Following the most recent and alarming IPCC Report on climate change, released February 28, 2022, four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, it’s become essential that we drill down on what US companies are doing to curb their greenhouse gas emissions and boost their sustainability efforts.
The IPCC’s urgent warning to rush and act now on climate was drowned out by the horror and the bravery we witnessed in Ukraine over the past six weeks. This is understandable. The Russian invasion and atrocities have been traumatizing. Yet, we mustn’t let the IPCC Report slip from our consciousness. Businesses must take advantage of the many resources available and rush to implement their action plans now, in 2022, using the many tips and suggestions that are available.
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”
Individuals, schools, nonprofits and various faith groups are very vocal about their specific climate actions and their transition away from fossil fuels. Yet, companies seem to be a lot more vague about what they’re actually doing while simultaneously lauding their climate pledges. The words we hear most corporations espousing are ones that claim they’ll achieve a 50% cut in emissions by 2030, but no substantial actions are required in 2022, and possibly not even 2023. Unbelievably, companies are envisioning a last minute sprint to the finish line.
News broke in late December 2021 about Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ that’s melting more rapidly than anticipated. Scientists took to social media to vent frustration about inaction, concerned that if global warming isn’t slowed immediately, the Thwaites Glacier could potentially collapse within 3 – 5 years. David Holland, an environmental scientist at New York University, told the Associated Press on January 31, 2022 that, “Ultimately over time it’s (the Thwaites Glacier) going to rewrite the global coastline.”
Scientists project that a total collapse of the Thwaites Glacier would result in a sea level rise of 2 feet. This could potentially trigger a domino effect with the glaciers that Thwaites supports also collapsing, which would raise sea levels by 10 feet.
The red flag warning of the Doomsday Glacier’s pending collapse within 3-5 years, which may end up being before the majority of US businesses and corporations actually begin the heavy lifting to dramatically lower greenhouse gases, should be heeded. In an article published Monday April 6, 2022, Business Insider confirmed this urgent timeframe requirement for effective climate action if we are to stay below 1.5ºC, underscoring the UN‘s grave warning that we only have 3 years of intense collective action to stay below 1.5ºC.
Amidst the darkness and chaos, the state of Virginia has a bright beacon of light for businesses throughout the state that are searching for a sustainability and renewable energy action plan framework: The Virginia Green Initiative, Inc.
VGI, Inc. is a vital and effective business and corporate resource that can be used to guide corporate decision making on sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reduction. This valuable online tool is for businesses of all sizes to use to kick-off a much greener, net-zero future.
VGI has 6 main green areas of focus:
- Education and Outreach
- Products and Services
- Water Conservation
- Waste Management
In an interview with the Chair of Virginia Green Initiative, Inc., Candice Guillaudeu, there were meaningful insights shared about the best ways for businesses to get their climate action started. Guillaudeu provided answers to key questions that Virginia businesses may have about how to successfully achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, as well as expand their sustainability practices.
1. What are top 5 priorities Virginia businesses should focus on in 2022?
In terms of five priorities, we think this should be left up to the business itself, as each business is different in terms of their services and products that they offer. They would need to define where their impact on the climate is the most. Is it in water usage, is it in waste, is it in transportation, etc? Use that as their priority, to begin their environmental sustainability path.
A good reference is Project Drawdown, which has a list of approximately 75 solutions that can be sorted by ranking or by industry etc.
With the above said, all economies run on energy. We can’t continue to pull fossil fuels out of the Earth. They are a finite resource and not a long-term solution. Energy conservation should be a priority and would be a concrete, visible cost savings to a businesses’ bottom line.
2. Do you recommend deadlines to execute easy things like composting? IE “All Virginia businesses should sign up for compost collection by June 1, 2022.”
Again, it’s not our position to define these kinds of priorities, for each business.
For home-based businesses, composting would be a huge plus in reducing waste and a great way to begin understanding the importance of local ecological systems, how the soil is important to the plants, planting native plants to support the local pollinators and other insects, the interdependence of the plants, animals, wildlife and ourselves. Using your own compost in your own garden could be a very fulfilling sense of accomplishment especially when you bring your own vegetables to your own table.
For businesses that work out of a rented office space, where people bring their food to the office or even get take-out, the importance there would be one of Education and Outreach, buying from a business that provides sustainable packaging in their to-go boxes, not Styrofoam, or bringing their own food to the office and taking home the scraps. Again, it’s up to each business to define their priorities, and how quickly they’re able to do it. Obviously, the quicker the better.
One of our long-time participants, Little Tree Huggers, LLC, a pre-school daycare in Leesburg, VA that teaches about the environment, has their students actively participate in their on-site food composting program. The kids will bring back food scraps from their home for composting at Little Tree Huggers. And when the students collect the food at home, they’re teaching their own parents and family about how it works. Following is a link where one of the preschoolers talks about their composting program.
3. What sustainability transitions will take the longest to execute in your estimation?
All economies need energy to run on, and transitioning to renewable energy wherever possible is the immediate thing to do as well as seeming to take the longest amount of time to change.
4. What’s the best way to Virginia businesses to get their supply chain reducing carbon?
The very first thing for a business is to assess its own products and services, can they be redesigned or reworked to use less of Earth’s resources? Once they’ve assessed internally, then they can decide which of their supply chains has the most impact and research if there are other opportunities for redesign, other suppliers, etc. Often, while assessing their own internal processes, this can lead the team to come up with other ideas for other products or services, such as a can they even fulfill a need that that wasn’t readily apparent before?
Through their conservation and sustainability efforts, I think businesses would be amazed at how much money they would start to save, increase their customer loyalty and in turn, their efforts and accomplishments would be a great resource for their own marketing. Reassessing a business’s products and services in a different “light” if you will, can be fun and very challenging at the same time. Employees, owners and other stakeholders can learn so much in terms of materials, new sources, as well as team building, etc. It is a very difficult process, but is also a pragmatic one.
5. Do you recommend Northern Virginia Fortune 500 companies like Mars and Nestle overhaul product packaging to incorporate carbon labeling?
I recommend they design their packaging so that they can take it back, not leave it up to the individual people and counties to deal with. This would be a huge infrastructure undertaking, so I do not say this lightly.
In terms of carbon labeling, I think that would help consumers to decide what product to buy, and would be an opportunity to educate people about carbon footprints at the consumer end, but I’m not so sure that it will help in the long run. Carbon labeling, carbon tax and trade, seems to me personally, to just offset accountability, pushing accountability to another entity, just kicking the can down the road so to speak.
Each and every one of us, individuals and businesses alike, are all accountable for the harm we are doing to our Earth and thus to ourselves. We’re all in this together and we all have a lot to learn and to do!
6. Thank you, Candice!
The VGI, Inc. website is the first step. Click HERE to find the detailed questionnaire that is the gateway leading to the many simple steps that will drive the necessary change in your business culture . “All Virginia business are encouraged to participate in a friendly competition known as the Virginia Green Business Initiative. The ‘Challenge’ is designed to encourage and recognize specific environmental policies and practical actions that not only reduce carbon emissions, but can save businesses money.”
We are all one, we all depend on the Earth’s ecological systems, the soil, the air, water, the trees, we are all interconnected. Earth will continue to be, but humanity itself is at stake, and that is no joke. Candice Guillaudeu, Chair of Virginia Green Initiative, Inc.
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