Decarbonising Small Businesses: A Guide
Concrete, steel, aluminium, and other chemicals - along with the modes of transportation that deliver them - produce over 4 billion tonnes of CO2 each year. Combined with emerging economies and modernisation in those areas, the CO2 amount is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years.
It is for these two reasons why the topic of decarbonisation received special attention in COP27, as global markets must work to further drive down prices of clean methods and technologies. The goal is to make such methods not simply more appealing than our current carbon-intensive methods, but the only obvious choice in terms of price and access.
There has been some headway, however, such as the First Movers Coalition, consisting of 55 of the world’s largest companies and ten national governments. At large, the coalition will be looking to scale new clean technologies for the transportation industry, encouraging far-sweeping changes.
But even as such large initiatives lift off, small and medium-sized businesses can create their own impact and move towards the adoption of cleaner technologies. Whatever your business, you can help in decarbonising it - and your country - to work towards net zero. Here is how.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Everyone is pretty familiar with the ‘3 Rs’ at this point. However, it’s still worth bringing up because these are foundational to any kind of emissions cutting strategy.
Recycling is the most likely option, since it deals with the after-effects of use. However, this can also make recycling an ‘afterthought’. Reducing and reusing, however, deal with your overall behaviour around your use of certain materials. This requires deeper consideration about habits and how you might fundamentally alter them to prevent materials used in the first place. From packaging to office supplies to your supply chains, chances are companies haven’t applied all three of these tenets into daily operations.
Reduce means thinking first. Reuse means assessing and accepting how to gain value from resources. Recycle happens when there is no further possibility of meaningful use. Here’s a great overview of business/community-based Rs in action.
Look For Sustainable Methods To Extreme Weather
Weather is unpredictable, however, we do know hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves are steadily on the rise, causing all kinds of problems over the years. Some examples are:
In the summer of 2022, we had a supply chain crisis due to a ship engine failure on the Rhine, further exacerbated due to the river drying up in Europe’s intense heatwave.
In early October 2022, due to California’s poor crop output, many leafy greens have jumped up in price dramatically in Canadian grocery stores. Crop failures are common in California as a result of extreme drought and massive heat waves.
All in all, these extreme weather events create a ripple effect that impacts business globally. Even if they happen well beyond where you live, we are starting to see how these problems can affect us all. We are all connected.
While we can’t fully prepare or anticipate these events, there are some measures small businesses can take. One way to prepare is to decentralise supply chains. An example of this is in the case of a power outage, investing in rooftop solar panels or low-carbon power generation forms could help keep the business running smoothly.
Other methods involve looking for more sustainable materials for your products or services. This can mean looking into material recirculation, uncovering material efficiencies, and generally starting to consider circularity in your operations.
Cutting Down On Food Waste
Food waste is still a growing problem and, no pun intended, is the lowest hanging fruit. We dealt with it already in another article, here. There are plenty of innovative ideas for it. At the very least, food waste can be reused as fertiliser through an office compost programme, either for nearby garden projects or within the local community.
Ideally, this would already be powered through solar or wind energy. However, it’s understandable that infrastructure might not be in place in certain areas. The alternative to this is simply reducing energy consumption altogether. This can be:
Powering off electronics when not in use.
Unplugging appliances if they use ghost energy - devices that consume energy even when not being used.
Buying Renewable Energy Certificates.
Converting home office spaces to on-site renewables.
Educating Staff And Customers Of New Changes
While these changes may affect the business behind the scenes, getting customers involved in reducing carbon emissions can also help dramatically. At the very least, educating customers about possible changes can help them be aware of future changes as well.
More important than customers is educating staff about these new changes. While any change to support the planet is a welcome one, change takes time and employees may be set in their ways around certain practices. Education and training can help reinforce new habits and adaptation to novelty.
All of this goes to show that small decisions can make dramatic changes in this area. ‘Low hanging fruit’ may seem obvious, but the point is to make all steps possible, now, to start breaking set habits and developing new ones. After all, change is indeed the only constant, and perhaps humanity’s greatest skill is adaptation. However, that change is always tough in the face of comfort and predictability.
Make small moves now and they will compound into better, strategic thinking about the role carbon plays in your business.
Questions? Find out more about how small companies can make a difference here.