Role of Business in Climate Change Action

David Sempala

By David Sempala

As the world marks world environment day this week amidst a global health crisis of Covid- 19, business leaders ought to reflect that there is a biggest crisis affecting the world far beyond the what covid 19 has done.

World Environment Day aims to engage governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts to preserve the environment. Human-induced environmental hazards have not only put the survival of the human race at risk but also of million other species .As day and night sweep over mountains and seas, the human race should now reconcile with the laws of nature for reinforcing economic interests and survival imperatives
Amid the crisis unleashed by the pandemic, as the human race remains siloed indoors and uncertainty, the dialogue of Mother Nature reclaiming the lost ground has made its way into the docket of unintended benefits of the lockdown. However, it is to be noted that such collateral benefits are only temporary. Water levels of Lake Victoria have just reached the highest point ever in the 120 year record, displacing thousands and flooding across East African Countries.

Mother Nature has enough for human need but not for human greed. But the human race has been constantly mistreating the environment to fulfil its greed. Human activities are leading us to a global catastrophe. Impact of human activities has the potential to collapse an entire ecosystem and that can have a domino effect on other inter-related ecosystems. Climate change is real. Such human-induced environmental hazards have not only put the survival of the human race at risk but also of million other species.

But as we celebrate another milestone in the efforts towards climate action, we need to take a closer look at the role of Businesses in climate change action. The transition to the low-carbon economy is already underway, spurred by the 2015 Paris Agreement and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Smart businesses around the world and more so in Africa shouldn’t be waiting. African Companies have to start taking advantage of the opportunities in renewable energy, deploying innovative low-carbon technologies, sustainably sourcing resources, working on innovative and transformative solutions that will help sink carbon.

Although there are a number of positive signs regarding business and climate change, most initiatives do not necessarily answer the question what the corporate contribution is to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Every area of industry will be impacted by climate change. And because necessity is the mother of invention, business leaders knows what that means. In the new climate reality, businesses that can innovate and take advantage of the low-carbon transition will be the ones that secure a sustainable future.
The first step for any company that wants to reduce its impact on the planet and the environment, and therefore help to reduce climate change, is to measure its gas emissions. For this end, there are many private agencies that are carbon footprint certified and can help companies measure their CO2 emissions.
Once GHG emissions are known, they must be analyzed to see which of the company’s activities the highest pollutants are. Once this analysis is done, companies can then begin to consider solutions to reduce their emissions including working with partners to mitigate and offset these emissions.

The second step is to reducing energy consumption.

Turning off the lights in the office in the evening, slightly lowering the heating or the air conditioning or taking devices off the plugs when it’s not needed are some good actions companies can implement. Moreover, by paying more attention to other daily routine actions, businesses can slightly reduce their energy consumption and, thus, their impact on the climate.

Business also have to give renewable energy a chance. Today, more and more individuals are choosing renewable energy and this is also an interesting solution for companies. Suppliers such as solar power, Fenix in Uganda and Mkopa in Kenya represent an interesting solution for using renewable energy. Simply put: avoiding fossil fuels significantly reduces the climate footprint.
Companies can also try to optimize employees’ transportation. As we know, transportation is one of the largest sectors of gas emissions. By encouraging employees to take public transit, to carpool with other colleagues living closely or by giving those discounts on public transportation, companies can significantly reduce their indirect CO2 emissions and therefore their impact on climate change. COVID-19 now presents a new meaning of remote working, its time companies explore and create work home infrastructures to reduce on their overhead costs while reducing emissions as well.

Lastly companies can opt to choose sustainable suppliers.

Each company also has a responsibility regarding the partners it chooses. Choosing a supplier is also an environmentally-friendly choice (or not, depending on the supplier).

Therefore, companies should make the effort to choose suppliers who demonstrate they have good environmental practices. And in the process, suppliers’ operations might also be accounted to a company’s own ecological footprint. Therefore, these companies aspiring certification might even need to ask their suppliers to adopt more sustainable practices (such as giving proof of not employing children and paying fair wages or disposing waste properly), or even have to change to more sustainable suppliers if the old ones refuse to change.

This reality makes sustainable development and climate change two sides of the same coin. Business has a key role to play in addressing the challenges of climate change. It is the world’s most powerful economic force, and it is responsible for the majority of spending, wealth creation and investment. Where business goes, others will follow. Success will depend equally on governments playing their part at the local and national level. Every country will need to tailor their policies to match their unique national contexts and requirements. Governments will also need to work together across the globe, to address this inherently global challenge.

The Writer is the Executive Director of Sustainable Path Africa & African Climate Reality Leader

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