Since coming into force on 4th November 2016, the Paris Agreement - a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change led initiative dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance – has been ratified by 194 states. In Article 2 of the agreement, it is stated that the long-term goals are:
(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and
(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
However, critics, including former NASA scientist and climate change expert, James Hansen felt that the Paris Agreement does not go far enough to actively reduce the CO2 emissions of the developed world. In an interview with the Guardian, Hansen is quoted as saying “It’s a fraud really, a fake…for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C (sic) warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises” (Milman, 2015).
One thing that cannot be denied is that climate change is a very real threat, with agencies such as Nasa, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), and the UK Met Office all reporting that the decade to the end of 2019 was the warmest on record (McGrath, 2020).
What Can Businesses Do to Reduce CO2 Emissions?
In their annual progress report, published on 10th July 2019, the committee for Climate Change stated that the UK Government was failing to act on climate change. Of the 25 emissions-reducing actions that the committee recommended during 2018, the Government delivered on just one. (Committee for Climate Change, 2019, p.11). The lack of action shown by the Government means that the UK is set to fall well short of the required net-zero target. Yet, despite this, businesses are taking giant strides in setting a precedent for achieving CO2 targets. According to a blog posted on the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, “Businesses play a crucial role in a functioning society…that they take the initiative to create their own policies makes them key players in fighting the climate crisis” (Underwood, 2019). For example, MAERSK, the world’s largest container shipping company and responsible for more than 2% of global carbon emissions, has pledged to replace fossil fuels with economically viable alternatives such as biofuels by 2050 in a bid to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Whilst large businesses are in a position to take ambitious action, it is possible that smaller businesses, or start-ups, do not have the financial means to follow suit. The journey towards reduced carbon emissions does not necessarily need huge financial investment. Nidhee Venkatesh writes that, “Thinking about sustainable procurement can act as an exercise to engage employees with thinking of ways they can reduce consumption of items such as water, paper, food and drink, laptops, phones and packaging” (Venkatesh, 2018). One of the methods for achieving this is to consider the slogan of the “Three R’s”; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. With ever increasing costs of sending waste to landfill, a result of tighter restrictions on what can be disposed of in this manner, it makes good financial sense for businesses to consider sustainability when procuring goods. Although, the impact on the environment is just as appealing as the financial benefits. The Global Recycling Day website states that recycling alone saves 700 million tonnes of CO2 emission; a figure that is projected to increase to 1 billion tonnes by 2030.
So, what steps can businesses take to achieve a successful approach to the Three R’s?
- Look to make easy changes – Sometimes, reducing waste requires simple changes to workplace behaviours. Photocopying and printing double-sided, refilling printer cartridges, ensuring electrical equipment and lights are switched off when not in use, and using rechargeable batteries all reduce the amount of waste that is produced.
- Purchase with care – Be sure to only purchase what is really needed and, if necessary, buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Also consider the lifespan of what is being purchased as replacing items less often will reduce the waste produced.
- Product packaging – Use as little packaging as possible to ensure safe delivery of products.
- Product design and manufacture – To reduce the environmental impact of any products designed or manufactured, always keep material use to a minimum.
- Assess any processes undertaken – If you use equipment or materials such as packaging, make sure that it is all being used in the most efficient way. If not, attempt to streamline.
Reusing Business Waste
- Where possible, use refillable ink-jet and toner cartridges
- Rather than disposing of paper, use scrap for note paper
- Where cutlery, cups or plates are provided for staff, consider using durable products that can be washed
- Reuse envelopes or other packaging to help achieve a more sustainable procurement process
- Donate used furniture or equipment to charities
- If possible, use greywater recycling systems for toilets
Certain waste products much comply with special recycling legislation. Some of these products are as follows:
- Batteries – Contain harmful chemicals and metals and are classified as hazardous waste.
- Electrical or electronic equipment must adhere to WEEE regulations
- Fridges and air-conditioning equipment containing equipment contain fluorinated gases and can remain in the atmosphere for centuries
- End-of-life vehicles must be sent for dismantling and depollution. Any component parts that can be recycled must be.
- Food Waste
How Does a Business Gauge How Successfully it Recycles Waste?
This year, Rubbermaid Commercial Products have launched the Love Recycling Research Project. Its purpose is to help businesses achieve their corporate, social and environmental responsibility (CSER) targets while maximising profits through actionable insight. By partaking in the survey, businesses will be able to draw upon a large pool of feedback that will provide a “detailed and nuanced picture of the state of recycling”. Participants will also be provided with a personalised report that has been designed to identify how effective their recycling processes are, and where there is room for improvement.
To become part of Rubbermaid Commercial Products European recycling movement, all you need to do is register online and take the short 15-minute survey. Upon completion, you will have the option to receive an edited version of results that show how your responses compare to other participants. The closing date is March 19 on which the full report will be emailed to all participants - coinciding with Global Recycling Day. Plus, for every questionnaire that is completed, Rubbermaid will make a €1 donation to Waste Aid, up to a value of €1,200.
With the world on the verge of an ecological crisis, can your business afford to not understand its impact on the environment and where improvements can be made?
To take part, visit the Love Recycling Research Project at https://loverecycling.com/ and click the “Take the Love Recycling Survey Now” link.
Committee on Climate Change. (2019) Reducing UK emissions: 2019 Progress Report to Parliament. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-uk... (Accessed: 26/02/2020)
Leprince-Ringuet, D. (2018) ‘Businesses not governments are leading the climate change fight’, Wired, 20 December [Online]. Available at: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/cop24-climate-cha... (Accessed: 21/02/2020)
Mcgrath, M. (2020) ‘Climate change: Last decade confirmed as warmest on record’, BBC News, 15 January [Online]. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51... (Accessed: 21/02/2020)
Milman, O. (2015) ‘James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks “a fraud”’, The Guardian, 12 December [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/... (Accessed: 21/02/2020)
NetRegs (No date) Reduce, reuse and recycle your business waste [Online]. Available at: https://www.netregs.org.uk/environmental-topics/waste/reduce-reuse-and-recycle-your-business-waste/ (Accessed: 29/02/2020)
Underwood, C. (2019) ‘How companies take action to reduce carbon emissions’, Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, 19 September [Online]. Available at: https://www.c2es.org/2019/09/how-companies-take-a... (Accessed: 26/02/2020)
UNFCCC (2015) Paris Agreement [Online]. Available at: https://unfccc.int/process/conferences/pastconfer... (Accessed: 26/02/2020)
Venkatesh N. (2018) ’10 ways to reduce your business carbon footprint’, Green Element, 13 April [Online]. Available at: https://www.greenelement.co.uk/blog/reduce-busine... (Accessed: 25/08/2020)