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4 Steps to Reduce Your Business’s Carbon Footprint

Photo by Matthias Heyde on Unsplash

So, you’re a business leader that just embarked on a new sustainability journey. You’ve done some research and finally concluded that you want to commit to reducing your organization’s carbon footprint. This is a pretty standard goal and one that’s caught a lot of attention in the media. Naturally, it makes sense to find a way to make this happen, except now you’re asking yourself, “Where do we start”?  

Well, it’s important to say that you’ve made one of the most impactful decisions for your organization’s future, and if you didn’t know, the decision to start this part of the sustainable journey isn’t one to be taken lightly.  

Being just one aspect of sustainability, the choice to reduce your company’s carbon footprint takes a level of commitment that means initiating real action– especially if you’re hoping to strike a chord with your employees and customers.  

That’s why we have a roadmap to help get you and your team started.  

Understand your “Why”  

Any organization looking to drive sustainability initiatives – like reducing CO2 emissions, must understand why committing to this objective is important and why the objective is valuable to the business. There are many other sustainable goals that can make an impact, but why choose to reduce your overall CO2 emissions? Is this a personal passion project or a way to drive meaningful change for the future of the planet? There are so many reasons to justify reducing CO2 emissions, however, the choice to do so must make sense strategically. It must also support your company’s overall business objectives. Setting an environmental goal just for the sake of saying you’re “sustainable” will almost always lose traction, so eventually tying the goal to a balanced scorecard or business purpose statement will give leadership and employees something to believe in. A clear purpose and vision also will help the team remain focused and accountable. 

Discover where you can be effective 

The next step in this journey is deciphering the aspects of the business that need to change to ensure you reach your goals. This can be done after there is a clear understanding of your company’s Scope 1,2, and 3 carbon emissions. Charting the path to reach your company’s sustainability goals will require the team to understand what operations require to function in conjunction with the percentage of emissions those operations are generating. Assessing business and operational needs along with the associated carbon emissions will help the team decide what changes could happen immediately (if any), and what solutions could be implemented over time.  

This typically means that departments will need to work cross-functionally to compile necessary information so a true audit can take place. If the group discovers that a carbon footprint reduction is in fact the way to go, this assessment will identify components of your business that can help decrease your carbon emissions while simultaneously ensuring future gains. After the assessment, you can begin to consider ways to improve your carbon footprint by reconsidering your operations. For instance, if your business ships products daily, maybe logistics can adapt to longer windows between shipments and reduce the amount of carbon emissions generated. If that’s not an option, considering an in-house operation to reduce carbon emissions while reducing transportation costs can be a game-changer. Solutions like these can only be derived however, if leaders truly understand the needs of the business, the carbon emissions generated, the operating jurisdiction, local working conditions, employees and of course…the customer. Ultimately, this audit will help to finalize a roadmap and a commitment of reducing CO2 emissions by xx percent each year.  

Note: If the organization can’t be strategic from the on-set, it may be easier to begin with small changes or philanthropic work that offsets CO2 emissions. Exploring diverse options to see if there is an innovative and clever way of tackling your organization’s carbon footprint can lead to progressive policies, which are almost always beneficial to the organization. 

Communicate the vision 

When driving sustainability initiatives – like reducing CO2 emissions - it’s imperative to communicate the new vision. This should first happen internally as communicating your organization’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will provide clarity for the team (and partners) and help them buy into the vision. A clearly communicated vision helps everyone stay focused on the end goal as challenges come. Additionally, it gives employees and customers something to hold the CEO and company accountable to. Lastly, it’s important to communicate the vision externally so people are aware of the company’s positive efforts. Let’s not forget that people want to align with your organization through their right to work and their purchases. For instance, a recent survey indicated that  75% of millennial respondents said they think about sustainability when making a purchase so if your company’s actions don’t line up, a loss in business can be expected.   

This means to put your money where your mouth is! 
Sustainability provides long term value to a business, so the benefits from expenses incurred in the short term may not be reflected in the quarterly or annual reports immediately. While this reality can be hard for businesses who have established annual incentives and may require new incentive structures, leaders must stand firm in both communicating and executing their sustainable goals.  

Don’t forget the numbers! 

In this final step, you will need to measure and report on the company’s financial performance while also successfully implementing the CO2 reduction strategy across all aspects of the organization. Often, to conduct financial assessments companies quantify the risk of emissions. That is, they establish a carbon price - a dollar figure assigned to a company’s carbon emissions, which includes considerations for regulatory impacts, weather impacts from climate change and other variables. This allows corporations to effectively evaluate the impact of decarbonization projects thus moving environmental considerations from a discussion point to real numbers.  

Moreover, the carbon price can help drive the investment strategy to include meaningful consideration of environmental impacts to the business. Businesses will also need to account for environmental risks to fully assess the benefits of taking on projects where benefits are farther off in the future. Regular check-ins on the status of each contributing department can help as leaders make sense of the “gold at the end of the rainbow.”  

While you continue thinking about your journey to reducing your business’ carbon footprint, remember that rallying behind a new business objective requires participation from the entire organization. This strategic decision can also lead to improved business outcomes like an increase in talent attraction and retention. Though the roadmap may not be all inclusive, for any leader just beginning this journey, it’s important to be patient and lead with an open mind. Change won’t happen overnight but the impact you’ll leave on the earth is well worth the wait and investment!  

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