Every year on April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day, the modern environmental movement created in the 1970s. What does that mean for your business? This day gives you a chance to have an impact on the future of the planet and learn about the small changes that can truly have a major impact.
What is Earth Day?
Recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, more than a billion people mark the day as a chance to change human behavior and impact public policy to ensure sustainability. Earth Day now celebrates the work people are doing to help save the planet, and highlights the work that still needs to be done.
Here are 5 easy things your business can do to mark Earth Day this year:
1. Recyclable mailers and eco-friendly packaging
The rise of e-commerce continues to be huge. One study found retail e-commerce sales totaled about $4.9 trillion worldwide last year. By 2025, that’s projected to grow to about $7.4 trillion. That’s some major cash. That also means each and every one of those sales had to be packaged up and shipped to the customer.
Earth Day is a great time for your company to take a look at how you’re packaging products. Are there ways in which you can switch to recyclable materials? For example, can you switch bubble wrap with something like compostable tissue paper? The ever-expanding buffet of eco-friendly packing materials includes things like biodegradable air peanuts, mailers made from 100% recycled material, and compostable plant-based bags. Major companies are also getting into the game too. Georgia-Pacific opened two new plants in the U.S. to create recyclable padded mailers as demand keeps rising. Once you start running the numbers, your business will probably find some cheaper options.
TIPS AND TRICKS: 6 Easy Green Commitments for Businesses
2. Take a look at your paper usage
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people working from home skyrocketed to nearly 40% in the U.S. Documents had to be digitized in some fashion in order to be shared quickly among employees. This also created a drastic decrease in the amount of paper consumed by some businesses.
If your employees are back in the office, or never left, there are some easy ways to scale back your paper usage. Paperless contracts are one way to avoid printing dozens of sheets. Employees can edit documents electronically or online, and save them to the cloud or hard drive. Offices can feature document scanners and shredders to encourage using less paper. Printing on both sides of a sheet of paper is also an easy way to reduce usage. Consider restocking your office supply of paper with sheets made from recycled materials, too. Using recycled paper and then recycling it again helps contribute to a closed-loop process and ultimately helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted.
3. Work on your ESG rating and sustainability goals.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance rating and it’s an increasingly popular way to evaluate a company. Environmental refers to how well a company protects nature through issuing carbon reports or working to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Social has to do with the company’s relationships to employees, customers, ethical supply chains, and the communities in which it operates. Governance involves the company’s leadership, diversity, transparency, audits, and shareholder rights, among other things.
Financial companies and investment firms are paying attention to these criteria as younger investors are seeking out companies they feel are conducting business in a responsible manner. The US SIF Foundation published a report that found sustainable investing assets were over $17 trillion by the end of 2020.
On this Earth Day, consider launching new sustainability programs for your company such as improving recycling, reducing waste, changing to eco-friendly packaging, or installing energy-efficient lighting. Set ambitious, yet attainable, ESG goals. Think about ESG in every part of your business and how you can implement those changes.
4. Give employees and customers a reason to go green
Try to catch employees “green-handed” around the office and offer a small reward. Offer a big prize to the greenest employee in your company. Send your departments, floors, or teams into a friendly competition to see who can shred the most paper or recycle the most bottles. These activities not only introduce a little fun into the workplace, but they also help meet your sustainability goals. The more fun something is, the more likely people will want to participate.
As for customers, consider discounts if they can prove they recycle or if they agree to go paperless. Offer money off certain products if they bring in a recyclable item to your store. Ask clients to share how they’re going green online for additional rewards or perks.
Green consumerism and the desire to work for companies with an eye on nature is on the rise as numerous studies have shown. Cash in on it. Help your employees and customers have a bit of fun, and you’ll easily be able to successfully mark Earth Day.
5. Get involved in the community
It’s not just a great PR opportunity for your company. Getting involved can make your employees feel happier and healthier, and helps make your community a better place. Lead a cleanup effort of a local stream, park, or highway. Use the office building as a central location to collect gently used items to donate. Collect plastic bags and use Earth Day as a reason to drop them off at a local recycling center.
READ MORE: 5 Ways to Recycle More This Earth Day
What is good for the planet is increasingly becoming good for your bottom line as a business. Whether it’s investing in supply chains with sustainable materials or simply implementing an office-wide recycling program, every little bit helps when it comes to the environment. That’s what Earth Day is all about: celebrating the innovators, the doers, and the thinkers while also recognizing there’s a long way still to go. Think green, go green, and you’ll likely save a whole lot of green.