Environmental, social and governance (ESG) has been in the news a lot lately. With the SEC’s recent proposal for disclosure regulations and increased investor, public and employee attention on how companies are addressing their impact, now is the time to act.
Creating a, ESG program, reporting with transparency, and making progress on these important metrics takes time and dedicated resources. And there are a number of issues for companies to tackle when doing so. While the whole conversation around ESG is nuanced, to celebrate Earth Day 2022, we’re going to share some actionable ideas you can use to make your company more sustainable. It’s important to note that tips like the below are a relatively easy place to start, but there is far more work that must be done in the long term to truly make a lasting impact.
1. When possible, adopt remote and/or hybrid work models
If the COVID pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that for many jobs, remote work is possible. While some organizations may be reluctant to adopt remote or hybrid work on a permanent basis, this can go a long way in reducing Scope 3 emissions. Hesitancy to codify remote and hybrid work into company policy can stem from a number of reasons. One common example is that executive leadership may believe that remote and hybrid work can erode the organizational culture.
There may be some truth to this – a distributed workforce makes in-person meetings difficult, and onboarding remotely is not without its challenges. However, a large section of the workforce demands the flexibility of this workstyle and companies that fail to offer it are seeing the detrimental effects of The Great Resignation. After all, there are ample opportunities for employees to find a more flexible, hybrid or remote-first workplace.
The bottom line: organizations that can offer remote or hybrid work should do so. Not only does this reduce the amount of transit and GHG emissions, but it is also beneficial for employee retention and satisfaction.
2. Offer public transit and commuter benefits
When hybrid and remote work is not possible, companies are well-advised to offer public transit as an employee benefit. If commuting is necessary, public transportation is the most eco-friendly way to go, and a strategy businesses with on-premises operations should consider.
These benefits can be structured in a way that best suits the business – from fully paying for and providing public transit passes to offering a stipend (or both!), these benefits are relatively simple to implement. For businesses where on premises work is necessary, like retail, food service, or hospitality, this is an effective option to reduce Scope 3 emissions.
3. Use sustainable products in the office
There is a plethora of sustainable, eco-friendly products that businesses can use to make small impacts. From compostable cutlery in the break room, to post-consumer recycled paper products, businesses have options to choose from. Though some of these products may have a higher initial cost, opting for more eco-friendly products is one way to demonstrably deliver on your commitment to sustainability.
4. Promote paperless
For many companies, remote work has decreased the amount of paper being used by virtue of simply not having (or needing) a printer at home. Once a staple of business operations, quite a few businesses have already foregone paper unless strictly necessary.
Utilizing technology like DocuSign for contracts and cloud storage for important document sharing is a simple way to go paperless. If you must print, try to take steps to minimize paper usage by printing double sided – and when selecting paper for the office, opt for post-consumer recycled products.
5. Upgrade to energy-efficient products
As with compostable and eco-friendly items, there are also a number of energy-efficient options your business can choose. Not only do energy-efficient changes help shrink carbon footprints, they also help lower costs for the long term. Simple changes such as energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs can be simple to switch to. Other changes such as switching to automatic lights with sensors and smart thermostats help control costs and reduce the amount of energy consumed.
6. The 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle
Reduce, reuse, and recycle are listed in that order for a reason – level of importance. The first step in making an impact is to reduce the amount of waste produced. Going paperless and eliminating disposable plates, utensils and cups are easy ways to reduce.
Reusing when possible is one way to make a small change. Instead of offering paper cups, try offering reusable water bottles or coffee cups. There are quite a few small changes that can be made in the workplace to promote reusable products in lieu of disposable options.
Recycling is not as easy as it seems, mostly because people do it incorrectly. If your business has on premises operations, make recycling easy for your employees to do correctly. Clearly label recycling vessels, spread the word on proper recycling habits, and provide educational materials to your workforce on ways they can change their behavior at home too.
The list above is far from comprehensive. Making a long-lasting and meaningful impact takes dedicated resources and happens over time. Also important to mention is that companies seeking to make progress on their sustainability efforts must avoid greenwashing. Just because a company adopts some or all of these sustainability tips, doesn’t make them “eco-friendly” or sustainable. Many companies will inevitably be held accountable by regulations, investors and the public, so it’s highly advisable to make good-faith efforts and adopt transparent communication internally and externally before strictly necessary.
And we would be remiss not to mention the other categories, the ‘S’ and the ‘G’ as part of this conversation. After all, an ESG program is about more than tracking and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ESG reports contain valuable information on diversity, equity and inclusion progress, social and community impacts, and more. As a side note, you can check out NAVEX’s 2020 ESG report for an example.
For now, the race is on for companies to start comprehensive ESG programs in preparation for the SEC’s disclosure proposal which will likely take effect for the 2023 fiscal year.
For even more ESG resources, visit the NAVEX Resource Center and filter for Environmental, Social & Governance Solutions.