Chris Bowden, MD, Squeaky
13 minute read
9 Essential Actions to Reduce the Impact of Climate Change
Feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to reduce the impact of climate change?
You are not alone.
This article does not list every action for businesses looking to tackle the climate crisis.
Instead, it lists a number of key actions that will make a real difference.
And deliver genuine impact.
Be a leader and put yourself ahead of the competition
In our vitally endangered world there is no version of the future in which business can continue as it has always done.
The reality is, every organisation in every industry will be transformed by the climate crisis.
And how your organisation fairs will depend on whether it opts to harness the opportunity that exists in reducing the impact of climate change.
Or, whether you stick with the status quo and do business as it has always been done.
In other words:
Your growth will hinge on your decision to lead, or be led.
Study after study has proven that those companies who step up as leaders on the hunt for sustainability and solutions to climate change, gain a financial competitive advantage.
In fact, in his 2022 letter to CEOs, Larry Fink is quoted saying:
“The next 1,000 unicorns won’t be search engines or social media companies, they’ll be sustainable, scalable innovators – startups that help the world decarbonize and make the energy transition affordable for all consumers.”
In the same letter, Fink goes on to question companies on the actions they are taking to disrupt their business.
And, asks how they are preparing for - and participating in - the net zero transition.
These are questions you should ask of your own organisation.
Because if your answer is that you are doing nothing, then - to use the analogy provided by Fink - you risk going one way…
The same way as the dodo.
Educate the C-Suite and set realistic expectations
At the end of 2021, we questioned sustainability and energy managers to find out whether they have the expertise, strategy, and support within their organisation, to reach net zero and, in turn, reduce the impact of climate change.
We only surveyed those from the UK’s FTSE 250 - or equivalent size - and who spend £1 million or more on energy.
This is because we wanted to gain an understanding of the challenges that Britain’s biggest businesses are facing on matters of climate change.
Interestingly, the research uncovered a large gap between the expectation amongst C-Suite Executives and the reality of the task at hand.
Here’s what we found:
86% agreed that the current C-Suite Executive team is pushing the environmental agenda forward.
Which is encouraging to see.
However, 80% of respondents also said they feel their C-Suite has unrealistic expectations regarding sustainability targets.
In other words, leaders may recognise they need to find ways to reduce the impact of climate change.
But this seems to be curtailed with a lack of realism and an unappreciation of the deep work it takes to actually make change.
And it is not just our own research that suggests this.
Because over the last few years we have seen C-Suite executives make unrealistic, unconsidered, and empty pledges.
Pledges that have been so ill thought out, it will be impossible for future leaders to order them.
Prioritise purpose over profit
In short: a purpose-led company is one that, literally, serves their purpose.
Most notably, a purpose-led company’s profit is the by-product of their work, not the driving force.
Over the last decade, more and more organisations have committed to the purpose over profit model.
And, despite initial scepticism, much of the business world has finally awoken to the fact that those who prioritise purpose over cash will financially outperform those who do not have a guiding purpose.
Organisations can no longer turn a blind eye to the connection between profit and purpose.
The rapid rise of stakeholder capitalism means consumers, employees and investors are more cautious about buying into companies that do not serve the interests of a more sustainable world.
Indeed, if you are reading this knowing your organisation is acting only to keep jurassic, cheque-book chasing shareholders sweet, then you are - undoubtedly - ostracising huge stakeholder groups.
It is no exaggeration to say that failing to act on this momentous shift risks your company being left in the dust by those that did.
It is widely acknowledged that consumers will spend their money with brands who align with their moral beliefs.
And this powerful stakeholder group has no hesitation in snubbing companies who they believe are not pulling their weight.
But consumers aren’t the only stakeholder group with buying power…
Employees have started lobbying the companies they work at to follow a moral imperative, and indeed, are now punishing those who fail to speak out by taking their talent elsewhere.
And in this, the year of The Great Resignation, firms cannot afford to merely pay lip service to ESG matters.
They must provide evidence which shows they are playing their part to reduce the impact of climate change.
Make impact not pledges
It is no understatement to say that climate change has wreaked havoc in the corporate world.
As a result, much of the action taken by organisations has been driven by alarm.
And a clear gap has appeared between pledges made and impact delivered.
Let’s be clear:
This is not the time to falsify and elaborate your organisation’s commitment to minimising the impact of climate change.
This is the time to focus on the needle-moving actions that will create substantive change.
Because only the impact of the action taken really counts in the fight to tackle climate change.
Break the big task down into smaller actions
Tackling climate change is an awfully big elephant to eat in one bite.
And that’s not least because the skills and the expertise required in this space are so highly sought after.
In fact, the Financial Times recently reported consulting firms are struggling to develop the skills to meet the demand from clients seeking sustainability advice.
