Three Myths About Eco-Friendly Initiatives Companies Should Ignore

Ted Dhillon is the CEO and founder of FigBytes, an ESG insight platform.

In the army, we were often deployed to remote places. While abroad, I came face-to-face with changing environments and climate refugees, both left vulnerable by global warming.

Twenty years since then, and we’re still connecting the dots between our actions and the changing landscape. In Mumbai, people are losing their homes every single year during monsoon season. In Canada, hundreds of people were recently displaced due to flooding.

Can you tie your company’s decisions directly with these events? No. But that doesn’t mean a connection doesn’t exist. In fact, two-thirds of historical greenhouse gas emissions can be linked to just 90 companies.

When I left the army, I knew I wanted to help companies change this narrative. So, I helped start a platform that helps companies track and report crucial data on these initiatives in order to inform their decisions. But what stops companies from taking action? Often, it’s misinformation, including myths and fallacies that have often become so commonplace that we don’t question them.

But we should question them. Here are three myths you shouldn’t believe when it comes to going green.

Myth 1: We need to set 2050 climate goals for our company.

Amazon has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040. Tesco plans to do the same by 2050. LG Electronics by 2030. More than 100 countries are thinking along the same wavelength.

Long-term goals are good, and some goals have been met through carbon offsets. But planning 20 years ahead isn’t mandatory in the fight against climate change (and it isn’t realistic for 99% of companies). Even the definition of net-zero is questionable.

Instead of trying to look 10 or 20 years into the future, set targets within a smaller time frame — one that you can realistically work towards.

Only 27 out of 250 of the biggest corporate emitters have set goals for 2030 as opposed to 2050. Big picture goals are important, but to stay accountable and make progress, these short-term goals are crucial. I would recommend making goals for every year, every three years or whichever shorter interval suits your goals best.

Create smaller targets within each category, whether that’s a reduction in carbon emissions, water, solid waste or another area.

Most importantly, focus on tracking this progress in a measurable and shareable way. You can set a target to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year, but without regular weigh-ins, how do you know if you’re making progress?

Myth 2: Our actions won’t affect the impacts of climate change.

Small actions can equal big results. Toshiba installed 35,000 movement sensors to control elevator operations, lighting and air conditioning at their business base, helping them cut their CO2 emissions in half. Who would have thought automatic lights could save the Earth?

It’s easy to point fingers and rid yourself of responsibility. But this is the equivalent of “he started it,” “I did better than her” or “everyone else is doing it.” Basically, it’s a child’s excuse.

No matter the size, location or focus of your company, your actions to mitigate climate change are worth something. Consider your supply chain and vendors. See if supplies and resources can be sourced more sustainably, focusing on their origin or raw materials.

Look at policies that you can implement within the company, such as recycling initiatives or donating portions of your revenue to climate initiatives. If individuals can save hundreds of pounds of CO2 at home, so can your company by investing in eco-friendly resources.

As 99% of businesses in the U.S. are considered small businesses, so don’t count yourself as insignificant. Smaller companies may have a smaller impact on the climate than bigger ones, but their close-knit relationship with consumers may yield more of an impact in aggregate. Start a conversation with your customer base around sustainability and the choices they make. Use your position to educate and influence.

Myth 3: We have eco-friendly initiatives in place, so we’ve done our part.

You’re recycling, you’ve partnered with more eco-friendly suppliers and you’re setting realistic goals. You’re done, right? Almost. By gathering and analyzing data around these actions, you can share and improve on your actions.

Just 9% of companies surveyed by the World Economic Forum actively used data tools to collect, analyze and report on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) progress. And considering how many metrics and areas there are to report on, the challenge is understandable. But not impossible.

The benefits of collecting and reporting on ESG data are three-fold: demonstrating your progress to peers and stakeholders, benchmarking progress and setting more accurate targets.

But where to start? Companies need to look for technology solutions that can do a job no human can: large-scale data management.

Start by identifying the categories of environmental factors you need to consider. This could include solid waste, water and the impacts of any transport, facilities or services you use. Think of your suppliers, or for online services, your providers. Even data centers have an impact.

Instead of looking at each category separately, find a tool that can merge your data for a more comprehensive approach. Bringing your data together to conduct a more holistic analysis means you’ll be able to present more comprehensive results. Also, instead of lengthy reports, look for more easily understandable ways of summarizing and engaging stakeholders with your ESG data.

Are there other myths you’ve heard about taking action against climate change? My suggestion is to read. Speak to experts in the field as opposed to hearsay. And above all, focus on tangible information and data.

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