Increasingly often we ask ourselves, who is responsible for leading the charge on combating climate change? Is it the individual? Is it the corporate world? Is it the government? Opinions (as demonstrated by this 2021 Dynata report) vary — but one thing is for certain, if we don’t change now, we’re in for a (hot) world of hurt in the coming years. In fact, experts say the summer of 2021 is the coldest one we’ll ever have again. A summer in which — globally — we had the hottest month in recorded human history. Let that sink in.
At the end of the day, the onus falls on all of the aforementioned parties to combat climate change. For retailers, some of the changes that are best served to better the climate aren’t always realistic for continued business operations (and revenue!). But fortunately, it isn’t inherently too difficult to tweak a few operational practices and start working toward a net-zero carbon footprint.
If you’re interested in beginning the sojourn, below are some easy ways to get started and tenets to keep in mind:
Focus on One Area of Sustainability
Trying to approach sustainability holistically can be daunting, and essentially erects a barrier to sustainability on a smaller and more achievable scale. The number-one thing to remember is that you don’t need to do it all at once — take small steps and adopt flexible practices, as sustainability is always evolving.
There will always be new standards to meet, technologies to utilize and ways to improve, so sustainability will never actually be “achieved.” Therefore, it’s best to take it one step at a time. The end goal should always be a moving target, motivating you to keep pace while prioritizing your business growth with sustainability at the core.
Empower Employees and Customers to Get Involved
Encourage your employees to research and deploy practices that better both the environment and your workplace at the same time. This not only provides them the freedom to explore beyond their day-to-day work responsibilities, but also the ability to contribute to what should become part of the fabric of your company.
There is also an opportunity to conduct promotional events with customers, encouraging them to give back themselves. You can donate a portion of their purchase to a nonprofit, letting them know the change they contributed to. You can encourage customers to shop only with reusable items that they can refill — e.g. bags, soap containers, hot sauce bottles, sauce cans — all made to be reused! Another idea: if your stockroom is overflowing with that one item that just won’t sell, instead of pitching it, investigate if any schools in the area could repurpose the items for home or tech ed classes.
Lean on Tech Partners and Publicly Available Material
Research some of the business partners you’re working with to see if there’s an opportunity to capitalize on their pre-existing efforts. For instance, if you’re a Xero customer, they invest a portion of funds they hold under management into Blackrock’s Liquid Environmentally Aware Fund (LEAF®), which only includes companies with strong environmental impact practices as verified by third parties and internal analysts.
For public materials, the Taskforce For Climate-related Financial Disclosure’s (TCFD) risk assessment and disclosure framework is a good item to review as you’re building a roadmap to address climate-related matters. Finally, here are some public resources to review — building a sustainable business, steps to take, and small business guides — if you’re looking to become more environmentally conscious in your business.
Individuals, corporations and governments across the globe need to be held accountable for supporting and helping the world around us as much as possible. The responsibility falls on us all.
Ben Richmond is U.S. Country Manager at Xero, where he is responsible for driving Xero’s growth in the region. Richmond, a chartered accountant, has been recognized by CPA Practice Advisor as a “20 Under 40 Influencer” and was named Accounting Today’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting.”