The news, media and general wellbeing of businesses are not spreading the feeling of happiness. However, today is world environment day or as it is widely known Earth Day, it represents a chance for us as humans and businesses to look at our impact on the issues we know are affecting the world around climate change, and environmental impact on the world’s natural resources. It sounds like a heavy subject I totally get that, but it doesn’t have to be, nor is it something that should only be taken serious by big businesses those with a massive workforce and millions in turnover.
The reality is every business regardless of size can make a positive contribution however small, in the words of that supermarket chain ‘every little helps. This year for World Environment Day will focus on solutions to plastic pollution under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution. The nominated country to lead is the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) who are being supported by the Netherlands.
I wondered why they had chosen Ivory Coast and when I researched, I found that Abidjan, the commercial capital of the Ivory Coast, discards 300 tons of plastic every day. Only about 5% of it is recycled. Yet the city and surrounding area have a critical shortage of classrooms. Conceptos Plásticos is a company in Columbia that makes plastic bricks out of plastic rubbish. In partnership with UNICEF, it has supplied enough bricks to make nine new classrooms in Abidjan. It is building a new factory to manufacture its plastic bricks in Abidjan, which will further enhance its schools building programme, how fantastic is that!
Frighteningly more than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 per cent is recycled. An estimated 19-23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers, and seas. Today, plastic clogs our landfills, leaches into the ocean and is combusted into toxic smoke, making it one of the gravest threats to the planet. For a small business even if you eradicated plastic water bottles, and asked staff to use a re-usable water bottle think how you would be doing your bit.
There are of course other things we can be doing such as eliminating the use of paper and only printing when vital. For businesses that use packaging end the use of polystyrene which is not biodegradable and use alternative earth friendly packaging. I would recommend you speak to your accountant about any tax incentives you may be eligible for, if you make the switch from landfill packaging. Who knows it could save you some money in the process, as well as that fuzzy feeling for doing the right thing.
Other measures small businesses can take is developing a recycling scheme, I don’t just mean recycling cardboard and paper, but looking to other elements of the business which could be recycled. For example, unwanted furniture or filing cabinets that end up in landfill. Here at the BEC we are turning some redundant filing cabinets into planters for our outdoor spaces. We are looking forward to greening the front of our building and doing our bit to recycle and repurpose.
Another measure is to reassess your supply chain, the goods, and components you buy in to make your product or service. Where do they come from are they transported from a long distance and could you make the move to sourcing and buying locally. This helps the environment and the local economy. The BEC is very proud that 85% of the stuff we buy is local, and we stand by our look local first policy and are keen to support other businesses in developing this approach.
There is of course, lots more you can do of course, switching to LED lighting, more efficient heating measures but we recognise how hard things are for small businesses and these are not cheap options, although they are spend to save initiatives in the end. This won’t be the first time that I have said it, but this cost-of-living crisis feels worse than covid because there has been no central government grant support.
If you do want to think about how you could do your bit, then please contact us and we can help with a guidance tool and web information which could help and save you money as well.