April 22, 2024


Earth Day has been recognised on 22 April since 1970 to raise awareness of the need to protect the environment for future generations.

The theme for this year’s Earth Day is plastic. Plastic is a major contributor to climate change due to the high emissions of production and the waste that is generated that cannot be recycled. The rising temperatures caused by global warming are reducing the effectiveness of plastic meaning its life cycle is much shorter increasing demand, and therefore waste.

We are fast approaching the 2030 deadline of the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 45% in order to meet the 2050 target of limiting the rise of global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Significant action is needed to meet these targets.

Unfortunately, global warming has reached a point where we are becoming more directly affected by the consequences of flooding and hotter temperatures which may have an impact on your business in the future. As individuals and business leaders, we can support the preservation of the planet by transitioning to more sustainable practices and making environmentally friendly decisions.

How can businesses make a difference?

Understanding your carbon footprint -

The ability to have an impact on climate change starts with understanding your businesses current carbon footprint. This will provide a benchmark to understand the current impact of the business and identify key areas of high emissions. A strategy can then be developed to reduce these emissions. This enables you to future-proof your business and mitigate the risks of the challenges created by climate change such as extreme weather or shortages disrupting supply.

Your supply chain -

A large proportion of carbon emissions will be from the supply chain in converting business inputs into your final product or service. By questioning your new and/or existing suppliers around the sustainability of their business and factoring this into your purchasing decisions you can again reduce your carbon footprint.

It is important to consider suppliers to ensure the sustainable practices of a supplier are not outweighed by the overall impact of using a supplier. For example, using local suppliers requires less travel, not only reducing emissions but there is potential for cost and time savings. There is also a benefit of risk management in a local supply chain as logistical issues along the supply chain will likely have a lower impact.

The raw materials used by the business should also be considered to see if it is possible to make changes to more sustainable options. Use of recycled materials reduces waste and generally requires lower emissions to produce the end product. This extends to packaging so removing unnecessary packaging, particularly plastic packaging, and using recyclable materials where possible can help to minimise waste and reduce costs through reduced volumes.

Taxes -

Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) was introduced in 2022 to encourage the use of recycled materials for plastic packaging. As of 1 April 2024, PPT has increased to £217.85 per tonne where a business has manufactured or imported more than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging components which contain less than 30% recycled plastic in a 12 month rolling period. It is important that businesses are aware of the levels of all plastic packaging to make sure they remain below the limit or register for PPT so any plastic packaging needs to be monitored and tracked. Registering for PPT carries additional reporting obligations and requires supporting records to be held. Therefore, there are cost savings to be made by using packaging materials that are more than 30% recycling as they will remain outside the scope of PPT and thus not require the additional cost of the administrative work of tracking and reporting.

Circular economy -

The circular economy is a regenerative approach whereby products are designed with recyclability and the end point in mind. This can be done in various ways:

  • Improving the durability of products will improve the lifetime of the product, reducing the carbon footprint over its lifetime and will improve customer satisfaction as they will benefit from a higher quality product.
  • There is an opportunity to open up new avenues of business, such as offering services to repair or upcycle used products. This could open up new income streams and result in cost savings where certain components have a longer lifespan and can be reused thus reducing the resources required. This enables the business to be more self-sufficient, mitigating the risk of supply shortages.
  • Using materials that are recyclable so waste products are minimised. This is attractive to customers who are looking for more sustainable options which could help to broaden your customer base.

Implementing a circular economy requires consideration of the end of life of products to determine what is possible with current products and identifying elements that could be changed to make circular economy possible. If it is not possible to reuse the products internally in the business, offering a disposal service to customers for products at the end of their life cycle empowers you to ensure the product is disposed of in the most sustainable way.

Circular economy opens up opportunities for new avenues of business, such as offering services to repair products, and the ability to provide a higher quality product that will be more durable for the customer or collaborating with other businesses which could increase future revenues.

Employees -

Encouraging employees to undertake sustainable practices is an effective way to promote change on a wider scale. This can be done by encouraging the use of public transport, offering cycle to work schemes, investing in a sustainable pension scheme and introducing a volunteer day to encourage employees to take a more active role in sustainability. This will help to attract and retain employees as the demand for jobs at sustainable businesses grows.

The above are a few examples of how businesses can be more sustainable and contribute towards the battle against climate change. Not all actions are viable for all businesses, but understanding the businesses impact on the environment will enable decisions to be made that can support steps in the right direction. Sustainability should be included in all strategic decision making and future planning to ensure a natural move to more sustainable practices which fits with the business journey as a whole. Businesses that consider and act on their environmental impact will be more robust and more able to adapt to the changing environment, make cost savings due to reduced resources requirements, maintain and grow their customer base and attract high calibre employees as the desire of individuals to buy from and work for sustainable businesses grows.

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