Top 10 reasons why the environment should matter to businesses in Wales

[:en]I’m Megan and I am the Communications and Projects Officer for Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales, the national charity for Sustainable Development in Wales. I am also studying for an MSc in Sustainability and wanted to share with our network the importance of the environment to business.

Cynnal Cymru supports businesses to embrace sustainability and undertake their actions in a more responsible and environmentally friendly way. We currently have around 80 members which vary from small businesses like Lightology Ltd to some of the largest businesses in Wales such as Dwr Cymru, Brecon Carreg and the Principality Stadium. Cynnal Cymru believes it is vital for businesses to understand the importance of environment and why all actions should be taken with sustainability in mind.

Wales is unique as it is enshrined in UK law, that the Welsh Government has a legal duty to promote sustainable development. Last year the Welsh Government introduced word-leading sustainable development legislation – the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. This legislation requires all public bodies to undertake all actions in the interest of future generations and demonstrate what actions they are taking to care for the environment. For private sector organisations who want to work with the public sector in Wales, it is vital you can show what actions you are taking to reduce any negative impact on future generations. Our Principle Consultant runs training on the Act – find out more here.

However the public sector cannot achieve the mission of a low carbon society in the interest of Future Generations alone. It is vital that the private sector in Wales plays a role in caring for the environment. Wales has put in place ambitious targets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and by 40% by 2020. I want to ensure the business sector understand why it is important you play a role in reaching these targets and the reasons it will be beneficial to your organisation.

At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and aims to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change. We believe businesses need to play a role in ensuring we prevent this temperature rise.

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales are supporters of sustainable development and ecological modernisation and believe it is possible to have economic development whilst also protecting the environment. Ecological modernisation understands the importance of protecting the environment, because business ultimately depends on the health of the planet and the surrounding atmosphere. It is thus in industry’s interest to develop cleaner technology and act in different ways in order to protect the planet’s capacity to support human life, and provide resources so that the sustenance base itself is protected.

Research conducted by Cardiff Met University and Wales Online have found that in Wales there are more than 200,000 businesses – the majority of which are SME’s and small businesses. 20% of Wales’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the business sector. Actions taken to reduce these emissions will go a long way to meeting Wales’s emissions targets and reducing Wales’s impact on the environment. Reducing your environmental impact will also benefit your organisation in many ways. Listed below are the top 10 reasons why your business should undertake action in the name of reducing your environmental impact.

1. Cost savings

It makes financial sense to take action to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the big global brands have realised this. A new initiative by Tesco is expected to save 20 million euros a year just using energy efficiency measures to ensure their refrigerators are kept at the right temperature and McDonald’s believe they have saved around £10 million a year since they have introduced energy efficiency measures across their restaurants!

2. Government incentives

There are often government incentives for businesses to undertake measures to reduce their carbon footprint which in the long run will save energy and money. This carbon trust green fund is just one of the schemes available in Wales at the moment which provides direct funded support through energy assessments, training workshops, equipment procurement support and up to £10,000 capital contribution towards energy saving equipment purchases.

3. Employee Retention

Becoming an organisation which is more sustainable is also good for employee retention and recruitment. The results of a Green Workplace Survey show that 66% of employees at companies that are engaged in environmentally sustainable practices are likely to remain with those firms and almost half the workforce (42%) now want to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world. South East Wales loses more than 600 working age people from 16 – 44 year olds every year to England. It is important that Welsh companies acknowledge the importance of a responsible business that cares for the environment to maintain and recruit employees.

4. Consumer Demand

A study by Unilever has revealed that a third of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. An estimated €966 billion opportunity exists for brands that make their sustainability credentials clear. For example Energizer introduced the Recharge battery made with 4% recycled battery materials. 4% doesn’t sound like much, but it was a world first and they have committed to increasing these levels to 40% in the future. They have made a commitment to sustainability but know they are only at the start of the journey. Guess what? Energizer is the fastest growing brand in the battery market.

5. Brand Reputation and Publicity

It is good for your reputation to be a business who cares about the environment. The 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%. We are proud of our members and the brilliant reputation they have for embracing sustainability. Find out more about our members and joining our network here.

6. Leadership

We want Wales to be the place people look to when they think of a country that has embraced sustainability, with businesses taking the lead. At the moment that place may be Sweden or the Netherlands with brands like Ikea taking the lead. Being a world leader in environmental sustainability can have many benefits. I want to highlight one of Cynnal Cymru’s premium members – the Principality Stadium (or the National Stadium of Wales) which will be hosting the Champions League final in a couple of weeks. The Principality Stadium in Cardiff was the UK’s first certified sustainable event stadium, first to gain the ISO 20121. They have since been doing a lot to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency and are in the process of looking in to trying to go “off grid” and put solar PV on the roof. They are a world leading business, with a great reputation for CSR and environmental management and we are proud to call them our members.

7. Keeping up with the competition

Many of the global companies – Ikea, Unileaver, O2, Coca Cola have some of the best sustainability reports in the world. We want Welsh companies to be the companies with the best environmental management plans and leading the way. It is vital not to be left behind in transforming office space and reducing the environmental impact of products you make or services you provide. We can help you with creating an integrated sustainability report – find out more here.

There are also a range of awards that highlight the best companies for sustainability. We host the Sustain Wales Awards in November of each year to encourage businesses to compete amongst each other at being the most sustainable. This is an opportunity to celebrate those businesses doing well. Applications open soon – find out more here.

8. Risk Mitigation

It is also within your interest to prepare your organisation for a warming climate and the consequences of climate change. There is a growing understanding from businesses that climate change presents risks that could significantly impact on your operations, revenue, or expenditures. Things like defending your premises against flooding, ensuring in the long term your resources will be available to develop products or looking in to sourcing more sustainable products will benefit your organisation in the long run. Perhaps you could look in to creating your own energy so you are not reliant on energy from the grid and developing a long term strategy for your business with climate change in mind?

9. Resource Limitations

On this note of reducing risk to your business, it is important you prepare for the future as the resources you may use in your business are limited. The UK government has released a report that shows the materials deemed insecure and at risk. Finding viable alternatives such as working with WRAP Cymru to reuse and recycle resources will be in your interest and good for the environment.

10. New Revenue Opportunities

Dealing with climate change and the challenges associated provides so many opportunities for new revenue streams and the development of new innovative technologies. Innovate UK regularly announce funding for the development of new sustainable businesses and technologies which aim to reduce the environmental impact of products or services. It is also an opportunity for current businesses to diversify and develop new products. Ikea have recognised this opportunity and over the past few years worked with their manufacturing partners to make much more affordable LED lightbulbs to sell to the public which have been hugely popular.

So those are the top 10 reason why the environment should matter to business in Wales. How can you take the first step to becoming a more sustainable organisation? Have a look on the Cynnal Cymru website and contact so we can talk to you about how we can help your businesses become more sustainable through our training and consultancy and working with other Cynnal Cymru members.[:]

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