4 Ways Businesses Can Leverage COP27 Initiatives And Go Local

Published on: 19 November 2022
by Eric S. Burdon & Richard Turner
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As COP27 recedes in the rear view, we look to the overarching takeaways of two weeks in which, once again, leaders had a last gasp opportunity to literally figure out how to save the planet. Yes, the EU stepped up and recognised poorer countries’ requests to address loss and damage, but it literally took running into overtime to get it done. And, funding may come with strings attached in the form of more stringent emissions reductions, the other major issue that, generally, failed to make headway amongst the major polluters. 

It’s tempting to feel frustrated, but there are bright points that point to movements in a more hopeful direction. One of the most prominent decisions during the conference was the US government’s plan to spend $370 billion on cutting greenhouse gases and expanding renewable energy. This is the largest investment yet, and most crucial since the forests that remain are the big protagonists in saving the planet. 

And how does this relate to the private sector? Well, while small businesses won’t be able to spend billions of dollars, the act alone of a large nation investing so much into environmental initiatives can encourage business owners everywhere to start owning the problem and take steps of their own. Here are several options businesses can leverage at this historical moment.

Participate In Environmental Initiatives

Even though the US is planning to spend the most here doesn’t mean the US is the only country tackling this issue. ESG, and especially the environment, is a group effort, and no doubt other governments will be incentivized to plan their own initiatives.

On that note,  Luis Inàcio Lula da Silva won in the recent Brazilian election, and he will be laying out a plan to curb deforestation across the Amazon. This is big, equivalent to choking to death and being administered an emergency tracheotomy. For well considered insight into Brazil’s potential “new cycle of prosperity”, read this interview via Mongabay.

Reforestation (replacing lost trees) or afforestation (planting new trees where there previously were none) are both pragmatic places for small businesses to start. Everything counts, even at the smallest levels. Learn more here. Check with your local government, they may offer incentives for companies willing to support planting initiatives. Participating in these initiatives can show customers how the environment and the planet is an important part of your business model.

Set Reduction Targets And Keep Revising Them

Every one of us produces some level of emissions and with the planet in the state that it’s in, we need to make some dramatic changes not just in business but personally. On a business level, it’s understandable that emissions are going to be produced, however, the goal is to not go for zero emissions immediately. 

Instead, work to reduce your emissions by a certain amount. Once that target is met, set milestones toward another target. And if that is completed, be sure to track everything. And if everything is tracked, consider what your industry as a whole can do to reduce emissions. The idea is to keep moving forward and setting higher benchmarks for yourself. 

Again, every little step does actually count. As habits are formed and become second nature, their impact compounds. Simple ideas where you can start your business reductions include upgrading building insulation, minimising workplace packaging and waste, switching to LED, electrifying work vehicles or, even better, starting a cycle to work initiative. Look into smarter software that can help you measure and track your progress. Plenty of ideas are here.

Keep It Local

Geopolitics is one thing, finding how to take action in your own backyard is entirely another. There are local initiatives and areas for improvement for you to get involved in, and if there aren’t, become a local pioneer by pursuing workplace-related initiatives that can also directly benefit the surrounding community. Ideas include:

  • EV charging stations and pedal bikes lockup areas.

  • Open up your landscaping to community participation. Install rooftop gardens, add beehives, and create seating so people feel they can actually spend time there.

  • Install visible renewable energy tech, with explainers. Think wind turbines on the green roof, a ground source heat pump, or solar PVs. Allowing people to get close and familiar with the tech will make it more easily adoptable in the community. 

Being a local business means playing a role beyond just business. Spark environmental innovation within local communities by tapping local university or college faculty to help educate on what you’re doing. You can always refer back to the SDGs to bracket whatever you’re doing within a demonstrated area of progress. Australia literally has a local SDGs programme in place that helps you relate the UN goals to hyperlocal contexts.

Make Pledges Into Reality

At the very least, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can leverage this opportunity by simply taking action and implementing changes, instead of just pledging to do so. COP27 has also been called ‘The Implementation COP’, which is crucial, because ‘as soon as possible’ is no longer cutting it. We need substantive shifts in thinking and action to take place yesterday.

And, even though SMEs lack the abundant resources large corporations have, they are still fundamental in the areas that they are located in. Every small change is significant today and this applies to any form of business you operate. Turning words into deeds right now is more important than anything. 

Everyone’s In This Together

A prevailing thought is that when you go into business, everyone in that industry is your competition. Years ago, that might’ve been the case. However, with everyone’s livelihood on the line, holding that belief is meaningless. The competition is no longer the rival, but the collaborator. The government is no longer the enemy, but the helping hand to bring people together.

Knocking down those stereotypes and doing any - but ideally, all - of these things above can make a tremendous difference in the coming years. Your small business superpower is that you know your community, since you are a fundamental part of it. Work that angle and build change from the ground up, because we can’t all wait for our leaders to get it right.

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