Businesses are under increasing pressure to respond to the climate change crisis.
Customers want to make more ethical consumer choices, workers want to feel proud to be associated with their employers and investors want stronger sustainability credentials. Meanwhile, the government is relying on businesses to help reach its net zero target by 2050 and pushing this forward through environmental legislation.
- Science tells us that storms, droughts and high temperatures are getting more frequent.
- Science tells us that getting global temperatures below 1.5ºC is necessary to slow down climate change.
- So it is science that should be used to inform your business strategy for cutting carbon emissions, reducing waste and getting to net zero.
Some businesses have seen the net-zero challenge as simply a box-ticking PR exercise and subsequently been accused of greenwashing. But more forward-thinking businesses have navigated their way around the risks to reap the rewards, both ethical and financial.
The most effective way of doing so is by setting science-based targets in their sustainability strategies and plans.
How to adopt Science-based targets in your sustainability strategy
The best starting point for a solid, science-based sustainability plan is to undertake a sustainability audit. This involves evaluating a business’s activities, identifying any issues, engaging the workforce in finding solutions and reporting the results.
This science-based approach shows all stakeholders and the wider community that your business takes its responsibility seriously when it comes to climate change.
There are plenty of ways to bring down your business’ carbon footprint, from small changes like recycling in the staff kitchen to bigger shifts like investing in new technology. But it is through data and reporting that you will make the biggest changes that are relevant to your business.
- You can work out your business’ carbon footprint by using an online calculator. You’ll need to know your fuel and energy consumption before you can start reducing it.
- You’ll need to know your annual fuel consumption (used on-site, and in company-owned vehicles), energy consumption (used at any of your company sites), top-ups to any air-con or refrigeration units (if you use equipment that runs on F gas).
- Make sure you have the correct numbers for the year you want to report on – you can collect this from meter readings, bills, and service sheets.
Depending on your business’s activities and size, the amount of data collected will vary compared with other companies. It is vital that you collect and analyse your business’s specific data in order to achieve optimum results.
Listen to our training experts discuss how your business can become more sustainable, in our green skills podcast
What are the challenges of a science-based approach?
A business’s main aim is to make a profit. Embarking on sustainability initiatives can initially involve extra cost and extra resources. But this probably means you are approaching it in the right way.
In order to make a real, meaningful and lasting impact, a business must utilise all its resources – most importantly, its staff.
Identifying issues will take time and a lot of information and knowledge will need to be gleaned across all departments, as well as galvanising support from stakeholders at all levels of the business.
There is not a one-size-fits-all sustainability strategy to cover every business.
Every business is different and the amount of waste, emissions and options for finding alternative energy, resources or transport will differ from business to business.
A new term on the block – Greenhushing
Unlike Greenwashing, whereby companies make exaggerated claims about their environmental efforts, Greenhushing is when companies choose to not fully communicate their sustainability efforts, thus avoiding scrutiny.
What are the benefits of using science to inform your sustainability strategy?
The benefits of using a science-based approach can be experienced by businesses of any size or industry – and far outweigh the risks.
#1. Enhanced reputation
In terms of a business’s reputation, relying on science shows good intentions, accuracy and a degree of accountability, as all efforts will be measured and reported.
While it puts the business under some pressure to achieve its aims, businesses are already under some considerable pressure from the government’s net zero target, environmental legislation, consumer demands and a need from partners and investors for sustainability credentials.
Sustainability by its nature requires a sustained effort.
When a business makes such a commitment and is bound by the requirements of a science-based approach and targets, it shows it is looking to the long term, not just looking for short term rewards through empty promises or gestures.
Ultimately, if the business succeeds in reducing its carbon footprint and even achieving the goal of net zero, the rewards will not solely be reputational.
The impact will be felt in the reduction of harm being done to the environment – and the business might even start to make a positive impact by monitoring success and adjusting activities accordingly.
The business will also be more likely to survive and thrive, by becoming more agile and responsive to its findings and to future challenges and changes in legislation.
#3. More skilled staff
A scientific approach will also require an uplift in knowledge across the company. By upskilling your staff in green skills available through our range of IEMA courses, they will be able to make an impact through their understanding of environmental legislation and about the methodology and reporting at the core of the business’s sustainability plan.
Identifying waste and sourcing alternative resources or processes can initially be costly and time-consuming.
But if there is a scientific approach and buy-in from stakeholders across the business, it is possible to find solutions that will streamline processes and make the business more efficient.
Efficiency in any business is a welcome boost for productivity and profit.
Combined with the amount of loyalty and respect generated by a successful sustainability plan, this makes the business a more attractive prospect for customers, current and prospective employees, partners, investors and the wider community.