A hot topic in the last two decades that was previously left to the “hippies” is that of environmental consciousness. If there is one thing that the Millennials are doing right, it is advocating for the environment. Unfortunately, however, “sustainability” and environmentally-friendly” seem to be little more than buzz words to the vast majority. In their defense, we aren’t sure if it is intentional, or a simple lack of understanding. When it comes to businesses and organizations, many are missing the mark to achieving environmental sustainability, and we want to take today’s post to address some of the common roadblocks and how to overcome them.
Before we jump right into common stumbling blocks, let’s discuss what environmental sustainability is and how it applies in the business world. Environmental sustainability is the relationship between renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If we break down what that statement actually means, for something to be environmentally sustainable, it has to be something that does not deplete non-renewable resources, limits the amount of pollution it creates, and limits renewable resource harvest, or harvests them in a sustainable way. When considering sustainability, you must consider impacts that include what other entities are using the same resources and growth of use. Additionally, and this is where most people fail, one must think beyond their own actions to consider their overall impact.
When we apply the concept of environmental sustainability, we can easily see how each company or business has a global environmental impact. From the goods they manufacture, the services they provide, and the goods they consume. Think of individual consumption and pollution production on a grand scale.
Now that we have a better understanding of environmental sustainability and business responsibility, we can imagine that you already have some images in your mind about how this all applies to the companies you interact with. So, let’s take a step back and begin the discussion of where companies fail to meet their sustainable objectives, many without even knowing it.
Before we talk about failures, let’s build things up for a minute. There are many well-intentioned businesses that attempt to “Go Green” and are making big strides in reducing their environmental impact and giving back to their communities and environments. It is high time we acknowledge these efforts that include:
- Offering volunteer leave for employees to give back
- Introducing recycling bins
- Offering space for bicycles
- Planting trees and other vegetation on the property
- Reducing consumable goods use — paper towels, printer paper, receipts, etc.
- Investing in energy-smart windows and HVAC systems
- Reduce energy and water consumption
- Near sourcing raw materials
- Providing access to filtered water
- Installing low-flow toilets
And, to the companies who implement these things and so much more, we applaud you. Now, let’s take a hard look at the areas that may have been overlooked and are keeping you from reaching your sustainability goals.
Growth and Scalability Considerations
Growth and scalability are things that are rarely considered by most businesses. Of course, most entrepreneurs have big dreams, but when the business starts with three people in a garage, it is easy to keep the company environmentally friendly and locally sourced. However, when unexpected growth occurs and resource needs change, profit generally outweighs the desire to do well by the environment. Or, companies who outsource will believe the trust badges “green” companies are willing to advertise without backing up. Considering growth and scalability from the get-go will help businesses maintain their sustainability in the long run. When unexpected growth does occur, giving some time and thought into where raw materials and resources will be outsourced from is important. Don’t believe every turkey with a “gluten-free” sticker stamped on the packaging. Be smarter than the marketing ploys and do your own investigation.
Manufacturing and Production
Another common area that is overlooked in the environmental arena is the production and manufacturing of products. Whether your business is the company that manufactures the goods, the one that consumes them, or you use products in the services you offer, the manufacturing and production of goods are one of the biggest roadblocks to environmental sustainability. From the raw materials that are used, to the process of production, and the packaging that is used, each link in the chain of production impacts the overall environmental impact of the endproduct. Some considerations include:
- Raw materials used
- Energy consumption in the production process (machinery)
- Pollution and by-products generated
- Waste produced
- Packaging required
- Storage required
- Recyclability of the end product
For instance, you can take the best environmentally-harvested trees to use in the manufacturing of kitchen bar stools, but if, in the process, they are machine processed, creating sawdust that is released through a roof blowhole and the excess wood is incinerated or thrown away, and the lumber is not re-planted, your end product is far from the environmentally-friendly product you had hoped for.
Shipping and Transportation
Shipping and transportation is a common area that is overlooked and sometimes not even considered in the overall impact of the end-products’ environmental impact. However, with more national and global companies serving wider markets and outsourced manufacturing, transportation and shipping have increased. With increased transportation requirements comes more carbon dioxide emissions and vehicle pollution. It is important to calculate emissions production in overall environmental sustainability. This includes fleets used in larger companies that don’t produce goods but provide services, including delivery or travel. Consider reducing the number of vehicles and trips those vehicles make. Also, consider reducing the amount of space required to ship products by reducing packaging or combining shipments with other products.
Human beings are the most exploited natural resources on the planet. Fair-trade is much more than a buzz word and is a human rights consideration that must not, cannot be overlooked. There are millions of people around the world working in poor working conditions for wages that do not support life. When companies purchase materials or products at a reduced cost, the trade-off is often in human rights. Fairtrade products ensure that the people on the other end of that product were paid fairly and you can feel good that your purchase did not perpetuate slavery or exploitation of human beings. For instance, let’s take avocados as an example. A fairtrade avocado means that the farmer whose land the avocado was grown on was paid for the fruit before it made it to your local grocery store, and just as importantly, the person who harvested the avocado were also paid a fair wage.
The Byproducts and Ripple Effects
In any business, there are by-products and ripple effects of both products and services. Consider how these things impact your environmental impact, and are they sustainable? In the production process, it is, more often than not, the by-product that is dangerous, leaving behind a safe product. For instance, the chemicals produced in manufacturing, either from the raw material waste or the process itself, has to go somewhere. The ripple effect of your company includes how does it affect raw materials and renewable resources in your area. Attention should be paid to whether your company contributes to pollution and whether or not you are forcing local farmers out by importing materials.
All The Small Things
Our post discussed the major components of your company’s contribution to the overall environmental impact that businesses have. However big or small your company is, it is a culmination of all the major things and the small day-to-day things. When you are evaluating your impact, take a moment to examine the totality of your company. Some of the small things to consider are:
Is the HVAC adjusted when people aren’t in the building?
What coffee and paper do you use — Are they fairtrade, organic, and sustainable?
Who are your partners, do they practice the same standards?
Is your growth plan in line with your environmental goals?
Where are there areas for improvement?
We understand this is a lot to digest and perhaps today we have presented you with ideas you hadn’t thought about yet. We are not in the business of discouraging businesses to advance with their goals of reaching environmental sustainability. Quite the opposite, in fact. At HR Pharmaceuticals, we care about people and the environment. We have worked diligently since 2010 to reduce waste and make our products more sustainable, achieving a reduction in total packaging by more than 30% in just the last eight years. We developed EcoVue as the first environmentally sustainable ultrasound gel to help pioneer the way for medical manufacturers to realize our industry’s responsibility to care for the environment and search for sustainable answers. Join us in our quest to save the world — literally!
Visit us online to find out more about how we have achieved environmental sustainability and shop our entire product line.