Poor environmental ethics could cost your business

Where companies are going wrong in their ethical stance, how this can affect them and what can be done to make businesses start thinking green for the right reasons

Since the 1970s we have been told the benefits of recycling our household waste. With the amount of time spent separating metals and plastics, it may come as a shock to find that not all of our recycling waste is going on to become something new, with much of it heading overseas to be processed or dumped in a landfill.

The National Audit Office recently revealed that more than half of waste that is labelled as recycling is being sent abroad. This means once it leaves the UK we have little control as to what happens to it. While there seems to be a false, successful illusion circling the recycling scheme, the National Audit Office reports that it is ‘not as successful as we all first thought’, stating that the Environment Agency has only carried out 40% of the checks it had planned to do, and that businesses may be exaggerating the amount they are recycling to avoid penalties.

In recent years it has been crucial for managers to devote greater attention to the strategic implications of corporate social responsibility. To announce that you are taking a step forward in improving your environmental footprint can play an incredibly important part in encouraging other companies to make the same move.

Companies are usually very quick to start a recycling plan for the workplace; by offering separate bins for different packaging and other token gestures. However, they very rarely check on the state of it after it is set up, leading to poor value when it comes to recycling in the workplace. With nearly a fifth of workers aged between 24- and 35-years-old looking to work in companies that have a strong ethical reputation, poor ethics and values towards the environment can end up costing your business. Staff may hold very different views and feel that the workplace doesn’t match their expectations, leading to resignations.

Recent headlines put a spotlight on fashion label Burberry for destroying unsold clothes, accessories and perfumes worth £28.6 million this year alone, all to protect its brand. From an environmental point of view this is a great example of terrible ethics towards the environment. By destroying those products it is completely disregarding the carbon footprint created when they were manufactured and brushing off any attempt to change the clothes into some sort of charitable product, such as blankets for the homeless.

A great example of a company that takes its values around the environment seriously is Siemens; it is one of the first major industrial companies aiming to achieve a net zero-carbon footprint worldwide by 2030. It plans on investing €100 million in projects that will see its operation and production facilities run without any emissions. By spending the money, not only is Siemens showing that it is technically-minded enough to create such a project, it is also quite literally putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to environmental values.

These are two extreme examples of companies taking different approaches towards the environment. If you are looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

  • Think outside of just packaging when it comes to recycling. If you have an office space and have some old computers find a company that will take them away and recycle them rather than just throwing them out
  • If you outsource any business activity to an outside company consider their environmental ethics. By using companies that have great environmental values you are able to carry on your good work through them. It will also make competitors consider looking at their environmental policies so as not to miss out on future trading opportunities
  • Consider changing to a renewable energy source. Even if it only accounts towards a small percentage of your energy usage it will show that you are making a start on changing or implementing your environmental ethics and values
  • Think about all the little things such as furniture and stationary. By buying recycled products or from companies that pride themselves on a low carbon footprint you are in turn reducing yours.

Gideon Schulman is HR director at Pytronot