Although phrases such as “going green,” “Eco-friendly,” and “global warming” have only begun to surface during the last several decades, the true history of environmentalism goes back much further. It may not often get mentioned in the history books, but environmental impact has had as much to do with the shaping of the modern world as any war or election. The term “environment” as we use it today is relatively new, but it was adopted to encompass existing issues of conservation or protection of natural species and resources. But despite the deep roots that environmentalism has in history, the movement itself has only begun to pick up steam in the last half century or so. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the practices associated with business.
Early corporations never paid much attention to the environment. It seemed to exist as a simple green background on which the important act of production took place. If any thought was directed towards it at all, it was only in regards to the raw resources that were there for the taking. No one—at least, no one in any position of power—bothered considering the lasting impact of these practices. And as mountains were leveled and forests were burned for the sake of progress, businesses established precedent that would continue to haunt the world centuries later. Even now, as more and more people are struggling to heal the scars of the past, many businesses continue to view the natural world as expendable.
However, what’s done to the environment is done to all of us, and it’s time for businesses to take responsibility for the damage they’ve been doing. Here are a few environmentally sound policies that every business, (and household), should adopt.
• Use only renewable building materials.
• Reduce wasted electricity by shutting off unused equipment and lighting.
• Cut down on paper waste by eliminating unnecessary memos, faxes, etc., and relying instead on electronic communication.
• Implement and enforce recycling practices.
• Allow for telecommunication and work-from-home employees, so as to cut down on pollution-causing traffic.
• Only do business with other Eco-friendly companies.
• Use high efficiency LED lighting as opposed to conventional incandescent bulbs which waste more energy and produce more waste.
• Use a take-back program to recycle used electronics.
• Use fuel efficient freight.
• Invest in efficient material handling systems for production lines.
• Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
• Cut down on climate control and encourage employees to dress for the weather.
• Replace disposable food plates, cups, and containers with washable ones.
• Organize company carpools.
• Subsidize public transportation costs for employees.
• Embrace renewable energy sources such as solar power.
• Replace paper towel dispensers with air hand dryers.
• Replace plumbing fixtures with low-flow models.
• Do business only with locally-grown food producers to cut down on transportation emissions.
• Take extra precautions when dealing with possibly environmentally-damaging substances.
That last one could stand some elaboration. Many companies deal with very dangerous substances, and it is their responsibility to see to it that those substances don’t cause environmental damage. The BP oil spill that occurred back in 2010 was a result of careless policies and money-saving cutbacks. It resulted in an estimated 210 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has thus far been fined approximately $42.2 billion towards cleanup efforts, but there’s no way to tell just how long-lasting the environmental impact is going to be.
Companies need to learn from the mistakes of others. Shortcuts that are intended to save time or money could result in environmental damage, be it visible or not. It is the responsibility of the company to see to it that their practices are eco-friendly, even if that means that they need to spend more money to do so, and it is the responsibility of everyone to promote clean environmental practices by only sharing our business with responsible companies. History books may not focus on the environmentalism of the past, but if we don’t all work together to correct our mistakes, we won’t have any future at all.