Do Businesses Have an Ethical Obligation To Be Eco-Friendly?
Emphasizing Environmental Issues Appeals to Gen Z and Millennials
From time to time, I post a guest blog when it contains important information. Today's blog is by Charlie Fletcher. You can contact her at: [email protected].
Charlie addresses environmental concerns that generally fall into the broader concept of sustainability. It seems that everywhere we turn these days sustainability reporting is discussed. From individuals to corporations and nonprofits, almost everyone is jumping on board with the idea that we all need to live more sustainable lives including protecting the environment.
In order for a company to truly succeed and leave a positive lasting impression, management needs to find a way to make ethical decisions. Right now, consumers of all ages, and especially the younger generations, are basing a lot of their purchasing decisions on whether a company does what is right for the environment and the community that surrounds them. If your company puts an emphasis on being eco-friendly, then you could attract more customers and increase your profits.
However, while that is nice, your company may also have an ethical decision to reduce waste and pollution so that you can sell your products while making the world a better place.
Be Responsible, Save the Planet
If you are producing goods and services that are sold to the people of the planet, then you have a moral and ethical responsibility to also protect the earth, keep your customers safe, and thank them for helping your business to succeed. The fact is that pollution from waste and manufacturing is a global issue, and it is worse than you may think.
According to reports, 70% of the pollution around the world is produced by only 100 companies, and your organization does not want to be on that list. In the U.K., 75% of the carbon emissions are from products and services. While consumers are glad that your products exist and likely understand that some waste may be a side effect, if your organization is negatively affecting the planet in a major way, then it is only right that you make a change to ensure the health and safety of your customers.
The first step that you can take is to research and ensure that you are following all state regulations and guidelines when it comes to pollution, waste management, and energy efficiency. Once you have reached that point, then you can look at additional moves you can make to help the planet. These include:
- Sourcing sustainable materials from ethical, fair-trade suppliers.
- Maximizing efficiency and reducing energy use in the workplace.
- Partnering with nonprofit organizations committed to positive climate action.
- Using shipping companies committed to reducing their emissions.
- Examining every aspect of the production of your product or service and determining how you can be more eco-friendly with each step of the process.
- Producing a product or offering a service the purpose of which is to increase environmental sustainability.
Then, feel free to boast about these accomplishments on your company website. After all, if you truly strive to help the planet, you’ve earned some bragging rights.
Keep in mind that you aren’t expected to make the necessary changes at the drop of a hat. Instead, you can follow the example of other companies and create a goal for sustainability. For instance, Schneider Electric intends to cut emissions and start producing 80% green revenues by 2025. Set a goal and prove that you are trying to make a difference. Just make sure that you make all efforts possible to follow through.
One of the most important components of being eco-friendly is eliminating unnecessary waste. By doing so, you will make the planet a cleaner place and likely increase your profit margins.
You can start with the packaging materials that you use to send out your products. Many companies are creating unnecessary waste by using oversized boxes, unnecessary paper, and a lot of plastic. Instead, you can:
- Ship orders out in form-fitting boxes.
- Minimize the amount of packaging you use — even tape that is a smaller width saves money and lessens waste over time.
- Use recyclable and reusable materials.
- Use biodegradable or sustainable, raw materials such as bamboo when possible.
By using less and eliminating unnecessary waste, your company can also save money as an extra reward.
Of course, some products inherently contain materials and waste that are harmful to our environment, like batteries and household appliances. That doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to the solution, however. For example, if you sell refrigerators or AC units, at the very least you can educate your clients on how to properly dispose of and recycle these appliances once they fail. You could provide information for removal companies, or even offer electronic and appliance waste removal services yourself.
If the management or administration at your company can see that potential waste could be hurting the people of your community, then it should be a moral decision to try and make things right.
Consider Employees’ Perspectives
When it comes to millennial and Gen Z employees, climate change is just below the cost of living on the list of their top concerns. However, they don’t feel businesses are doing enough to address it. Only around 15% of Gen Z and millennials believe businesses are committed to fighting climate change. Therefore, about 50% of Gen Z and 40% of millennials are trying to get their employers to be more eco-friendly.
Millennials make up the largest portion of the workforce, and they’re more likely than older generations to change jobs if their employer’s values don’t align with theirs. Many millennial employees are purpose-driven and want to find meaning in their work. Employers who consider sustainability to be an ethical obligation can provide that sense of meaning and purpose. Millennials who are motivated to take climate action could view their employers’ sustainability efforts as a very good reason to stick with the company and increase engagement in their work.
This engagement in climate action and sustainability can be a big part of a positive and healthy workplace culture. After all, a shared sense of values is a strong cornerstone for resilient culture, which contributes to employee retention and helps attract new hires. Studies have shown that positive cultural fit makes a big difference to job candidates. Specifically, 72% of candidates carefully scrutinize company culture when considering job offers.
Let’s examine some ways you can take an ethical stance, increase sustainability, and improve the culture in your organization.
How You Can Increase Sustainability and Employee Satisfaction
There are many ways you can make your business more eco-friendly, including:
- Virtual meetings and remote work, eliminating the commute and its associated carbon emissions.
- Digitizing documents, records, and communications, thereby eliminating paper waste.
- Minimizing office energy consumption, choosing sustainable lighting such as LED bulbs, and installing solar panels for renewable energy.
- Reducing or eliminating the use of disposable utensils in the workplace.
These are great steps to take but it’s essential to proactively build a positive culture of engagement at the same time.
One way that you can simultaneously incorporate sustainability and employee satisfaction at your company is to host a bonding or team activity outdoors. This is a great way to help employees learn more about each other and to participate in exercises so that they can strengthen their working relationships in the office. There are many activities that can provide these benefits, including hiking, a picnic, or a day at the beach.
While you are out in nature, management can give a little presentation on the beauty of the outside world and why it is so important that you all work together to eliminate waste and focus on sustainability. It will be a great message, and everyone will know that they are part of the solution.
As you can see, your company’s ethical obligation to be more eco-friendly and operate more sustainably is also a great chance to improve workplace culture and employee engagement. Consider these tips, and your company can improve in almost every way.
To my readers: I will be taking the rest of the month off to celebrate the holidays. I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Thank you so much for reading my blogs. My success as having one of the highest rated blogs in the philosophy space is due to your loyal readership. See you in 2023.
Blog by Charlie Fletcher posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on December 22, 2022. Steve is the author of an accounting ethics textbook, Ethical and Professional Obligations and Decision Making in Accounting: Text and Cases, 6th edition. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.