Post the rollercoaster ride that COVID-19 is taking us through, we will need to shake off the dizziness, calm the adrenalin rush, and think long and hard about which direction we choose to go. Will we be jumping straight back on the merry-go-round? Or will we leave the theme park rides behind?
This question is aimed at both our leaders and the individuals who make up our corporations and our communities. Do you understand your environmental impact and are you prepared to change?
For these past weeks I have loved the quiet roads, the clear blue skies, and the stories of gradual return of wildlife to their rightful homes. But I know many individuals have missed the constant shopping, the interstate and international travel, the consumerism and the selling that is so much a part of our economy.
I have been terribly disappointed with the resurgence of single-use plastic during this time, increased under the belief that somehow that would better protect us from the pandemic. Whilst we have been grateful to our food supply chain and supermarkets for staying open, they could greatly improve their environmental impact.
Where to from here?
I am challenging you as leaders to rethink where your business is going and think about the environmental impact of what you do and what you sell.
Following are a few simple ideas for you to consider when returning to ‘normal’ operations:
- Put recycling on the bottom of your list. There are too many stockpiles of recycling already! Focus on Repurpose and Reuse. Make it a design challenge.
- If your product is replacing or upgrading another, what happens to the old one? Could you pull it apart for spare parts? Or donate it where it is really needed? Or repurpose?
- Were your staff travelling more than they need? Could you regularly replace interstate travel with online meetings? And weekly commuting from one state to another? Really!
- Is your fleet of vehicles energy efficient and low pollution? Do you use hybrids or electric vehicles? Should a city-based business even have company cars?
- Biodegradable packaging. If you wrap pallets or parcels in plastic, you should be using it. If you import or purchase locally, demand your suppliers use biodegradable packaging. Simple.
- Importing. Could you source from a local manufacturer? Understand the carbon footprint of the manufacture and transport of your goods.
- Encourage your staff to use refillable water bottles. (It is safe to drink the tap water in Australia).
- Encourage your staff to use exchangeable coffee keep-cups. Find a local café that will trade your used one, wash it up, and serve your coffee in a clean one.
Leaders everywhere need to be having these conversations and workshopping ideas with each other and with their staff. While this pandemic has been devastating to some businesses, a boom to others, it should be seen as a wake-up call to our whole society and economy.
It will be a new world. Are you brave?