Workplace Giving & Corporate Engagement Manager
One of the most exciting things about business is the enormous capacity to create change.
At an individual level, it’s easy to get disheartened in the face of something like plastic pollution. Standing in your local coffee shop, clutching your Keep Cup it can be difficult to determine whether you’re really making a difference (spoiler: the answer is ‘yes’).
In these moments it’s important to think about how we can build capacity and increase our impact by considering the role we play within our place of work.
Consumers are voting with their dollars and choosing to purchase from sustainable brands. Recent research conducted by NYU Stern’s Centre for Sustainable Business found that 50% of consumer packaged goods (CPG) growth from 2013 - 2018 came from products marketed as sustainable. Businesses can’t afford to ignore the public outcry about plastic use and many industries have been drafting plans and collaborating on how to best phase out single-use plastics.
Increasingly, Millennials within the workforce are demanding that their employers hold themselves more accountable for the environmental footprint they have. Simply understanding your power both as an individual and within the collective can help to drive real industry change.
Below are four ways businesses, and the people who keep them running, can fight plastic pollution:
1. Change comes from within
Work culture can be both a driver of, and an obstacle for, change but there are always opportunities to make small changes to shift sentiment.
Here’s a relatively easy one - these days most businesses offer staff Christmas gifts or year-round incentives, you could suggest that all staff receive a reusable Keep Cup. Imagine the number of coffee cups you could save from landfill if your whole office started using a reusable cup! Not to mention small gifts are a great way to build staff morale and keep people engaged in the business.
Most cafes will offer a small discount for people who bring their own cup, which means your teams could be saving the planet and a few extra dollars a week too.
Pro-tip: Your reusable cup and water bottle are also great for smoothies or juices, if that’s your preference!
2. Go carbon-neutral
Phasing out single-use plastic is a bigger challenge for some businesses than others. Going carbon-neutral is a huge way to reduce impact on the planet.
When a business goes carbon-neutral it means they’re taking action to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put into it. The goal is to achieve a zero carbon footprint through offsetting emissions.
A common way to offset unavoidable carbon emissions is to pay for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions elsewhere, such as planting trees or investing in wind farms, hydroelectricity and other forms of renewable energy.
If enough offsets are made to balance the output of emissions then the net carbon emissions will be zero.
3. The rise of the circular economy
Plastic is versatile, sturdy and designed to last forever and yet so much of it is used once then thrown away.
As part of a transition away from single-use plastics, businesses need to be more clever about how they produce and dispose of products. With emerging technologies and innovation leading the way, there are increasingly more opportunities to move from a linear economy (make, use, dispose of) to a circular economy, allowing us to extract the maximum value from a product throughout its lifecycle.
Some recent examples include shoes made from recycled ocean plastics, sunglasses made from deadly ocean gill nets and surfboards made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste.
We are all in positions to rethink the way products are produced, sold and consumed. By considering the way we communicate and ensuring the items that we introduce into the world live a longer life we can also extend the lives of our oceans, forests and the planet. Disposal is out and upcycling is in!
4. Engage with the experts
There are multiple not-for-profits and non-government organisations working on some of the most challenging sustainability issues of our time and plastic pollution is a clear priority.
Businesses of all sizes should make it their priority to engage with those organisations that have the knowledge and expertise to support industry change.
This can be done on a number of levels:
- Take part in staff engagement opportunities that will support your workplace culture. For example, take your team out on a volunteer trip and plant some trees to offset carbon emissions.
- Consider strategic partnerships that will allow you to experiment with new ways to manufacture products by upcycling waste.
- Network and seek advice on how your business can contribute to sustainability solutions.
- Consider how you communicate and market your business and share the work of those creating positive change.
In 2018 there were more than 2.3 million actively trading businesses in Australia. That’s 2.3 million active opportunities to create change, fight plastic pollution and protect the planet we all share.
Find out how a partnership with WWF can help your business become more sustainable. Get in touch with us today.