Wading through the ‘green wash’ to find service providers whose pro-environmental behaviour goes deeper than their marketing department can be a challenge.
As services consume a greater portion of our dollars we want to identify and engage businesses that are making efforts to operate sustainably.
How to do it now!
The following criteria can be useful in informing your decisions, as to the merit or otherwise of a business with regard to their sustainability performance.
They are an efficient user of resources
They minimise pollution
They minimise damage to environment
They minimise damage to society
* Sustainability Principles from The Natural Step (paraphrased and simplified). More detail on the Natural Step is provided below.
How to assess a company’s sustainability performance.
Sustainability or environmental reporting
Many large (ASX listed) companies and even smaller firms produce annual reports, often posted to their website, on their environmental performance. Use these publications to guide your assessment. If they don’t have this reporting, well...
Many companies are purchasing carbon-offsets and tree-planting as part of their response to climate change, and while this is to be applauded, it should not be seen as an alternative to real reductions in carbon emissions via improved efficiency and refined business practices.
Industry reviews, sustainability awards and research
Ethical investors have driven improvements in assessing companies for their environmental and social performance and as such provide good data for those wanting to use environmental performance to guide their consumption choices.
The Ethical Consumer Guide gives you the low-down on the environmental and social record of companies behind common brand names. Shop at the supermarket with a clear conscience! The guide also comes as in iPhone app.
Learn, think and talk about sustainability
The field of sustainability is evolving every day and we are at the start of a transformation of global business practices geared toward efficiency and sustainability that will exceed the transformation caused by the arrival of the internet.
A few books on this theme are:
“The Natural Wealth of Nations” by David Malin Roodman
“Eco-Economy – Building an Economy for the Earth” by Lester R. Brown
“The Natural Advantage of Nations” edited by Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves & Michael H. Smith
Idea - Shifting from a goods provision model to a services model can drive sustainability
For example, a fridge manufacturer and retailer shift to being a Refrigeration Services Provider. The current goods provision model of selling fridges for a one off fee drive manufacturers to build in obsolescence, encourage users to upgrade (even if they don’t need it) and send their old fridges to landfill. The model of refrigeration service provider means the actual devise is always the responsibility of the company with them now incentivised to increase durability (to avoid servicing and replacement), encourage efficient use, and design for maintenance and recycling.
The Natural Step Principles of Sustainability
The Natural Step, a benchmark organisation in the evolution of sustainable thinking, developed four principles of sustainability that can help you understand and rate your service providers:
They are the most efficient user of resources
Eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of substances extracted from the Earth's crust (for example, heavy metals and fossil fuels);
They are the least polluting
Eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of chemicals and compounds produced by society (for example, dioxins, PCBs, and DDT ).
They do the least damage to environment
Eliminate our contribution to the progressive physical degradation and destruction of nature and natural processes (for example, over harvesting forests and paving over critical wildlife habitat); and…
They do the least damage to society.
Eliminate our contribution to conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic human needs (for example, unsafe working conditions and not enough pay to live on).
Read more at The Natural Step.
The Natural Step is a non-profit organisation founded with the vision of creating a sustainable society. For two decades, The Natural Step has been at the forefront of international research and dialogue about sustainable development. They have developed a proven, science based model that helps communities and businesses better understand and integrate environmental, social, and economic considerations.
Why is this action important?
Developing your ability to discern ‘green wash’ from the real thing will allow you to direct your dollars to companies that reflect your concerns for the environment and desire to halt man-made climate change.
Reducing your impact on the environment is an intricate game of a thousand small decisions. For example, choosing an efficient courier to deliver your package rather than the standard courier will reduce your impact on the environment and encourage couriers to improve their energy efficiency.
Many people feel disempowered and anxious about climate change and the impact of human behaviour on the environment. This action provides a path whereby we can have a positive impact on the environment and make real progress toward halting climate change. That’s got to put a bounce in your step…