Right now, the Pacific Ocean is home to an island twice the size of Texas, but it's no tropical paradise. It's the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mess of refuse with a volume that's increasing steadily. The gradually moving mass is tangible evidence that "out of sight, out of mind" is a terrible way to conserve and protect the earth's resources.
Although plenty of individuals and businesses have awakened a collective eco-consciousness, we're woefully behind schedule on making major changes. Even now, 30,000 Puerto Rican households remain powerless after Hurricane Maria knocked out electric grids in 2017!
Without backup energy supply methods to meet basic needs, the country has slowed to a standstill, suffering devastating economic consequences. Yet Puerto Rico isn't the only place reeling from a record-breaking year of disasters: Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean are struggling to climb out of holes dug by Mother Nature's wrath.
Though many people think little of this startling information, some realize it's high time to take action and invest in our planet. Entrepreneurs are especially well positioned to lead this charge.
The Surprising Profitability of Doing the Right Thing
Although many businesspeople were taught that acting on humanitarian principles means draining revenue streams, the opposite has proven true. When BlackRock assessed the market results of approximately 1,900 businesses, the asset management firm discovered that the 20 percent of companies that reduced their carbon footprints the most outperformed the global stock market by nearly 6 percent.
Peter Seligmann, founder of both Nia Tero and Conservation International, believes that savvy, eco-conscientious innovators have tremendous power when it comes to both staying profitable and doing good. "Simply replacing outdated computers and installing energy-efficient light bulbs can save companies up to $1 billion, and some of the world's biggest brands found that sustainable investments give them an edge in both product innovation and brand image," Seligmann says, noting that the impact of such efforts can be felt across entire supply chains. "When multiple retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers depend on you for customer engagement and distribution, you wield considerable influence that can be used for the greater good."
In other words, acting with concern for the environment and making money aren't mutually exclusive. Rather than choosing one over the other, you can prioritize both by taking the following steps.
1. Practice conscious capitalism.
The conscious capitalism movement has begun to spread across the world as entrepreneurs apply their eco-related concerns to their company policies and protocols. For instance, Rainmaker Ad Ventures distributes monthly "carousel of care" contributions to a rotating group of meaningful charities. This allows the organization to spread its wealth proactively and productively while still making payroll.
Drew Kossoff, the company's founder, believes deeply in nurturing environmental and humanitarian ventures. "It's not only the right thing to do from a karmic perspective, but I believe it's actually good for business, too," Kossoff says. "I truly believe one of the biggest secrets to success in life and business is to be a 'go-giver' rather than a 'go-getter'... because the more you give and the more value you create for others, the more success you attract to yourself."
2. Join climate-focused initiatives.
The federal government may have withdrawn from The Paris Agreement on climate change, but not all U.S. businesses are following suit. In fact, nearly two dozen Fortune 500 power players and investors immediately established a We Are Still In movement. Their message? Regardless of what their government is doing, they hold true to their commitment to instituting ethical, climate-friendly practices.
You don't have to be the size of a Microsoft or Google to do likewise, nor do you have to partner with initiatives such as Bloomberg Philanthropies or the World Wildlife Fund to jump on board. You simply have to want to do what's right for us now, as well as for future generations.
3. Create eco-friendly products.
Whatever your marketplace, you can always produce eco-friendlier products or offer services that rely on environmentally sound practices, equipment, and materials. Want a perfect example? Consider OAT Shoes. The company makes recyclable and biodegradable footwear that won't clog landfills. Plus, the shoes are trendy and fashionable, not to mention priced to compete with top-selling, less ethically manufactured shoe brands.
People love a good story, so you'll be able to generate goodwill with customers by telling them about your eco-friendlier solutions. If you've had public relations nightmares or negative press before, you can reverse the way people feel about you, much as McDonald's has done with its commitment to using cage-free eggs and sourcing a portion of the beef in its top 10 markets from sustainable suppliers.
4. Set targets for safer emissions.
Not sure how to set the correct greenhouse gas emissions expectations for your workplace or manufacturing facility? Check out Science Based Targets, a collaborative effort by trustworthy organizations that uses science-backed evidence to establish practical emissions standards.
With these authoritative standards as a starting point, you can then dig in and determine your current emissions. This will help you establish new goal targets per quarter or year without having to do any guesswork. You can also share the information with your suppliers and vendors to spread the message through education.
Never underestimate how the smallest ripples can create mighty waves. You might not be able to take a huge chunk out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch today, but there are positive steps your business can take to help heal the planet we all call home.