• Question: How can we push businesses to become more environmentally friendly?

    Asked by mans492war on 13 Nov 2023. This question was also asked by edge492war.
    • Photo: Octavia Brayley

      Octavia Brayley answered on 13 Nov 2023:

      Great question. I think financial incentives are really important, especially when everything is really expensive right now. For example, I’m sure lots of businesses would like to put solar panels on their roof or buy electric cars to deliver their products, however, they simply can’t do this because it’s too expensive. The government needs to invest more money in green technology and renewable energy, as well as providing businesses with funding to become more environmentally friendly. I think there should also be some sort of regulatory board that holds businesses accountable and checks to see whether they are doing everything they can to become more sustainable. Schemes like this do already exist, usually as award systems, but it’s up to the business or organisation to take part, rather than a mandatory scheme. There are lots of interesting videos on this topic on YouTube, and here’s one to get you going:

    • Photo: Jonathan Allen

      Jonathan Allen answered on 13 Nov 2023:

      Businesses have been doing a lot more in recent years to be more environmentally friendly – or ‘sustainable’ – than in previous years. Lots of companies now support ‘hybrid working’, which is when staff spend some days working in the company office and other days at home. This is good because it reduces the number of vehicles being used and so reduces the pollution they produce. Companies also use a lot less paper now than in previous years, with lots of things done using electronic documents on computers rather than printing things out for people to read or sign etc. We also find that companies encourage ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ – which means staff are encouraged to reduce how much they use things, but if they have to use something then they should reuse it lots of times rather than just once then put it in the bin, and once it has to go in the bin then recycle it if possible.

      However, businesses can still do more. You see lots of shops and offices with lights on at night despite them being closed – I think this shouldn’t happen because it is wasting electricity. They can also do other things to help their staff be more environmentally friendly, like offer tickets on public transport to avoid cars and make sure they only fly to places it is absolutely essential. The way we can push them to do this is often through ‘financial incentives’ which means giving them money to do so, but often the money is not enough to make them change. So I think the law needs changing to make companies make the changes needed (e.g. they must turn the lights off or else they’ll be fined) because this is a climate emergency and needs urgent action rather than gently encouragement.

    • Photo: Ian McKinley

      Ian McKinley answered on 13 Nov 2023:

      This is a very tricky question: smaller businesses can be influenced by politicians and lobby groups, but the mega-corporations – which cause most of the problems – are more difficult to “push”. The fossil fuel industry industry has a bad reputation here. For example, often when oil companies claim to be capturing carbon dioxide, they are actually using this gas to extract more oil!
      Probably the biggest push is commercial – if countries decide to put a high tax on fossil fuels, this can force a change. Otherwise a lot of the “environmental friendliness” is rather trivial (often called “green-washing”).

    • Photo: Amy Stockwell

      Amy Stockwell answered on 13 Nov 2023:

      I think that tax and law are the way forward.
      Some businesses will become more environmentally friendly because it makes sense – for example some companies have decided to invest in FairTrade or recycled raw materials. But they are more expensive than standard products.

      In general businesses only spend money to make money or to be legally compliant. So a carbon tax would force businesses to become more environmentally friendly or it costs more for them in tax.

    • Photo: Paula McMahon

      Paula McMahon answered on 14 Nov 2023:

      Write them letters / speak to them (kindly)

      See https://engineeringtogether.com/primary-voices/

    • Photo: Andrew Lyon

      Andrew Lyon answered on 15 Nov 2023:

      In my job I look at industrial sites that are covered by Environmental Laws. Some of these laws will require a reduction in pollution, a reduction in energy and water usage, replacing certain chemicals with more environmentally friendly products for example all of which improve the environment and make businesses more sustainable. It’s great to see that more and more companies are taking sustainability seriously although there is still a lot more that can be done.

      I’d also say our current production methods are very unsustainable. We tend to mine materials, make products and then dispose of them. One area that would make businesses more sustainable is moving to a circular economy. This keeps products in circulation for as long as possible by reusing or refurbishing them. It does require some significant changes though because products need to be designed so that they can be repaired or refurbished.

      I think consumers can also have a say, for example when supermarkets have been called out for using excessive packaging they have reduced packaging use.