The Business Benefits of Participating in the Fight Against Climate Change

Ellen Quigley

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The science behind global warming, and the general trend of climate change, was first discovered by an amateur scientist some 81 years ago. Since it was widely accepted by scientists as being a side effect of human activity in the midst of the 20th century, numerous international treaties and protocols have been agreed upon in an attempt to reduce global greenhouse emissions and waste.

We, as individuals, have been told to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and to cut down on our energy use in an attempt to reduce the negative impacts of human activity. Unfortunately, at an individual level, the impact of our attempt to reduce emissions is relatively small. A recent study published in the journal of climate change revealed that just 90 companies produce a whopping 63% of man-made global warming emissions. Numerous studies have revealed that the fight against climate change could be boosted significantly at a macro level if businesses, who produce the wasteful products we as consumers use, actively made an effort to change production habits, alongside the actual products they sell.

In recent years, the Irish government has introduced more stringent regulation on how businesses should operate in an eco-friendly manner, such as fining businesses for disposing of recyclable waste in non-recycling bins.  However, it appears the general attitude among business owners is that these regulations are necessary evils that must be followed, rather than beneficial rules for the business and society as a whole. A recent survey conducted by Bord Gáis through RED C revealed that half of Irish businesses do not have a formal environmental policy, and that only 40% of businesses encourage employees to be energy efficient in the workplace. When the numerous benefits to businesses of actively participating in the fight against climate change are considered, it’s difficult to understand the apathy of Irish business owners in combating waste and pollution.

In introducing waste reducing methods, businesses save big on costs. Waste reduction can be implemented in all stages of the development, production and sale processes, as well as reducing packaging used on the finished product. The most significant example of this can be seen in Nestlé, who in 2014 removed 175 tonnes of plastic packaging from their Easter eggs. This reduced production costs for the firm significantly, whilst also aiding in the company’s image in the public eye, as the move attracted significant publicity from most major news outlets.

Reducing emissions throughout a firm also has significant benefits. When M&S in the UK introduced its “Plan A” sustainability programme in 2007, it was believed that it would cost more than £200m in the first five years. However, the initiative had generated £105m by 2011/12 according the company’s annual report. Many industry leaders such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s are now following suit, and have now committed to introducing environmental impact programmes, not out of the goodness of their heart, but in order to increase profits and reduce their costs.

Coupled with improving a firm’s image among consumers, the explicit benefits of reducing costs and increasing revenue in the long term should be enough to drive businesses to introduce methods of reducing their environmental impact. By employing waste and emission reducing methods, business can help lead the global effort in the fight against climate change

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