Almost 20 years ago, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki decided his next book needed to sound a little different than the work that came before it.
Instead of focusing on the impact of rising population, the depletion of natural resources and global warming, Suzuki decided to shine a light on areas of progress. The title of the book (which was co-written with Holly Dressel) was Good News For A Change: How Everyday People Are Helping The Planet.
For Earth Day 2022, it may be time for businesses across Canada to take a page from Suzuki’s approach.
It’s not that raising awareness about sustainability issues is no longer important. There is an ongoing need to educate and inform the public about the choices we’re making every day. Complacency will only make the challenges facing the planet worse.
By communicating the efforts they’re making to drive sustainability and the way they’re participating in environmental initiatives in their local community, businesses have been hugely helpful in spreading those messages. Yet that’s not the only way businesses can become the biggest platform for change.
The truth is that the daily news is now filled with stories about wildfires, sudden flooding and the slow extinction of entire species. The onslaught of negative coverage can create frustration, stress and even insomnia among some Canadians. That’s why Earth Day Canada has chosen to highlight the need to address “eco anxiety” in its annual media campaign in 2022.
Businesses may need to combat eco-anxiety among their team members, too. After all, employees are often more motivated to pursue meaningful changes in their organization when leaders provide a clear vision that inspires them.
By highlighting some of the more encouraging signs of forward movement we’re making on sustainability, hopefully other companies and their customers will make Earth 2022 the beginning of renewed efforts for change.
Fortunately, there is plenty of hope to be found once you begin digging. This includes:
Sometimes it might feel like tackling the climate crisis is an exercise in starting from scratch. That might be overwhelming, and it’s just not true.
In an article published to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a professor from the University of British Columbia noted just how far we’ve come over the past half-century. This includes programs to promote biodiversity, limit the accumulation of CFCs and much more.
Successful businesses already know they only achieve their goals by building upon what came before. We can create a similar sense of momentum by looking back on how Canadians have rallied around Earth Day.
Last year saw the debut of Healthy Environment And A Healthy Economy. It’s a federal initiative that makes a clear connection between improving sustainability and what it will mean for the lives of everyday Canadians.
Some key points look at how Canada can gain an industrial advantage from acting more sustainably, as well as bringing clean and affordable energy to every community. Cutting energy waste can even make the places we live and gather more affordable, the report says.
Businesses can do something similar as they develop their own sustainability strategies. How will the progress you make affect the “triple bottom line” and become a compelling example of stakeholder capitalism?
Environmental protection is a big undertaking, so it’s tempting to believe it’s something only the largest organizations can afford to take part. Yet Canada — which is by and large a country made up of small and medium-sized businesses — shows the opposite is happening.
In 2021, for instance, the Business Development Council conducted a survey of Canadian entrepreneurs to see where they stand on climate action. The research found that they are overwhelmingly punching above their weight.
The vast majority of 82% of entrepreneurs have already implemented concrete measures to reduce their environmental impact. That’s more than eight in 10 business leaders, and 84% of them said they believe running a company with sustainable business practices is their responsibility.
What does this mean exactly? The BDC report suggested those who could be classified as “beginners” on their sustainability journey are reducing the waste in packaging and their energy consumption. Those in the “leader” category are designing with sustainability in mind, and nearly half (49%) are zero-waste companies.
Consumers can try to get a sense of how their actions contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by using free online carbon footprint calculators. Until recently, however, it was challenging for businesses to gather all the necessary data across disparate departments to understand the goals they should set.
Salesforce has changed that by taking some of the same principles that lead to the development of a cloud-based CRM and applying them to climate change. The result has been platforms like Net Zero Cloud, which allow organizations big and small to identify science-based sustainability targets, putting them on a path to net zero emissions.
Of course, the word “hope” can imply wishful thinking. We need more than that to make Earth sustainable for future generations.
Think of the examples of hope listed in this post as a starting point for future action — either as an individual business, as an ecosystem of like-minded partners or as a contributor to the sustainability programs of communities in which you serve.
With the right mindset, Earth Day can transcend eco-anxiety. It can become a true celebration of what we can do to make a lasting difference in the world.