To say that 2020 has been an unusual year is to understate things ever so slightly. Among the never-ending torrent of headline news, from the sensational to the catastrophic, it's easy to lose sight of a more slow-building disaster on the horizon. That said, we've learned a lot this year about climate change and the importance of being green.
What the Coronavirus Showed Us
When countries began to go into lockdown, the effect was immediate and dramatic. As manufacturing paused and people stayed home, air pollution cleared practically overnight and wildlife immediately began to return to areas they'd been forced out of by human presence. For anyone who has doubted the ability of climate damage to be reversed, this was a very effective demonstration that change can happen. On the other end of lockdown, as companies and countries came out of lockdown, it was just as easy to see the pollution return, and it was easy to see who the biggest culprits were. Individual polluters, i.e. citizens with their cars, returned to work as normal, but collective polluters, i.e. companies and corporations, increased their already massive pollution contributions to make up for lost time and lost revenue.On the other hand, there are wise businessmen who take time to know what is impact investing and how it can benefit their finances while making a positive impact in the community.
Individual vs. Collective Impact
There has long been a myth that if every citizen individually does their part, they can somehow stop climate change. Individual decisions do count and they do matter, but the biggest contributors of waste, pollution and greenhouse gasses are corporations. An individual putting solar panels on their home will help to cut carbon, but a power company buying solar panels and making the choice to provide green energy to all its customers will have a much more dramatic impact.
The Inevitability Factor
In the wake of Covid-19, many companies that rely on nonrenewable resources like coal and gas scrambled to take all the advantages, government handouts and permits they could lay their hands on. If it sounds like they are desperate, understand that they are wise and correct to be desperate. Non-renewable resources are just that: non-renewable. The fossil fuel industry is built on fossils and will, inevitably, become fossilized itself. The Green New Deal has strong bipartisan support; if not this president, then very likely the next president will sign some version of it into law. Green energy is the way of the future, and forward-thinking companies are already looking for the right way to go green.
What is the right way to go green? That depends largely on your industry, where your greatest costs and impact are. The right environmental choices for a grocery store chain are going to be wildly different from a power conglomerate or a real estate office. If a construction company chooses to get their coffee from sustainable sources, that's going to be much less impactful than if they choose to get their timber from sustainable sources. Balance your company's ability to effect change with the cost of effecting change.
In many cases, the cost of making the switch to an eco-friendly option is going to be largely negligible. Changing all the lights in your office to energy-efficient options as they burn out is an incremental but powerful way to make a difference. It's worth noting that changes like this can generate good press, especially if you can get the kind of certifications that customers will recognize. People prefer to be eco-friendly when given an option and they will even pay a little extra for eco-friendly products.
Remember what was said about the inevitability of going green? Consider that if you invest now, after the technology has been developed and tested but before the rest of your competitors, you will be that much further ahead of them when the inevitable comes to pass. You may even be able to sell to them. Investing in these technologies early is a good bet that's likely to pay off further down the road. You might as well get in ahead of the rush and get yourself established early on.
Good for Business, Good for the Planet
The idea that being eco-friendly isn't good business is frankly ludicrous. Some extra costs early on generally pay off in savings down the road. Investing in green business is investing in the future of your company. Unless you are actively planning on going out of business in a few years' time, it's just logical to invest now.
2020 has already been a year of dramatic change, most of it bad. Why not be a little proactive and take steps to make your world just a little bit better?