Fiona Czerniawska, chief executive of Source Global Research, was quoted in the article, saying:
“They [consultants] need an awful lot more people and it’s coming at a time when they’re not just short of sustainability skills — they’re short of every kind of skill.”
In findings - that were not limited to sustainability - Source Global Research found that one-in-five consulting firms are turning away work because they did not have the right skills.
So, it would be fair to conclude that the demand for genuine sustainability professionals is undoubtedly outstripping the supply.
Which means highly experienced sustainability professionals now come with an eye-watering price tags
And this is a problem for firms of all sizes, across all industries.
Most don’t have the inhouse sustainability skills or the budget to outsource.
So, as Desmond Tutu once wisely said:
“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
Leaders need to think about solutions to climate change in the same way.
Not with baseless token pledges or by throwing massive budgets at pricey consultants, but through bitesize actions that genuinely move the needle on climate change.
Clarify the source of your power
An important step an organisation can take on its quest to reduce the impact of climate change, is to clarify the source of the energy they are using to power their business.
Well, although energy firms are required by law to disclose the makeup of their energy in a Fuel Mix Disclosure (FMD), the rules - or lack therefore - allow them to obfuscate their actual source of power.
Which means they could be misleading you about the makeup of the energy you are powering your business with.
Imagine claiming that you have committed to green energy on your website, only to find that what you actually have is energy from polluting, fossil fuel sources.
The sad truth is, Britain’s energy suppliers have long been involved in greenwashing practices, which means you have to do more legwork to ensure you are being powered with the energy you think you are.
When we asked sustainability and energy managers - in our 2021 survey - what they rely on to ensure their supplier is providing them with the energy they say they are:
40% said they rely on their supplier to confirm the energy mix - which we now know may not be transparent.
14% said they look at the FMD of their supplier, which is a good start, but doesn’t provide the whole truth.
And 15% said they check how many renewable energy guarantees of origin (REGOs) their energy supplier has redeemed on the Ofgem website.
The truth is:
If organisations really want to display their commitment to tackle the climate crisis and put purpose at the heart of what they do, it is important they uncover bad practices and get to the root of what they are actually buying.
Power your business with genuinely clean energy
When you are searching for ways to reduce the impact of climate change, it is important to consider those things that are proven to make a difference.
Moving away from fossil fuels and powering your business with 100% clean energy is one of those key things.
This is a positive step which is arguably far easier than, for example, trying to get all the carbon out of an organisation’s supply chain.
To be clear here, when we refer to ‘clean energy’, we mean energy derived from natural, non-polluting resources that are capable of being replenished on a short timescale, such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal and hydropower.
However, in the same survey referenced above, we found that more than one-in-four (26%) of sustainability and energy managers admitted that they are not yet committed to powering their business with clean energy.
Given the size of the organisations we surveyed - FTSE 250, or equivalent sized companies, and who spend £1 million or more on energy - this raises alarm bells.
Because it’s the captains of industry who we expect to lead the way on clean energy, not least if we stand some chance of reaching net zero.
Consider a CPPA
A Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (CPPA) is a tangible way for companies to demonstrate they are committed to minimising the impact of climate change.
Not least because a CPPA enables an organisation to trace its energy to the source.
This means it can have complete confidence when it claims the energy it’s using is 100% clean.
And the benefits don’t stop there.
A CPPA will also enable you and your company to:
Mitigate risk by protecting against price volatility and securing price certainty.
Lock in a long-term supply of clean energy.
Reduce Scope 3 Emissions.
And, buy energy at below wholesale market prices.
When responsible companies like yours are looking for more tangible ways to demonstrate their environmental commitment to stakeholders, procuring energy directly from existing or ‘new to earth’ renewable energy generators by using a CPPA is a fail-safe option.
You can find out more about how a CPPA works in our step-by-step guide.
Become a B-Corp
If you are a company that takes its sustainability commitments seriously, becoming a B Corp will give you the certificate of transparency for your customers, employees and stakeholders to see.
This transparency is invaluable.
For us, being a B Corp is integral to our own ‘Squeaky Clean’ values and ethos and it was always something I aspired to when I started Squeaky.
The recognition isn’t just key to our Squeaky Clean values as a company, but our B Corp certification also marked a big step towards our vision of accelerating the world’s transition to 100% clean energy.
In my opinion, being a purpose led, B Corp business means taking a leading role in the combined effort to reduce the impact of climate change.
In this post, we haven’t included all the ways you can reduce the impact of climate change.
In fact, these nine points only scratch the surface. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and requires action on a monumental scale.
However, these are all effective actions you can take to ensure you not only reduce your organisation’s impact on the planet.
But that you harness the opportunity and get ahead of your competition.