Fighting climate change obviously isn’t a one-day event. Environmental concerns pose challenges all year round -- and all around the globe. But Earth Day, taking place later this week, is certainly a great opportunity to take stock of your sustainability actions and investments, develop a plan to better align them with your values and make new resolutions.
Earth Day first took place in 1970 in the United States and has since become an annual event marked on April 22. It is celebrated across the globe with a range of events and, as the climate crisis becomes increasingly more serious, the celebrations have also taken on extra significance. They bring together millions of people and emphasize the urgent action needed to fight climate emergency. This year, organizers are calling for three days of action but expect environmental issues to remain in the spotlight the entire week.
With this in mind we have put together a list of ideas for sustainability resolutions for your business that can get you going.
#1 Launch an initiative for Scope 3 carbon reduction
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have dominated the corporate sustainability agenda unlike any other topic. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to rethink their sustainability strategies, however, the majority of corporations still only address their direct and indirect emissions. Carbon emissions that occur in the value chain remain a huge untapped opportunity for reductions - especially for multinationals with global supply chains.
This represents an alarming and severe gap – as value chain emissions, upstream and downstream, account for more than 70% of total emissions for manufacturers (IOP Science), and up to 80% for consumer-goods organizations. Meanwhile, research on global warming shows that urgent action is required to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
To learn more about Scope 3 management, checkout our white paper, which explores current trends on GHG emissions reporting, as well as barriers that hinder effective reduction when it comes to addressing the entire value chain, which were the impetus for our Carbon Action Module announced this year.
#2 Leverage sustainability to drive innovation
Any company that wants to be truly sustainable must change its mindset and embrace new thinking on how companies can deliver core business strategies while minimizing their negative impact on the environment. Gone are the days when the business case for sustainability was centered around business-as-usual factors such as cost saving, reputation, risk management and resource efficiency. This old-fashioned approach simply is not enough to address the sustainability challenges we are facing today.
In fact, innovation is now widely regarded as a core engine for long term growth, differentiation and competitive advantage. And companies are looking to leverage collaboration with their supplier base as a massive lever to scale innovation. The 2018 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index found that the most successful companies see sustainability innovation as a key strategic and tactical advantage. We discussed this in more detail in our Return on Sustainability Series Spotlight on Innovation, which you may find of interest. Or -- to see a real life case study -- watch a video interview showcasing how L’Occitane used sustainability criteria to drive innovation and reduce packaging waste and carbon footprint.
#3 Explore renewable energy options
Renewable energy is key to fighting climate change -- it simply is one of the most effective tools we have and one that can bring tangible benefits in a short time. The last few decades have seen immense growth when it comes to wind and solar energy, with recent years bringing marked improvements in costs. And the good news is that there is no sign this trend will slow down.
Companies around the world are switching to renewable energy sources. Only this week, Amazon announced nine new utility-scale wind and solar energy projects in the U.S., Canada, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. The company now has 206 renewable energy projects globally, generating 8.5 GW of electricity production capacity. With this week’s announcement, Amazon is now the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in Europe and is on the path to 100% renewable energy by 2025.
Commitment to renewable energy is one of the criteria considered in our sustainability ratings. EcoVadis Network Impact Report, which outlines our model and strategy for creating positive and tangible impact on sustainability efforts throughout global supply chains, reported on how companies improved between their first and last rating. When looking at the environmental aspect, 368 companies started to produce renewable energy for their own use, while 835 have started to source energy from renewable sources.
#4 Be a force for equality, solidarity and inclusion across your entire value chain
The events of 2020 have elevated the importance of ESG’s “social” pillar for companies and their stakeholders. As factories scrambled to ramp up production despite staff shortages and government lockdown measures, supply chains were exposed to even greater risks associated with workers’ rights, child labor and modern slavery.
But the acceleration in inequities is seen not only among individuals and communities, but also among businesses. While some are faring well despite the turmoil, others have suffered immensely and may never recover. We must rethink how we grow inclusively through solidarity in ecosystems.
Fortunately, we are already seeing signs of more solidarity in ecosystems. Some of our customers have been providing financing and immediate payments to cash strapped suppliers.
Other companies have been sharing workforce, or repurposing production lines to address health equipment shortages.
#5 Benchmark your sustainable actions
Companies, governments and public institutions are seeking tools they can use to evaluate sustainability performance and to recognize and reward best practices. Benchmarks and indices provide frameworks and outline best practices for organizations to follow. They also help ensure consistency and thus strengthen action and facilitate faster transition to a more sustainable world.
Taking a closer look at your sustainability program or initiative and assessing whether it is following best practices can help you prioritize your actions and, ultimately, improve.
There are plenty of ways to benchmark your performance. You will likely want to consider looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (SDJI). But it is also important to benchmark yourself against your peers. This is what really helps you understand where the market is going and what you need to do to retain the cutting edge.
To get started, why not check out the latest edition of our Business Sustainability Risk and Performance Index. The report includes insights from global supply chain ratings with analysis on the sustainability scores of more than 40,000 companies assessed by EcoVadis from 2015 through 2019. This includes large and small companies across five geographic regions and nine industry sectors.
#6 Seek training and inspiration
Inspiration is often overlooked but it “awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations,” as pointed out by Scott Barry Kaufman in a popular Harvard Business Review article. It is the main springboard for creativity and innovation and it facilitates progress toward goals.
Inspiration is important in every aspect of business but especially in driving sustainability as it still requires extra determination, thinking outside the box and pushing the boundaries. As pointed out by Amazon’s Kara Hurst, during our annual Sustain conference “All of us in sustainability are disruptors.”
What better way to get inspired and learn new things than to hear from your peers and leaders who have succeeded in their sustainability journey? And what better time than now? Check out some of the insightful, practical and inspirational sessions from Sustain 2021 and drive your sustainable program forward.