Going Green: why sustainability matters to your business more than you think

Article by John Elliss Dale Office Interiors & Cathryn Barnard – Director at Working the future 3rd May 2022

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

–  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sixth Assessment Report, August 2021

While the latest COVID developments may have overshadowed the outcomes of COP26, the sentiment of climate scientists could not be clearer. We must act now to mitigate the worst outcomes of an overheating planet.

Sustainability is an imperative for any business looking to survive the 2020s.

But what exactly is it and where do we start?

In our December webinar (Watch on-demand here), we agreed that organisational sustainability comprises two components.

Workforce sustainability – engaged, committed and healthy staff – is essential to navigate the continuous twists and turns of uncertain and unpredictable commercial landscapes.

But just as important, commitment to environmental sustainability and a robust, authentic carbon emission reduction plan are now, quite literally, a matter of organisational life or death.

Workforce sustainability and environmental sustainability are more interconnected than one might think.

Modern workers are increasingly selective when it comes to career opportunities and job seeking. There are now way more factors at play than simply role, location, compensation and benefits.

According to Deloitte’s Millennial and Gen Z 2021 report, COVID-19 and the climate crisis are listed as within the top three concerns for these generational cohorts. This is significant not least because by 2020, these two generations made up 59% of the global workforce according to the World Economic Forum.

Environmental Scopes Diagram
  • Scope 1: Onsite energy use and company vehicles (owned or leased)
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions created by 3rd party utility suppliers (gas, electricity, water)
  • Scope 3: All indirect emissions associated the organisation’s upstream and downstream value chain.

Deloitte’s research goes on to show that this segment of the workforce holds an increasingly dim view of business in society – in 2021, for the first time, only 47% of survey respondents perceived business as a force for good in the world.

As digital natives, younger cohorts expect corporate transparency and will call out or boycott brands and organisations perceived to be fuelling the climate crisis.

Not only does business now have to pay close attention to its environmental reputation, but it also needs to consider its carbon impact if it wishes to continue to attract top talent. Research undertaken in 2021 by a leading London based recruitment consultancy noted that 73% of surveyed respondents reported they wouldn’t work for an environmentally unsustainable business.

Simply put, if you’re not actively working to reduce your organisational carbon footprint, you’ll increasingly struggle to attract and retain staff in the future of work.

And there’s good reason that people are voting with their feet when it comes to their corporate environmental responsibilities.

According to the Science Based Target Initiative, organisations are responsible for 35% of all global carbon emissions under scope 1 and 2 criteria. This increases to 85% of total carbon emissions once Scope 3 emissions are included.

With such environmental responsibility falling squarely on the commercial sector, it’s no wonder that government policymakers have sought to introduce legislation that enforces carbon footprint reduction.

Albeit under-reported, in June 2021, UK Government updated its procurement policy. The changes made have repercussions for the UK economy at large.

From October 2021, any organisation tendering for the supply of goods or services over £5 million to any Central Government department, executive agency or non-department public body must provide evidence of its carbon reduction plan. This plan must set out the environmental management measures in place and a confirmed commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050.

In parallel, since the UK Government introduced its Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting Scheme in 2019, companies with more than 250 staff are required to report on their Scope 3 emissions.

These two policy changes have seismic consequences for UK business. Since Scope 3 emissions include carbon emissions emanating both from any goods and services purchased by an organisation AND emissions deriving from any goods and services created by the organisation, the responsibility for businesses is now significant.

It’s abundantly clear that modern organisations now face both the burden of social expectation and a legislative responsibility to reduce their carbon emissions. Delaying the inevitable threatens business continuity more than you might imagine.

Simply put, a genuine commitment to reduce CO2 emissions has become a primary requirement of all businesses looking to survive the febrile commercial landscapes of the 2020s. The days of this being a ‘nice-to-have’ ESG initiative have long gone.

This will inevitably call for entirely new approaches to how we create and deliver value as organisations. At the same time, the future of the entire planet depends upon our doing the right thing.

Here at Dale Office Interiors, we’ve made the commitment to get started on our own carbon footprint reduction roadmap. We’ll be sharing the story of our progress as we go, with the hope that it helps you with yours.

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