Why every business must become a climate activist

Elliot Coad
6 February, 23

The biggest moment of the climate calendar is behind us. With another year stretching ahead until the next COP, businesses can no longer wait for global governments to avert the very worst effects of global heating. As the world edges closer to a future where there is no plausible pathway to 1.5 degrees of warming, we need a mass movement of collective action.

Businesses can become climate activists, embedding positive changes in their practices and inspiring their workforce. From microbusinesses to large enterprises, we all have a role to play. SMEs contribute half of all business-driven emissions in the UK but the vast majority don’t actually know how to get started on decarbonising.

We need every business to mobilise, because climate change is already here – damaging economies, populations and livelihoods. In the past six months alone, Europe had its hottest summer on record. Pakistan experienced the worst floods in its recent history. Hurricane Ian was the fifth most powerful storm to ever hit the US. The business risks may still feel somewhat intangible but they’ll become increasingly apparent. Resource scarcity will hike up costs, implementation of climate policies could create transitional risks, and the public’s increasing awareness will put pressure on businesses to make environmental changes. But with the right tools and guidance, every business can become more sustainable.

Climate action can lead to business growth

Tough economic circumstances the coming year could mean that sustainability drops down the list of priorities for many businesses. This would be a misstep. In this age of heightened corporate accountability and consumer scrutiny, growth is in fact intrinsically linked to a company’s environmental stance. Recent research showed that 44% of investors won’t even invest in companies with poor sustainability performances. According to Capgemini, sustainability “frontrunners” reap a net profit margin 9% higher than their peers.

At the most fundamental level, a sustainable and transparent business strategy is crucial to strengthening your brand, gaining investment, and attracting top talent. Taking climate action offers companies excellent storytelling potential to ensure their brands are meaningful and relevant to consumers. And we know that’s important – new research from Gallup reveals that nearly 80% of younger adults would spend more on a good if its company has a positive impact on the environment.

But it is not enough to just speak of sustainability measures: targets need to be turned into actions. Working towards net-zero can seem overwhelming but the biggest challenge is actually getting started. At Ecologi, we offer a free carbon footprinting calculator for service-based SMEs, Ecologi Zero. It gives businesses a thorough understanding of their hotspots – most of which are bound up in their supply chains. They can then make a climate action plan, setting short, medium and long-term emissions reduction targets to measure progress against. Working towards net-zero takes time, so funding the best climate action projects along the way helps to compensate for emissions in the meantime. 

Lobbying can still be powerful

Another way in which businesses can advocate for climate action is to use their lobbying influence to encourage politicians to support progressive climate policy. Government policy is a crucial tool that can help shift toward a more sustainable future and the route to net-zero. Mixing politics and business has often divided opinions but when it comes to climate change, it’s essential that businesses support policies and politicians actively working to reduce emissions. Some may argue that policy increases the cost of business but climate policies will in fact open new opportunities and improve the economy over time. Policies like the Clean Air Act, rebates for electric vehicles, and renewable energy incentives drive down the cost of clean energy and transportation technology, reducing business costs in the long run.

Collective action is key

Millions of people around the world are rightly concerned about climate change and the damage it is doing to our planet. But with a little input from a lot of people, we can start to tackle in the greatest challenge of our lifetimes.

Collective action can start with one business or individual sparking a movement within their industry. Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency is a global community of hundreds of people within the tourism sector who are committed to delivering a plan for climate action. By coming together and joining networks, the community aims to halve emissions within the industry by 2030.

Likewise, at Ecologi, we’re working with over 16,000 businesses – the majority of which are small businesses looking to get started on their sustainability journey. Since 2019, our community has collectively helped to fund the planting of 54 million trees and avoided 2.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering our atmosphere through verified carbon avoidance projects. This has helped to support local communities and livelihoods around the world.

Time is not on our side if we are to stay within 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming, and unprecedented emissions cuts are urgently needed. But just imagine the scale of potential impact if every business started taking small steps right now, before working up to those bigger changes.

By coming together and learning from one another, businesses can foster a sense of community, empathy, and solidarity. Collective action is our only way forward.

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