Drastic climate change does not leave anyone indifferent. While anyone concerned about their footprint in the environment can start with sorting garbage or reducing the usage of plastic, business owners feel even more pressure to participate in reducing climate change because the environmental impact of a company is much greater than that of an individual. However, while many business owners realize the importance of it, they are unsure what actions to take to do their part in fighting against global warming.
According to Made in CA, “Almost 98% of Canadian businesses are small companies. Small companies employ over 10 million Canadians. Small and medium-sized companies contribute over half of Canada’s GDP.” Hence, countrywide emissions could be traced back to those businesses, especially because those companies often use raw materials produced by large value chains: packaging, production and marketing do leave a significant carbon footprint.
Considering that even small actions add up over time developing either negative or positive results, the goal of every small company should be to search for more sustainable solutions.
To reduce its impact on the environment a small business can start by measuring and analyzing greenhouse emissions (GHG). Several private agencies are certified to measure CO2 emissions and provide a company with data on which activities are the highest pollutants.
One of the climate change actions the company could also take when it comes to GHG is to consider the building of its operation. “Building operations account for 39% of all global emissions, according to the World Green Building Council (other estimates peg it closer to 50%),” as per TIME Magazine. If possible, switch to renewable energy solar panels, and dimmable window glass panels and invest in smart building software that turns off electricity when it is not needed.
Speaking of energy, the second step is to reduce energy consumption. Overall energy consumption in office buildings is responsible for more than one-third of global CO2 emissions. That is why even a simple action such as turning off lights in the office at the end of the day can have an impact on the climate.
“The world has begun to put more thought into where we get our energy, how the production of the energy affects the environment and how we can increase energy efficiency. For some people, that may mean something as small as changing out their old incandescent lights for LEDs; for others, it could mean something like investing in a net-zero home or building, where the amount of energy used by the building is equal to the amount of renewable energy produced by the building,” as quoted in our page on Green Energy Rates & Renewable Energy Solutions.
Other ways to reduce energy consumption are to slightly turn down heating or AC, unplug appliances when not needed and replace light bulbs with LED lights.
Several companies go even further and commit to using only recycled material and upgrading their office equipment to energy-efficient laptops, lamps, and printers.
The third way small businesses can reduce their climate footprint is to reduce waste and choose greener infrastructure and equipment. Waste can mean both industrial and paper waste.
The solution is to avoid disposable cups, coffee machine capsules and other plastic kitchen utensils. Instead, bring in reusable cups and cutlery and sort paper waste for recycling. Moreover, you can repair gadgets, when possible, instead of throwing them out or replacing them with brand-new ones. If, however, you need to replace AC, computer screens, light bulbs and other office devices that cannot be repaired, choose energy-efficient and sustainable ones.
It is understandable and expected that a company of any size will produce waste. Yet, taking steps such as printing less, reusing paper as scrap and moving as much information digitally can make a notable difference in the environment.
There is no reason why small companies cannot transition to paperless production. Numerous apps allow you to manage clients’ requests, and keep archives and communication in digital space. Besides, you can encourage your employees to send documents to their devices instead of printing files or emails whenever they need them accessible for a meeting or a work project.
Not the most obvious one, yet an effective way to contribute to a better future for the planet is to optimize your employees’ transportation. Packed roads are one of the largest sources of carbon emission, and people travelling to work are the main contributors to it. While it might be impossible to require all your employees to work from home, and travelling to and back from the office is essential, events like webinars or conferences could be scheduled online.
(A major CO2 emission decrease was noticed in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic due to fewer cars on the roads and planes in the air.)
With progressing technology, ways to reduce business travel are countless. To avoid long drives or flights, when possible, schedule meetings online with both workers and clients.
Of course, some meetings and conferences are required to be attended in person, yet in that case travelling by train is up to 90 percent more eco-friendly than travelling by plane. (Surely, comparing European and Canadian train systems we agree that the former one is more efficient and convenient. However, even in Canada if you live in cities where train travel is accessible, such as Montreal, Ottawa, Greater Toronto Area and several others, do not hesitate to use it.)
Besides, you can encourage your employees to take public transit by giving them discounts on bus and train tickets, and by specifying how it would reduce their indirect CO2 emissions and impact on climate change.
As the fifth green action, we want to mention suppliers. With a vast selection of suppliers around the country, any small business can choose to partner with those whose production and products are the most sustainable. Those companies that represent environmentally friendly practices are open to their operations being reviewed. After the review, those suppliers receive CSR certifications (GRI Certified Sustainability Professional Status or B Corp) stating that they operate with sustainability in mind. That could include anything from not employing children and paying fair wages to sorting and disposing of waste properly.
The last action towards fighting climate change we want to mention today is PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The energy power purchasing agreement is a contract between the renewable energy generator and the purchaser. The PPA includes an organization that signs a long-term contract with a third-party seller. The seller then does maintenance and operation of the energy system on the customer’s property.
Although many PPA contracts mention price increases, “these escalation rates are generally below historic price increases associated with default supplier electricity prices,” as mentioned in Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs): How they work, Pros and Cons & PPA Types
Besides PPA, there is also an option of signing up for a VPPA (Virtual Power Purchase Agreement) that offers contracts for companies that plan renewable projects to receive financing. VPPA is worth considering simply because of its positive environmental impact. Benefiting companies that wish to reduce their carbon footprint, VPPA results in renewable energy and a greener future for the environment.
PPAs and VPPAs can look too ambitious for some businesses. If that’s your case, there is still the possibility of exploring an aggregate deal, which may be more suitable for smaller businesses.