The science is clear, and when we look outside and see smoke-ridden skies, experience unprecedented flooding, or suffer the consequences of historic droughts, it’s in our face: climate change is here. Our climate and environment are changing–and how we interact with it should change.
As the recent and somewhat terrifying UN Report informed us, we are well past the point of stopping climate change. But we can slow it down. And we need to slow it down.
According to the UN Report, we need to halve greenhouse emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions no later than 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
How can small businesses help achieve these goals?
Much climate news has focused on the emissions and energy outputs of large, international corporations. And for good reason: their business decisions are expansive and have a significant climate impact in many sectors of the economy, government, and environment. These industry titans must change their behavior if we want to achieve the UN’s goals, but small businesses should as well.
Small businesses make up the majority of businesses in the United States. Despite their diminutive qualifier, small businesses have a big impact. Both in how they affect the climate and how they shape the fabric of our society and economy. Thus, any changes small businesses can make to reduce their carbon footprints are essential to meeting the UN’s goals.
Studies have shown that such climate action is also desirable to potential employees, who are increasingly drawn to employers with environmental initiatives. There are also branding benefits for certificates and labels associated with businesses that meet certain environmental standards that may draw in environmentally conscious consumers and/or clients.
Steps for small businesses to combat climate change.
1. Set Goals
Some goals may include reducing the company’s energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions. But most of us don’t have the expertise to meaningfully and quantifiably reduce our carbon footprint. Luckily, there are certification standards and organizations that help. For example, you can join the SME Climate Hub, sponsored by the UN which teamed up with Oxford University to create a library of tools and resources for small and medium enterprises for how to reduce their carbon footprints. These resources include but are not limited to: tools from the B Lab, Landlord-Tenant energy agreements, supply chain tools, guidebooks on reducing the environmental impact of freight logistics, company transportation toolkits, and many more.
The Climate Neutral Certified stamp is another popular certification that you can put on your business’ brand and marketing materials. This certification measures and directly addresses a brand’s commitment to stopping climate change. Some businesses that are Climate Neutral Certified include REI, Allbirds, Numi Tea, and Klean Canteen. The certification imposes a fee for every ton of carbon produced by the company, but that fee is used to invest in carbon reduction and sequestration projects around the globe and accomplishes carbon pricing.
Finally, if a business’ goal is to partner with environmental nonprofits, 1% For the Planet is an organization that pairs businesses, individuals, and nonprofits and commits 1% of the committed business’ profits to environmental nonprofits and organizations. Milgrom & Daskam is a proud 1% member.
2. Measure your climate impact
In addition to setting goals and potentially joining organizations and initiatives that direct small business leaders, it’s important for small businesses to measure their climate impacts. There are plenty of climate calculators for businesses to measure the impact of their brands, products, and services. These calculators take into account business’ energy consumption, emissions, and overall carbon footprints, and can be useful resources for informing businesses about how they can best reduce their environmental impacts.
3. Offset your emissions
Carbon offset programs are not perfect, but they have been found to be a powerful decarbonization tool. Furthermore, they provide small businesses opportunities for creativity. For example, companies can engage in tree-planting days to offset their carbon emissions. Companies can also purchase carbon credits that offset their emissions, which on average equal ~0.4% of a company’s revenue.
Some other ideas for business owners include encouraging employees to work from home to reduce commute-based emissions, incentivizing and paying for employees to use public transit and other climate-friendly travel options when commuting to work, reducing emissions produced by your business’ online activity and energy demands, using more sustainable packaging, or switching to natural resource energy for your business.
In conclusion, although climate change is daunting, all hope is not lost, and we as individuals, businesses, and communities can make meaningful changes to actualize the UN’s 2030 and 2050 goals to preserve our planet and everything it offers us.