What three ESG actions should your business obsess about?

By Steve Haskew, below, Head of Sustainability and Social Leadership at Circular Computing

Taking the first significant step towards addressing ESG regulations – Environmental, Social, and Governance – can seem like a daunting task for any business. While growing pressure is being placed on all industries to ensure they clean up their operations both environmentally as well as socially, there is no doubt that extra attention is being placed on bad actors after years of corporate exploitation. However, the risk remains that matters of ESG become buzzwords or ambivalent terms, meaning many professionals may start questioning if it’s worthwhile getting started or if change is actually meaningful.

The effort, measurement and regulation required can seem like an insurmountable task. Coupled with the necessary list of changes needed to start making a real difference feeling like it never ends, the challenge to go towards Net Zero and be a socially conscious business can leave many stuck at the start. However, there are a few actionable changes that every business can start making today. And I’ve outlined them below based on my career, which I’ve built helping businesses become more sustainable.

For every business, here are three actionable changes businesses can make in their ESG journey while still boosting their commercial acumen.

Action 1: Do your research

Engaging holistically with a healthy supply chain has a far deeper meaning to it than to simply improving reliability or cost effectiveness. Not only has the environmental spotlight been placed on businesses while the world battles with the climate crisis, but decades of poor practice have led to the exploitation of people and natural resources. With the wider consumer focus now angled upon impactful ESG initiatives, the implications of poor supply chains on both the environment and society at large, can no longer be avoided, and in many markets is not tolerated.

With Scope 3 emissions usually accounting for more than 70% of a business’s carbon footprint, auditing and aligning your supply chain by ensuring you check your suppliers environmental accreditations and actions towards their own ESG targets, is one of the first steps in actioning your own ESG plans. Simply put, do your research. Make sure you understand your suppliers code of conduct, and that they are acting towards achieving meaningful ESG outcomes, which align to your own interests.

Action 2: Use the power of Circular Economy

The linear model of take, make, use and replace is wholly unsustainable and is being highlighted as such in most industries. Yet the shift away from this can appear daunting. There are some industries though that can start taking immediate strides towards addressing these issues by adopting circular economy processes.

The technology industry is one such industry that organisations can look to lean upon when engaging with the circular economy for the first time. For example, there is a fantastic opportunity in utilising the vast amount of dormant technology that still holds huge material value to help meet ESG goals, as well as being cost efficient. Only 17.4% of global e-waste is collected and properly recycled but that alone amounts to $10 billion in raw material value (E-Waste Monitor, 2020). With an estimated total value of $57 billion for raw materials within global e-waste, the technology industry is sitting on a circular economy goldmine.

The new category, remanufactured hardware, is an example of the first of its kind in the world being certified as “equal to or better than new” by the British Standards Institution (BSI) according to BSI 8887. In our work at Circular Computing, our Circular Remanufacturing Process was awarded a world first BSI Kitemark for remanufactured laptops. The Kitemark is a key step toward sustainable change, signifying a shift in the perception of second use hardware, vital for a successful circular economy. By ensuring remanufactured hardware performance levels go far beyond that of refurbished or any other second-hand equipment, any perceived risks for the next user are removed, as well as tackling environmental pressures, cost reduction, supply chain resilience and reliability.

Allocating a significant portion of a laptop estate to remanufactured hardware immediately resolves some of the ESG compliance challenges for businesses’ IT estate, including decarbonisation. On top of that, technology procured from the circular economy such as remanufactured products is readily available on short lead times, through normal distribution channels and generally comes at a very significant cost reduction to brand new, often as much as 30 to 40% less.

Action 3: Don’t go at it alone

To ensure the actions a business takes are providing the foundations for a carbon neutral future, third party accreditation and support in measuring carbon emissions is key. There are plenty of organisations dedicated to doing this, so no business ever needs go it alone.

There are plenty of government backed schemes and programmes to support businesses both financially and with expertise to help them become greener. This page on the Zero Carbon Business website lists support for businesses of all size across the UK, covering regional schemes in particular.

For example, as part of our commitment to net zero and providing carbon neutral IT products, we are audited annually by Carbon Footprint, with a 2017 baseline year. We receive an open letter from Carbon Footprint™, acknowledging the status of our carbon emissions and the reduction efforts, through ISO and GHG Protocol methodologies.

Think long term

With issues such as climate change and modern slavery being more widely exposed to the consumer than ever before, the desire to seek out businesses with a focus on the environment and social components of ESG is only natural and will continue to grow in importance. Providing social value has benefits to businesses by ensuring they have healthy supply chains, becoming the key differentiator behind purchasing decisions.

Taking the first steps today by making actionable changes such as cleaning up your supply chain and adopting further circular economy processes will not only leave the world and society in a better place, it will also set your business up for future commercial success through cost management and sustainable processes.