How Businesses Get Started With Sustainability
As concern over climate rises, companies are stepping up at unprecedented rates and taking measurable action to reduce carbon emissions. According to a survey conducted by Cool Effect, a Bay Area based nonprofit dedicated to supporting projects around the globe that reduce carbon emissions, 67% of businesses ranked sustainability as a top 3 priority in 2021. But often, businesses don’t know where to start and how to ensure their actions have true impact.
Cool Effect’s VP, Director of Marketing & Partnerships, Jodi Manning, receives this question almost daily in conversations with existing and potential partners. “Organizations often approach us looking for direction and insight on where to begin in addressing the environmental impact of their business. ‘Sustainability’ as a whole is an incredibly complex topic. We want to make this much more approachable, actionable and measurable for businesses, so that we can see real action for the planet.”
Regardless of the size, structure, or current footprint of a business, getting started with sustainability looks very similar. Cool Effect has compiled years of knowledge and experience ensuring that businesses have the information, tools and resources needed to get started.
Step 1: Calculating A Company’s Carbon Footprint
The first step involves calculating a company’s carbon footprint. To do this, an organization should understand the impact of all aspects of its business on its emissions - from business trips to the amount of paper used each day. For a little insight into how most companies do this, large companies divide their emissions into three categories: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3.
- Scope 1: All direct GHG emissions
- Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from consumption of purchased electricity, heat or steam
- Scope 3: These emissions are out of the direct control of the company and thus are the hardest to measure and reduce, and yet can constitute 80% or up to 97% of a company’s footprint.
Some businesses can be overwhelmed by the creation of their carbon footprint. Determine the best approach based on the size of the businesses and the business’ requirements for public reporting. If you’re a business of less than 500 employees, use Cool Effect’s calculator for an easy and accurate accounting of the emissions of your business operations. If you’re a large business needing to issue a sustainability report or provide public carbon accounting, you may want to consider a consultant.
Step 2: Reducing the Carbon Footprint of a Business
Once an organization has a handle on its emissions data, it can begin to determine the major sources of its carbon, and where it might be able to make adjustments to its business model or operations in order to reduce environmental impact.
There are a number of easy swaps that businesses can make, and these will vary based on the size and scope of a business, but below are some places to start:
- Energy use
- The most dominant source of carbon emissions for any organization — ensuring an organization is using renewable energy while also finding ways to reduce energy consumption without affecting operations can have a tremendous impact on a company’s carbon footprint.
- Reducing the impact of transportation and shipping
- Everyone got a crash course in video conferencing in 2020, so keep that newfound expertise in mind when planning business travel — if travel for in-person meetings can be avoided in lieu of video conferencing, it should be.
- If an organization relies on frequent shipping, find ways to make those shipments more environmentally friendly through sustainable packaging and using bulk shipments whenever possible.
- Limiting onsite waste
- Simple on-site improvements like improved recycling, reducing a reliance on single-use plastic, going paperless where possible, and encouraging or providing meatless meals and snacks to employees can also work wonders to reduce an organization’s impact on the planet
- To tackle Scope 3 emissions:
- Companies are now re-examining their product models and supply chains to reduce corporate travel, extend product life spans or reduce lifecycle emissions, increase efficiencies in logistics, engage with suppliers, find alternative suppliers with lower carbon production footprints, improve customer education on how to use products most efficiently, create operational incentive programs, put an internal price on carbon and more.
One of the key principles behind Cool Effect is that every action, no matter how small, has the potential to make a tremendous impact, and Cool Effect encourages businesses to incorporate changes like those listed above into their overall path to sustainability.
Step 3: Investing in High Quality Carbon Offsets
As a final step, businesses can support high-quality carbon reduction projects in order to offset what cannot be reduced. This is always the final phase in addressing carbon emissions, after a business or organization has taken all of the steps necessary to reduce what it can.
Cool Effect partners with a range of businesses who have incorporated offsets into the business model in a number of different ways, including Ana Luisa, Crunchbase, Mate the Label, Nuun and TUSHY, to name a few. Check out below for some insight and inspiration into how these organizations are addressing their carbon emissions and leaving a lighter footprint on the planet.
- Since its founding in 2018, direct-to-consumer jewelry brand
- Crunchbase has chosen to offset the carbon footprint of all its employees through Cool Effect and is also offering offsets as an employee benefit and hiring incentive.
- MATE the Label , a Los Angeles-based clothing brand focused on clean essentials, tracks the impact of their products from materials to production, transportation, and packaging with a constant eye toward improvement. As part of Climate Neutral Certification and their commitment to 1% For The Planet, MATE the Label has offset their 2020 carbon footprint.
- As part of its prioritization of Clean Product, Clean Sport and Clean Planet, hydration company
- Furthering its eco-conscious efforts of reducing water use and saving trees via its bidet attachments, poo project - a uniquely TUSHY approach.
“Assessing the impact of our operations on the planet and taking accountability for emissions has been a key pillar for our brand since day one. It’s been a challenging but incredibly rewarding journey,” noted Ana Luisa Co-Founder and CEO David Benayoun. “We’re grateful for continued access to valuable resources through Cool Effect that allow us to showcase our commitment and inspire real change. We encourage businesses at all stages of their sustainability journey to join the fight.”
Since its inception in 2015, Cool Effect has worked with hundreds of businesses of all shapes and sizes to address their sustainability goals, making a tangible and measurable impact in the fight against climate change with nearly 3.5 million tonnes of carbon reduced to date.
To learn more about how to partner with Cool Effect to develop a meaningful sustainability and carbon offset program, please visit cooleffect.org/for-business.
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