Sustainability: It’s time to get on with it!

19 October 2021

With net zero deadlines getting closer, more emphasis is being put on the need to cut carbon footprints. Claire Price explains why companies need to act now.

The UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement means that we have to play our part in limiting the global temperature rise. To do this, emissions must be halved by 2030, with net zero being achieved no later than 2050.

This goal is beginning to slip from our fingers – with the UK set to miss its fourth and fifth carbon budgets. To achieve the sixth, the country needs to cut emissions by a staggering 78%.

Action from the business world is key to achieving this.

Despite the growing urgency of reaching net zero by 2050, many organisations have yet to accept the reality of the threat. QMS International’s latest research of business attitudes found that environmental sustainability was only listed as a top or second priority by 1.9% and 11.2% of businesses respectively. The majority (23.4%) put it as the seventh business priority – out of eight.

Why act now?
By being proactive now, organisations can dodge future headaches, especially where legislation or seeking new business is concerned.

Acting now will ensure that organisations stay in step with other clients and customers. For example, 69% of respondents to the QMS survey said that good green credentials were either very important or quite important to their clients. 

Becoming more carbon-friendly can save money and create new jobs too. In the report ‘Manufacturing resilience: driving recovery towards net zero’ by the All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group and Policy Connect, it stated that matching the most efficient operator in the manufacturing sector would, on average, enable a company to become 24% more profitable, create 30% more jobs and cut greenhouse gas emissions by a sizable 9%. 

Short-term actions
Simple actions, such as implementing wider recycling efforts, are easy wins that can help a business towards greater sustainability and feed into a wider circular economy.

Other actions, such as enforcing a paperless policy, can also be useful. This has recently been made easier by the shift towards home or hybrid working, which naturally limits employees’ access to printing facilities.

Energy efficiency in general can be very rewarding too, with consistent monitoring being an easy but often overlooked first step. Manufacturers can easily keep tabs on their usage with half-hour meters, for example. However, a recent survey by Make UK revealed that more than 95% of manufacturers do not use them. 

Medium-term actions
A key medium-term action is developing a system designed to monitor, measure and improve an organisation’s environmental management. Systems such as ISO 14001, the international Standard for environmental management, can help to put this structure in place. 

ISO 14001 helps organisation to consider all aspects, risks and impacts of their environmental performance and to plan strategically. Ultimately, it can lead to cost savings as well as a demonstrable commitment to managing environmental risk. With greater monitoring and measurement processes, it can be easier to spot opportunities to reduce waste, for instance. 

Other medium-term shifts could include building up a new supply chain of more local suppliers or replacing equipment and vehicles with greener alternatives. 

Long-term actions
Longer-term actions require an organisation to build up a detailed strategy that integrates environmental management into their business objectives. By doing so, businesses can build success and ensure sustainability is part of every decision-making process.

An organisation can, for example, investigate new, greener products and services, tying together the search for profits and new commercial opportunities with environmental concerns. 

Although medium and long-term actions require more time and investment, they are key to long-term success. By using them, organisations can avoid the implementation of piecemeal solutions that fail to drive continual improvement, something that is absolutely necessary when it comes to winning the race to net zero.

Claire Price is content marketing executive at QMS International.

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