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How businesses can take the lead on climate change
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How businesses can take the lead on climate change

Right now, there is a critical need for businesses to take the lead on climate action. With the recent election behind us and climate policy failing to rise to the forefront of the political agenda, businesses can step up now to lead the way on climate change. 

 

It has never been more evident that Australians want leadership on climate change. While we may not have had the “climate election” many of us hoped for, 61% of respondents to the Lowy Institute’s 2019 poll agreed that ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem’. In Victoria, Sustainability Victoria’s recent research indicates that 93% of respondents think business and industry should be taking action.

The insurance and financial services sectors are a step ahead. The majority of Australian banks are considering climate-related financial risks as part of their overall risk management and The Investor Group on Climate Change is underlining the impact that climate change has on the financial value of investments. Business leaders such as Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian, have recently been highlighting the potential for Australia to become a renewable energy “superpower”.

There is also a clear competitive advantage to acting on climate change. As consumers, we now expect social responsibility from companies and, while this may not drive most of our purchasing decisions, responsible business actions can reaffirm our choices and contribute to brand loyalty. 

Millennials are increasingly demanding businesses to step up, state their values and live by them, particularly when choosing employment. According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial survey, climate change is one of the top three concerns for Australian millennials.

There is, moreover, an undeniable moral imperative to act. Australia was one of the top 10 per capita emitters of territorial carbon dioxide emissions globally in 2016 and this doesn’t take into account our role in fossil fuel exports. The last five years have also been the world’s hottest on record, so it’s swiftly becoming unacceptable not to take action.  

Businesses can lay the grounds for climate hope. There is a clear window of opportunity to partner with not-for-profit organisations, industry, government and community to achieve genuine action.


So, what can businesses do?

Carbon dioxide pollution is the leading contributor to human-induced climate change. By focusing on avoiding, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions, every business can take tangible, achievable steps on climate action.


1.      Avoid your emissions

Your first step is measuring your carbon footprint. While a number of providers offer comprehensive greenhouse gas auditing and footprint services, a simple estimate of emissions from your business operations is a great starting point for smaller businesses.

Take a look around. Do you have company cars? Do your employees take flights for work? Do you have any emissions related to freight and deliveries? How is your electricity sourced and what percentage is renewable? Do you hold conference and events?

A commitment to measure, report or to address your carbon footprint demonstrates you are starting the journey to action on climate change. Once you understand where your emissions come from, you can find opportunities to change business systems and processes to avoid them.


2.      Reduce your emissions

It’s generally not possible to avoid all emissions, so the next step is to reduce emissions wherever you can. Keep in mind that many of these decisions can also reduce your operating costs and achieve cost efficiencies.

Your business can:

  • make a commitment to shifting to renewable energy

  • use energy-efficient products including lighting, computers, printers and kitchen appliances

  • reduce reliance on heating and air-conditioning by opening windows, improving insulation, and setting thermostats to ideal temperatures

  • eliminate unnecessary business travel by holding meetings via phone or videoconference

  • manage your water usage effectively

  • improve your waste management

  • reuse and recycle items wherever possible

  • research your food and drink choices

  • establish sustainable procurement practices

  • consider the environmental performance of your building or office location.


3.      Offset your emissions

Carbon offsetting means partnering with an organisation to reduce the impact of your carbon footprint. Not-for- profit organisation Greenfleet specialises in restoring Australia’s forests and planting enough native trees to capture the carbon emissions associated with your business operations.

Biodiverse native reforestation is a nature-based solution to climate change which also provides additional environment benefits. These include reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, protecting biodiversity, and restoring habitat for native wildlife, including threatened species.

The effect of this cascades. You can demonstrate how many trees and forests your company is helping plant. Your staff can volunteer at planting days. You can show your Board, shareholders and customers exactly what you’re doing and why. You can choose to work with your staff and customers to grow your impact further.

Julie Mathers, CEO of Flora and Fauna, said “I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to our decision to offset our carbon emissions. It was simple to get started and I would warmly encourage other businesses to take practical climate action.”


4.      Lead by example

Avoiding, reducing and offsetting emissions provides a practical path for climate action that also bolsters your business reputation, mitigates risk, and will help you find a like-minded community of leaders.

The cost of not taking action on climate change is a cost that will be worn by everyone. So, if it’s good for your business, your bottom line and our next generation, what are you waiting for?

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