4 Ways to Do Less Harm
Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Whether you want to cut costs, make your business more appealing to your audience or simply acting on your own ethical concerns - there are many reasons to find ways to do less damage to our environment.
With exception of a very small number of organisations, all businesses negatively impact our environment in some way. Even digital-based businesses burn fossil fuels to power their computers, cut down trees to produce note pads and pollute the atmosphere when commuting to the office.
We can, and should, do as much as we can to limit any negative impact we have.
In this article, we take you through 4 ways that you can proactively do less harm.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycling...it almost seems too good to be true, right? We can use what we want and as long as we pop it in the recycling bin, no harm done...
...of course, it isn't quite that simple.
When looking to reduce harm, recycling should be a last resort. But why?
There is a fundamental flaw in recycling, especially when it comes to plastics. This it the fact that it is still considerably cheaper to produce new (virgin) plastics from oil than it is to recycle them.
Practically, this means that although we may be good at sending our waste for recycling (around 47% domestically), there is very little demand for that waste to actually be recycled into new products. In fact, of the 8.3bn tonnes of plastic produced worldwide, only 9% has ever actually been recycled - most is sent to be incinerated.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't recycle, but we should take two additional steps first: reduce & reuse.
The first step to a greener business is to simply reduce any materials used. Not using materials such as plastics is the only way to completely eradicate any potential damage done by producing it.
Secondly, where materials are used, we should seek to reuse them wherever and whenever possible - think of this as a sure-fire way to make sure your materials are being 'recycled' at least a few times.
Not only is the reduce, reuse, recycle system useful for limiting any damage you create during producing your product or service, but it can also be applied to your buying decisions, helping you reduce any negative impact produced through your supply chain.
This can be done simply by asking yourself key questions such as:
"Is this product/material truly necessary?"
"What impact is buying this product/material going to have on the environment?"
"Is there a more environmentally friendly option available?"
There are very, very few businesses that do not impact the environment negatively in some way, shape or form. Although some businesses may create a comparably lower impact than others, it is ignorant to believe that your business holds no responsibility in mitigating the damage it does to the environment.
Offsetting can be a good way to 'make up' for the areas in which you cannot yet improve your business's impact. For example, you may opt to work with an organisation such as Ecologi to calculate your business's carbon emissions and offset them by planting trees in areas where they have the greatest environmental benefit.
Most people want to do less harm. So it can be surprising how many businesses fail to take action to do so.
There are a number of reasons why this happens, but primarily can be attributed to the fact that businesses tend to focus on that which they are held accountable for achieving. For example, a business leader is much more likely to concentrate on delivering profitable action to please stakeholders than reducing their carbon footprint.
One way to ensure a continued focus on doing less harm is to publish a comprehensive sustainability statement outlining exactly what you are committing to as a business. This statement should be published and easily findable on your company website, you should also share it with your customers and employees so that they can hold you accountable for delivering on what is promised.
Although it shouldn't be a major factor in its delivery, a strong sustainability statement can also be a powerful marketing tool, helping you attract customers that share your values around sustainability.
Doing less harm should be a major goal for all businesses. We are already starting to see the effects of global pollution on our day-to-day lives and the success of many organisations. It is our duty to ensure that generations to come can benefit from our environment.