Environmental sustainability is a key consideration for business operations in the 21st Century. The imposition of emission trading schemes or carbon taxes requires that companies review and streamline their business operations to ensure as little environmental impact. Consumers are also calling for greater environmental sustainability (Ipsos MORI Reputation Centre – Sustainability Issues in the Retail Sector).
Projects that companies can undertake to improve environmental impact outcomes include:
- eliminating waste in production methods
- implementation of lean production systems
- development of new technologies to reduce impact
- voluntary participation in carbon offsetting schemes
Eliminating Waste in Production Methods
When producing any good, waste may also be produced. This can be eliminated in simple measures through reducing the amount of packaging or providing opportunities for recycling of components not used.
Another way to eliminate waste in the production chain is to undertake a review of current production methods and supply chain solutions and benchmark findings against industry best practice.
Implementation of Lean Production Systems
Lean production systems, such as the Toyota Production System, aim to eliminate waste and improve quality. Efficiency is the key to a lean production system and implementation of a lean production system based on work teams can also improve employee engagement. Based on a concept of work flow and an ordered work environment, lean production systems can improve both quality and output of work.
Lean production systems were originally developed in the assembly line process of the Toyota car manufacturing plant in Japan, however the principles and methods have since been adapted to fit other manufacturing industries and service industries.
Development of New Technologies to Reduce Environmental Impact
Supporting the commercial development of new technologies to reduce environmental impact may be a suitable strategy for companies involved in natural resource intensive production activities, such as brewers, electricity providers and mining companies.
Options for supporting the development of new technologies to reduce environmental impact include
- participating in venture capital partnerships where the company assists an innovator to bring a new technology to commercial development;
- creating a working group of employees to research and develop environmentally sustainable practices and technologies; and
- partnering with a community organisation working in the environmental sustainability field in order to support the work of the community organisation.
Participating in a community business partnership may bring an advantage in corporate social responsibility ratings to a company.
Voluntary Participation in Carbon Offsetting Schemes
Although many governments have imposed emissions trading schemes on companies in heavy industries, any company may voluntarily participate in carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsetting provides an opportunity for a company to reduce its environmental impact by purchasing carbon offsets from a provider. The money exchanged is then used by the carbon offset provider to undertake environmentally sustainable activities such as re-forestation, research and development of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency improvement projects.
There are many benefits for business in improving environmental sustainability practices including an improved corporate social responsibility rating and increased trust among consumers. There is also the opportunity to improve market share through advertising campaigns targeted at the green consumer.