and 2030.

While the COVID-19 crisis has reduced emissions, it is already evident that this decline will be only temporary. Let’s not allow that to happen, let’s make it a permanent reduction and protection of the environment. There is still time to reach carbon zero.

Are you tasked with taking the first step to start a sustainability project? Or, perhaps you need help in accelerating a renewable energy plan already underway? Hillside can guide you through with a free, no-obligation video call or telephone consultation. We’re accredited Chartered Environmentalists by the Society for the Environment and Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.

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