When companies step up their efforts to be more environmentally responsible, everybody wins. It’s good for the planet and the global population, of course, because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and makes our world a safer place to live. Companies can typically reduce their costs, as energy efficiency measures generally result in lower and more predictable expenses for heating & cooling, electricity, and vehicular travel, among other things.
Most consumers prefer to patronize businesses that take proactive steps to protect the environment. According to a 2014 study by Nielsen Global Solutions, two-thirds of survey respondents indicated that they prefer sustainable products over conventional ones. The study also showed that 55% of consumers are actually willing to pay more for products and services sold by companies that are committed to “positive social and environmental impact.”
If that is not enough to convince management that good environmental stewardship matters then perhaps this will: regulators are paying more attention than ever before to environmental standards. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stepped up its regulatory agenda to measure and control greenhouse gas emissions. Other agencies around the world are rolling out similar regulatory regimens that will compel companies to pay closer attention to their carbon footprint than ever before. Businesses that take a proactive stance on the environment can not only position themselves as leaders in the marketplace, broadening their appeal to consumers but can also be better prepared to make any further adjustments that may be required as regulations evolve.
Start with the Small Stuff
We are all familiar with the old saying: “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” In fact, we should all start with these kinds of simple measures that reduce our consumption of resources and divert garbage away from landfills by giving new life to post-consumer waste. In many settings, that can begin by simply reducing the use of paper. For years, we have heard talk of the “paperless office”, yet computer technology has often resulted in even greater consumption of paper. That trend appears to finally be reversing, as a new generation of workers has come to prefer, tablet devices, and laptop computers.
Mobile technology, in particular, has done a great deal to help reduce paper consumption, largely because it enables access to a virtually unlimited store of documents and forms. With the right software, data collection can happen far more efficiently than with paper-based systems. Smartly designed forms can ensure that information recorded in the field is complete and accurate, and can even make dynamic adjustments to the available input options, making the process faster and easier. Mobile devices that are equipped with cameras (as virtually all tablet devices and mobile phones are), can also be used to take photos, providing key information that further enhances the value of data collected in the field.
This also provides for a faster and more efficient flow of information, eliminating the need to rekey data from paper-based forms.
Cloud Computing to the Rescue
Another fairly obvious way to reduce your carbon footprint is to reduce the number of vehicle miles your employees must drive, – both on the job and on their commute. The COVID crisis prompted many companies to shift employees to a remote work model wherever possible. Jobs that had previously not been considered “remote-friendly” were often adjusted to accommodate health and safety concerns arising from the pandemic. Quality audits, inspections, and other functions that had previously been performed on-site were modified by necessity.
Nevertheless, many companies discovered just how well the remote model works for them. While there may be very good reasons to meet face-to-face at times, many people have come to recognize the benefits of allowing some employees to work from home. Those benefits include higher employee productivity, a healthier work/life balance, reduced occupancy expenses, and travel costs, and of course a lower carbon footprint. By reducing the total number of miles employees spend on the road, companies can put a meaningful dent in their environmental impact.
None of this would be possible, of course, without cloud computing. Although the benefits of the cloud were widely recognized before the pandemic, COVID has probably done more than anything else to accelerate cloud adoption by opening people’s eyes to the value of any time/anywhere connectivity.
Be Proactive, and Measure Your Results
If you intend to get serious about reducing your carbon footprint, it’s important to take a proactive approach by adopting processes and systems that can enable a companywide transformation. The most successful companies understand the value of consistent, repeatable, well-documented processes and policies. These practices have proven to be valuable (and profitable!) Over the years for companies like 3M, Toyota, HP, and many others.
In fact, 3M was one of the first corporations to roll out a comprehensive program for environmental stewardship. In the 1970s, the company started an initiative known as “Pollution Prevention Pays.” This came to be known as the “3P” program. In its first year alone (1975), the 3P program reduced 3M’s emissions by 73,000 tons and eliminated 2800 tons of sludge.
It’s worth noting that 3M goes to great lengths to measure what it is doing to advance sustainability. The company has created a landing page that lays out its 2025 targets by the numbers. They aim to increase their usage of renewable energy by 50%, for example. As of the time, this is being written, they have already achieved an increase of 35.4%. They are targeting a 75 million metric ton reduction in customer-generated carbon emissions, and are already well on their way to achieving that goal as well.
It has sometimes been said, “you get what you inspect, not what you expect.” This underscores the importance of creating clear, well-documented, repeatable processes and incorporating data collection mechanisms to track performance against strategic targets. If your company aims to reduce its carbon emissions, – it’s important to know your numbers.
Just as financial performance flows from well-defined accounting standards with systems and processes to back them up, – environmental performance requires its own set of standards (such as ISO 14001), thoroughly documented policies and procedures, and a set of appropriate technology tools to make it all run smoothly.
A robust, highly configurable EHS system built on cloud technology is a foundational building block for any serious carbon reduction program. User-friendly mobile applications and power everyone in your organization to participate in the process easily and efficiently, and without a steep learning curve.
By reducing your company’s carbon footprint, you’ll save significantly on energy costs and other expenses, and you will appeal to a broader range of environmentally conscious customers. As an added benefit, you’ll be one step ahead of the game when regulatory control of greenhouse gas emissions grows more stringent, as it inevitably will.
If your organization intends to take a more proactive approach to reduce your carbon footprint, the team at Intellect would love to speak with you. We develop the best EHS software in the world. It’s designed to fit the way your company operates, without custom programming or costly technical resources. We make it easy by designing our software to be highly configurable, without requiring specialized technical skills. Contact us today for a free demo or to discuss your unique needs.
Now that you have learned about the reason why EHS is important in reducing your organization's carbon footprint, learn about the top 6 practices for an environmentally sustainable workplace.