Start small, sustainability is in the detail

Sustainable business has become a high priority for every organisation. Due to the urgency and scale of the issue, many might not know where to begin. Luckily, change doesn’t have to be extreme.

You can start small: it’s all about the details. The first steps can include separating the paper, plastic and cardboard used in the office, and reducing the use of disposable cutlery. Businesses can also review their transport or packaging practices, use recycled and sustainable material, shift to more environmentally friendly manufacturing. These small changes will all add up and create impactful change in the long term.

Back in 2007, technology accounted for 1% of global greenhouse emissions. Today, less than two decades later, it represents 3.7% of the world’s carbon footprint.

We will of course continue to use technology – it is an important tool for humankind and modern business, but it can be used more sustainably. Organisations can take a few small, but beneficial steps to address environmental problems. Something as simple as keeping a business phone for three years instead of two, or a laptop for six years instead of five, can change a company’s use of raw materials.

Think of the impact it would have on our planet if all organisations were to do this on an international level. Demand to create new machines each year would go down. As a result, the overall amount of raw materials mined to meet the demand would be reduced. 

Now is the time to change

Before COVID-19, a few companies had already introduced more flexible working policies and were allowing employees to work remotely. However, the impact that the pandemic has had on working practices has brought the perfect opportunity to reconsider and adapt how businesses approach sustainability. 

Hybrid working improves employee wellbeing, offering a positive work-life balance. And, of course, there’s a massive added benefit: less time in the office reduces travel needs, which means lower carbon emissions. In fact, the average co-working space, or a communal office closer to home, can help save 118 metric tons of annual carbon emission between now and 2029.

Technology can also play its part. Even before the pandemic, video conferencing was connecting colleagues working in different offices around the world. However, today it has become a staple in workplace communication. This shows that with the right solutions and tools, workers can transition between offices and remote working environments with minimal disruption. 

It is a win-win

Enterprises acting on sustainability can increase their chances of attracting and retaining top talent. Research has revealed that a strong sustainability plan would positively impact an employee’s decision to stay in a company for the long term. Notably, 75% of millennial workers, who will make up three-quarters of the workforce in about four years, would accept a lower salary to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible.

With green consumerism on the rise, sustainability benefits the environment and the bottom line too. Studies show that 60% of UK and US consumers will spend more on eco-friendly products and services. This means that organisations striving to change and impact less the environment can attract customers willing to pay more. And thanks to rating programs and awards schemes, consumers now have greater visibility of brands and products that are less harmful to the environment.

The good news is that today, sustainability for businesses is not about the ‘if’, but about the ‘how’. By making small changes and focusing on the details, organisations in any sector can have a truly positive impact on the environment. 

Andy Tompkins is EMEA Sustainability Engagement Manager for Canon Europe


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