Use Earth Day 2023 to encourage your business to invest in our planet

The 22nd April 2023 marks the 53rd Earth Day  and offers an important moment for businesses, governments and communities to reflect how each and every organisation and individual can act to limit the biggest threats to natural global systems – being climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, air pollution and water contamination.

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day was established in 1970 as a way to draw attention to and to increase public awareness of environmental problems. It gave voice to concerns about the aforementioned threats and the need to protect ecosystems, public health and promote safe spaces. As scientists called for action, millions of people marched in agreement that this earth needed saving.  Their efforts kick-started a worldwide collaborative effort between organisations seeking to protect the planet through global, national and local policy and system change. It triggered the development of a string of eco policies, stringent pollution controls, environmental assessments and environmental protection agencies. What was just as important was the attention paid to how we, as individuals and businesses, were impacting the environment through our consumption and use of energy, food, raw materials, water and natural resources – issues which continue to be at the forefront of serious global questions about sustainability and economic development.

Fast forward 17 years, to the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development, and the idea of ‘sustainable development’ was established in the Bruntland Report. This report developed guiding principles for sustainable development – as being a situation where economic development, social equity and environmental protection are equally prioritised and harmoniously achieved – and it underlined that significant global problems caused by immense poverty in developing countries and the increasing non-sustainable patterns of consumption and production in the developed world.

By the year 2000, the Millenium Development Goals were globally agreed upon by 191 United Nations member states and, at least, 22 international organisations. These goals have been extremely important and successful in decreasing global extreme poverty (from 40% to 15%) but – globally – society, businesses and government have neglected to pay much attention to the global environmental goals, especially those goals that focus on climate change and biodiversity.

The beginning of COP

On Earth Day 2016, 174 countries and the European Union signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change – a legally binding agreement which committed signatories to develop policies and plans to restrict global temperature rises to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, with a commitment for industrially developed countries to support (practically and financially) developing and climate-vulnerable countries to do the same.  The annual UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COPs) act as progress monitoring and problem solving staging posts to try to keep the global efforts on track to meet the target. Whilst some progress has been made on global emission reduction targets, temperatures are on course to rise above the 2 °C  target and so the imperative for urgent action grows ever stronger.

It’s time to invest in our planet

Today, Earth Day is considered to be the largest secular observance in the world, marked by over one billion people who continue to call for action at all levels of government and society.  This year’s theme is Invest In Our Planet – not a far cry from our own name.

It is now imperative that every business invests in our planet.  To not do so ignores commercial, operational and reputational risks which could seriously damage business operations whilst also contributing the decline of the natural systems upon which our earth survives.

At Investors in the Environment, we encourage business to take the following simple steps to invest in the planet:

  1. Adopt an Environmental or Sustainability Policy – it should be signed off at senior management level and provides the foundation for all action to improve environmental action.
  2. Recruit a team from across the organisation who will help to introduce or improve environmental management systems.
  3. Review your environmental aspects and impacts – which resources are your business using and what is the environmental impact of using them?
  4. Gather baseline data which measures the use of those resources, ideally from meter readings, mileage data, invoices – so as to get actual consumption figures rather than estimates.
  5. Create action plans, including both quick wins and longer term aims which may require financial investment or staff development, and set targets to reduce the use of key resources, with a particular focus on limiting your business’s carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and any activities which threaten or damage biodiversity.
  6. Monitor your progress and adjust plans to make sure you hit your targets. Work with suppliers to ensure they are helping your business to meet its targets.
  7. Encourage staff wide engagement through activities that can be undertaken by all – these could include arranging a company tree planting session or similar volunteering opportunity which will double as a team building exercise, delivering short CPD sessions on particular environmental topics or creating a ‘social’ channel where people can exchange tips and experiences, and encourage staff working from home to adopt eco-working practices in their home office too.
  8. Communicate your progress to staff and wider stakeholders; gaining a well respected third party evaluation of your organisation’s performance lends credence to your claims and avoids greenwashing.

If you want support to improve your business’s environmental management, use your Earth Day action to contact Investors in the Environment and we’ll guide you through the process. Being an environmentally and socially responsible business is good for business, so make sure you invest in the planet this Earth Day.

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