Make Earth Day The First Step In The Journey Toward Sustainability
Use Earth Day as your conversation starter and learn the role businesses need to play in environmental care.
Across Earth Month and for Earth Day tomorrow, we celebrate, innovate, debate and act on the theme of connection: connection to the environment, to people and to communities. It’s a powerful concept and one that resonates with the efforts of Earthforce to encourage engagement with issues of sustainability. More widely, it speaks to Salesforce’s commitment to leading by example when it comes to businesses taking on a critical role in achieving sustainability targets and combating climate change.
While the day itself is a wonderful opportunity to highlight what’s at stake and the month gives us the time to get people on board with a whole range of activities, at Salesforce we strive to make every day Earth Day. One day isn’t going to be enough. Neither is twenty-eight. As Pip Marlow said in her discussion about International Women’s Day, it’s up to us to transform these landmark days into more than just a day and a hashtag. It’s up to us to use them to make long term, meaningful change.
And we are far from alone in that drive for change. More and more organisations recognise that sustainability not only makes ethical sense but is becoming a business imperative. A recent PWC survey found 65% of Australian CEOs listed climate change and environmental damage as a top threat to growth. An IBM survey found 77% of consumers say it’s important the brands they buy from are sustainable and environmentally responsible. Furthermore, according to a report commissioned by CouriersPlease, two in five Australian consumers would be willing to pay more for ethical and sustainable products and 85% want retailers and brands to be more transparent about the origins and sustainability of their products. Trailblazer Nick Holden, Founder and Director of Innovation at ModularWalls agrees. “Sustainability means more than a green tick. To us, it means to act, live, and breathe sustainability in every aspect of the business. We don’t want a set and forget mentality,” he says.
This focus on the role businesses have to play in environmental care was reflected at the recent Salesforce Live: Australia and New Zealand where sustainability was identified as one of the biggest trends influencing the future of sales. As Eion Geaney, Regional Group Business Leader, 3M Australia and New Zealand, explained, it’s a natural extension of changes that happened as a result of the pandemic – creating a better future is on everyone’s agenda.
Translating good intentions into action
For the Salesforce community
For Earth Month it’s about being able to choose your level of engagement around the issues that speak to you including topics like sustainable travel, sustainable procurement and the triple bottom line.
EcoChallenge has partnered with Project Drawdown in a month-long event, where you can commit to simple actions that you want to take in your daily life to educate yourself and keep yourself accountable around sustainability.
We have culinary events highlighting the benefits of a plant-based diet and opportunities to educate ourselves on ways to engage with nature, whether that’s discovering new hiking trails or learning the indigenous history of national parks. We’ve also partnered as allies of BIPOC Outdoors on initiatives that highlight Black, Indiegnous and People of Color in the outdoors and outdoor pursuits, where these groups are underrepresented and underserved to elevate their stories.
Whether it’s a workshop, podcast, film, activity, discussion or opportunity to use some of your VTO, Earth Month is packed with ways for the Salesforce community to connect with each other, their environment and their work through the lens of sustainability.
For consumers who want to support sustainability
We have to voice our concerns, and keep challenging brands and businesses to deliver on their sustainability imperative.
It’s not always easy. It means asking hard questions about the life cycle of the products we want to buy. And that includes the ones that look green but still have an unsustainable second life. As Nick Holden put it, “it is critical, through design and development, that these materials once re-purposed for a second time can then be recycled again and again otherwise, we are just ‘kicking the can down the road’.” A brand might produce a shoe made out of recycled plastic, for example. But when it is thrown out, then it’s just a shoe made of recycled plastic sitting in a landfill. So as much as we are holding those brands accountable, so too must we hold ourselves accountable for our purchasing decisions. What is the story attached to this item and is it one I want to be part of?
For businesses that want to go green and stay green
Organisations have a valuable opportunity – and, we would argue, an ethical obligation – to get ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability. Be a leader in the field. Set precedents. Raise the bar and keep meeting it.
As Trailblazer Benjamin Boulter, Global Head of Partnerships at Blackbull Markets explains, “Consumers today are looking to do business with companies that care about sustainability targets. So, as far as brand alignment and marketing positioning is concerned it’s only a positive for businesses to put sustainability at their core.” As a young, innovative company, Blackbull Markets made sustainability a priority early on, which helped optimise business workflows and business functions from the get-go. “It has seen us not only operate efficiently, but also sustainably.”
As we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, the businesses who could adapt fast had the advantage. It will be the same with climate change.
As my colleague and Vice President of Sustainability, Patrick Flynn, says, every company and organisation needs to understand their most sustainable customer because before long, every customer will be sustainable. That’s a good place to start. Here are five other ways in which organisations can commit meaningfully to sustainable practices.
- It’s critical that businesses engage the subject matter experts who can help them drive change. Creating a green team within your organisation can be a dynamic way to get evidence-based, practical initiatives off the ground and keep the organisation accountable by committing to a series of sustainability goals.
- Look to technology to play an increasing role in setting those goals and keeping them. Accurate record-keeping and analysis can ensure your organisation stays on its sustainability journey. Technology also helps with the practicalities and logistics to committing to sustainability. For Blackbull Markets they have been able to be a paperless business by using Salesforce to virtually and securely store all their client details, ID verification and banking transactions.
- Businesses have to be transparent about what their goals are and how they are enacting them. For Salesforce, part of that transparency is a comprehensive Stakeholder Impact Report which details the impact the company has and how we hold ourselves accountable for that impact. Madewell is another great example of a company that has introduced an impact report. And Patagonia have successfully built transparency around their use of recycled products and organic cotton into their brand.
- Greenwashing won’t cut it. We still see lip service being paid to sustainability. In the fashion industry, for example, the use of sustainable materials, while commendable, often isn’t supported by a sustainable and ethical supply chain. Gen Z are particularly vocal in their rejection of those kinds of double standards so companies need to pivot fast to respond to those demands. Good On You is a helpful online platform and resource that provides sustainable and ethical fashion ratings to uncover how the brand impacts people, animals and the planet, helping consumers choose responsibly.
- Businesses need to consider issues of accessibility. While it’s fantastic to see more and more businesses creating sustainably produced products, often they are far more expensive than the alternative. So part of any drive towards meaningful sustainability must include recognition and action around equal access. At Salesforce we are committed to an equitable transition to a more sustainable society. Everyone is brought along. No one gets left behind.
As Nick Holden says, we need to do this now for the future generations. “It’s no longer enough to talk about sustainability. There needs to be action and a conscious decision to give back. It’s too easy to be short-sighted in these situations, but the world is changing, and as the next generation comes through, sustainability will be a critical pillar in responsible purchase decisions.”
Benjamin Boulter agrees: “Anyone can say they have sustainable targets, but at the end of the day consumers will judge businesses on their actions. And it’s not just a final product or service, but businesses should consider who they partner with and are those companies environmentally conscious.”
We are all sharing this giant rock hurtling through space together. We have to be kind to it. And to each other. Use Earth Day as your conversation starter and then start walking your talk.