Doing Things Differently
There are many opportunities for businesses to take positive action, to do things differently from the business as usual model.
Life cycle assessment (LCA)
LCA is a well-established objective tool that enables organisations to quantify the environmental impacts of their processes, products or services throughout their life cycle, from the sourcing of raw materials, through the manufacture and distribution of products and on to their use and ultimate disposal. By identifying energy and materials used and wastes released, it offers opportunities to evaluate and implement measures to bring about environmental improvements.
It is highly effective in the support of strategy development, performance improvement and commercial advantage.
The circular economy
A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural systems
For further information visit The Ellen MacArthur Foundation https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy
The Circular Economy
We need to look beyond the current linear model of production - where raw materials are extracted and processed into products that are sold, used and then discarded at the end of their 'useful life' (known as Take, Make and Dispose) - to a circular model - where materials, waste, energy use and emissions are minimised by slowing, narrowing and closing material and energy loops. Put simply, long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, re-manufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling: The Circular Economy.
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS (EMS)
An Environmental Management System (EMS) provides a systematic way of identifying how your business has an impact on the environment. It can be used for managing those impacts, no matter your business' size or the sector you operate in. In addition, it helps to identify the environmental legal requirements for a business, something that's relevant to all organisations. A particularly important benefit is that it helps organisations to use resources more efficiently - reducing costs and risks, thereby making them more competitive.
Beyond your own organisation, an EMS can help to green your supply chain through engagement with suppliers to purchase goods with fewer environmental impacts. It makes it easier to work with them to develop goods and services that are better for the environment. For example, contractual requirements can be set for suppliers to ensure that the goods they are purchasing meet the environmental requirements set within your EMS. The EMS may also help to set out environmental parameters for key purchases, e.g. property, electronic equipment, paper and consumables etc.
The added value of a system it that it formalises policy and processes. Because it’s systematic, it helps to ensure that things aren’t missed. There's nothing wrong with an informal approach to begin with, and this is how many SMEs operate in the first instance; looking for environmental improvements prior to formalising some or all elements of a system in an EMS.