While we wait for the state to initiate changes in the areas of environmental protection and the fight against climate change, we forget the fact that the business sector can very well contribute to reducing the negative impact on the environment … and to a large extent and relatively quickly. Small changes in the internal organization, planning, method of production and realization of products and services can reduce the negative impact on the environment. What should an environmentally responsible company look like today – from the inside?
“Company X planted 100 trees”
“Company Y cleaned the river bank”
“Company Z has set up a container for collecting electronic waste” …
All of these are frequent headlines that companies use for their PR (Public Relations) within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, the main questions are: what is the real long-term impact of such activities on the environment, and what do these companies look like from the inside – do they have the system, processes, people and constant enthusiasm to solve today’s complex ecological challenges.
Today, more and more voices are critically questioning the activities of companies and their real impact on the world around us. From this phenomenon of increased environmental awareness of society, the pressure on the business sector is growing and so, now slowly outdated, the concept of CSR is evolving into the so-called ESG concept (Environmental, Social, Governance). ESG allows users, customers, and potential investors to rate a company based on measurable and comparable environmental, social, and managerial performance.
All in all, today’s time of accumulated environmental problems requires systemic and comprehensive solutions. A system that wants to reduce the negative impact must be constant, measurable and credible. And how do you get there and how do you become an environmentally responsible company?
(Re) defining the value of the company
Look at the company’s values. Are there any that can be directly or indirectly connected with the protection of nature, resources, climate, etc. Let’s not forget that any business activity that a company engages in puts (directly through the use of energy and resources or through customers, clients and partners) less or more pressure on the environment and climate change. Therefore, (re) defining the value of the company and encompassing environmental and social protection is an important first step in effectively reducing the negative impact.
Environmental Management System
Reducing the negative impact of one company is definitely not achieved by one-time planting of trees, garbage collection (garbage in the first place should not exist) and the like. Solving accumulated environmental problems requires a constant systemic approach. Thus it is necessary for the company to implement a comprehensive Environmental Management System. The complexity of the system depends on the activity in which the company is engaged, but it does not necessarily mean that in the service sector that system will be much simpler than the one in e.g. manufacturing sector. It is also important that the system is backed by adequate people who will implement, maintain and improve it on a daily basis.
Top management support and institutionalization
In order for the mentioned (re) defined values and the system not to remain only on paper, it is necessary that in a company that truly wants to dedicate itself to reducing the negative impact on the environment, top management is directly involved in defining the company’s plans and strategies.
In addition, since resources and energy are used in all parts, sectors and departments of the company, the implementation of the environmental management system is not exclusively reserved for persons who deal directly with this system. For this reason, in order for the system to give results, it is necessary that, in addition to the top management, other relevant parts of the company be directly and actively involved in the work and improvement of the environmental protection system.
Continuous monitoring and planning of energy and resource consumption
In order to see the real impact, it is necessary to regularly collect data on the consumption of all types of energy and resources and to calculate the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions. Only on the basis of such systematically collected data and discussions through regular meetings, it is possible to adopt adequate plans for the implementation of measures and monitoring of results. It also makes it possible to regularly review the company’s real impact on the environment and its share in climate change.
Internal and external communication of transparent and simple information
The company should regularly communicate transparent and easily understandable environmental information externally and within the company. This contributes to credibility and openness to criticism and further improvements. Also, quality data and transparent reports make it possible to avoid the so-called greenwashing, i.e. false representation of positive environmental performance.
Impact on suppliers, customers / clients and partners
Impact on other companies significantly increases success in conserving resources and combating climate change. In order to achieve this impact, it is necessary to define environmental criteria for the selection of suppliers. It is important to know which suppliers are desirable, and it may be more important to know which ones are not. Through its values, mission and target group, the type of customers / clients and partners with whom it cooperates is profiled. If one can choose, one should always and everywhere choose an environmentally responsible counter-party.
Invest part of the profits in a sustainable future
Strictly economically speaking, every investment must pay off in a relatively short period of time. However, the formulas for calculating the profitability of investments do not take into account the social and environmental component. Therefore, some green investments (e.g. construction of small renewable energy plants) may still show unfavorable rates of return. But how exactly do we know that there will be no collapse of the electricity transmission network and that just one small solar power plant in 10 years will not be crucial in supplying energy to a facility. Therefore, a company that thinks long-term (not 5 years in advance, but 20-30 years) should not regret the part of the profit that it invests in environmental projects, because our descendants will be grateful to us for that.
Be an example to others
Companies look to each other and competition in the market is not limited to prices. The way of production, realization on the market and provision of services in innovative and sustainable ways is becoming more and more important. The space for innovation today is huge, so companies have the opportunity to set an example to their competition which (green) path to follow in the future.
Stay up to date with trends
In the last 5 years, there have been significant changes in the field of sustainable development. To name just a few – the Paris Agreement, the fall in the price of investment in renewable energy sources, the EU ban on the use of certain single-use plastic products, the penetration of the concept of circular economy and resource efficiency, and many others. All these changes took place in a short period of time, and the dynamics of these trends are not expected to slow down in the next 30 years. In order for a company to properly implement environmental protection measures, it is necessary to monitor all these changes and adjust its policies, business model and procedures.