The recently observed World Environment Day on 5th June, 2022 served up another grim reminder of the fact that we are marching towards a climate catastrophe. For some that live on this planet, the crisis has already reached a crescendo. The loss of biodiversity, the alarming level of pollution, the frequent instances of forest fires, tornados and floods, the rising sea levels and the impact of waste generated somehow still does not seem to be enough to make governments, industries, investors and individuals act swiftly and decisively.
Governments have the ability to make transformative changes through the right policies. Yet more often than not, they are constrained by their own political and economic agenda. Industries and investors without a doubt prioritize their profits and returns, and not the planet. Often it is left to us as individuals to take actions in our own small ways. There is however a significant way for individuals to multiply their positive impact on the environment.
Many individuals are employees of businesses and industries. If you are one such employee, then you have a voice, which you should use. Here are six questions every employee should be asking their managers and leadership:
What is your company’s current carbon footprint and how is the carbon footprint changing?
You only measure what matters. If your company is not making a sincere effort to measure their carbon footprint (Scope 1, Score 2 and Scope 3), it is high time that they do. Scope 1 are direct emissions you produce as a business (e.g. in your factories). Scope 2 are indirect emissions you produce (e.g. your building’s energy usage). Scope 3 covers a wide range of indirect emissions along your entire value chain, including raw materials, logistics, business travel by the team and how your employees commute to work.
What other sustainability metrics do they track and how is the performance changing?
Carbon footprint is one of the key metrics. The best of companies measures a comprehensive set of metrics, like energy consumption, emissions by type, effluents by type and destination, water consumption, waste generated, recycling rates, supply chain miles, percentage of products sold that are reclaimed, percentage of biodegradable materials in your products, etc.
What are your company’s sustainability goals and ambitions? Are these goal transformative?
Ask your company to set up goals in each key area if they don’t already have them in place. Ask them to repeatedly share these goals with the employees and clarify how each of them can play a role in helping achieve these goals. Challenge them to set up transformational goals, instead of something incremental.
Do they have a solid plan to achieve their sustainability goals?
Some companies set big goals like “Achieve Net Zero by 2030”. While admirable, these grand missions have to come with detailed plans on how to achieve them. The leadership teams have to specify measurable targets and metrics for the initiatives and clear timelines for achieving them.
Are your pensions managed by companies that actively invest the funds in low carbon and sustainable portfolios?
Companies that have strong ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) performance are attracting investments at better valuations than others. Ensuring a large part of your pensions are invested in such companies is not only good for the environment, but also also good for your financial returns.
How much is your company investing in sustainability focused initiatives? Where does this investment rank relative to other investments?
If your company is serious about making a positive contribution to the environment, they will make the necessary investments in time, people and money. Ask for metrics around this and see how it compares to other areas of investment.
Companies will listen when their biggest stakeholders seek change. As employees, you have a voice and the opportunity to influence that change. Use it and you will truly make a difference.