Is It Up to Businesses to Clean Up the Environmental Mess?

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By Anum Yoon, Guest Contributor

Published 5.4.15

 Environmental sustainability is one of those ideas that comes up frequently in conversations within all types of settings, whether around the dinner table or during a coffee break at work. Many people do their part by recycling, and some even have eco-friendly vehicles. However, it’s common to wonder whether there’s a corporate responsibility to save the planet. The Global Opportunity Report 2015 tackles that topic.

Identifying Areas of Need

Following a poll of thousands of leaders in the public and private sectors, data shows respondents agree on key areas where changes need to take place to help the planet and society at large. They range from mobile technologies geared toward helping people with chronic health problems to implementing rural growth strategies to encourage people to consider another option besides relocating to an urban area.

Separate Strategies, Single Goal

The survey also found a lack of willpower from people in the public sector is one thing that hinders environmental changes from taking place. Whereas governmental bodies are more apt to enforce regulations that relate to environmental impacts, private businesses think about using innovation and seizing opportunities while being eco-friendly.

Offering a Platform

There are some people who argue businesses have more important things to do than trying to save the planet, especially since the end goal is such a massive one. While the ideal is indeed too vast for one company, or even a few, to achieve, there are still strong reasons why it’s smart for businesses to care about how corporate actions impact the environment.

One of them is that a commitment to environmental sustainability gives a company a chance to set a good example and potentially teach sizeable target audiences about crucial environmental issues.

Appealing to Like-Minded Customers

Some people specifically give their patronage to companies that work hard to support environmental issues. Whether having a greener-than-normal business means using recycled paper for product catalogs or manufacturing computer chips that contain a lower amount of toxic waste, having a planet-focused mindset can help businesses reach out to new customers who are specifically looking to support sustainable companies.

Taking Cost-Effective Actions

Many companies rely on finite resources to make or distribute their products. As those resources get scarcer, the cost of operating the business goes up. The smartest businesses in their respective industries have future-oriented mindsets and understand the value of looking for alternatives to things like fossil fuels.

Furthermore, a company can do cost-effective things on a smaller scale by installing energy-efficient light bulbs or only purchasing company cars that run on alternative fuels. These kinds of initiatives sometimes present significant upfront investments, but they can equip businesses for the future.

Not an Obligation, But a Wise Choice

Except in cases where the actions of a company directly harm the environment, such as when the BP oil spill occurred in 2010, it’s fair to say a business should not feel obligated to give back to the planet. However, given that there are numerous benefits to implementing sustainable business practices, it’s easy to see why businesses should not overlook trying to become more focused on the planet.

In some cases, it may take months or even years to see the payoff from making a business-related choice that supports the planet. Also, making the biggest possible impact requires teamwork from companies and their stakeholders.

Businesses alone should not be held responsible for trying to clean up the messes collectively made by the planet’s inhabitants. However, due to the presence many businesses have in the public eye, many can do their part to motivate positive change and create a ripple effect across their respective industries.

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Anum Yoon
Anum Yoon, Guest Contributor

Anum Yoon is a writer who is passionate about personal finance and sustainability. She often looks for ways she can incorporate money management with environmental awareness. She developed her sustainable lifestyle during the years she spent living in the Himalayas. She also further delved into the subject when she was attending Penn State and discovered their Sustainability Institute. You can read her updates on Current on Currency.

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