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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer optional — it’s essential for any business owner to stay competitive. A recent report from the Governance & Accountability Institute revealed that 90 percent of the companies listed in the S&P 500 index publish a yearly Corporate Social Responsibility report. For the companies of yesteryear, turning a profit was the end-all, be-all. Today’s corporate citizens must reach further, finding meaningful ways to give back to the societies that fostered their growth. Consumers want it, and the world needs it.
Among the most urgent areas for CSR efforts is environmental action. Climate change has already wreaked havoc on our world, causing natural disasters to occur with increasing frequency and intensity, disrupting agricultural systems around the world and imperiling life as we know it.
Business owners must design CSR plans with clear steps toward softening their impact on the environment. The climate crisis is accelerating; every corporate entity must find ways to reverse it. As you forge your corporate future, here are a couple places to start.
The last 40 years have seen paper usage increase by 400 percent, which has had disastrous impacts on the world’s forests. According to National Geographic, more than 500,000 square miles of forests were decimated from 1990 to 2016 alone. The Amazon rainforest suffered most acutely: 17 percent of it has been destroyed in the last half-century. Trees both absorb CO2 and trap other greenhouse gases, so the more trees we lose, the more climate-ravaging gases remain in our atmosphere, and the less habitable our planet becomes.
It’s never been more necessary for companies to take business dealings online. It’s also never been easier. Cloud platforms, data-visualization products, e-signing services and more have exploded in recent years, making it simple for companies to make paper an obsolete mode of commerce.
Upgrade old tech
One of the biggest challenges companies face when instituting environmental CSR efforts is incorporating new technology into old business processes. We see this playing out in the automotive industry, which has been positively glacial in its efforts to shift away from fossil fuels.
For me, it had to do with blockchain. I recently started working on building a new platform with my team, where artists can sell their work using NFTs. In this process, I learned that many blockchain services still rely on Proof-of-Work (PoW) verification systems. In its inception, PoW was cutting-edge tech that made Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies possible, but now it contributes almost inestimably to climate change. Bitcoin alone consumes 132 TWh per year — the equivalent of 12 million U.S. homes.
I also learned that newer, more environmentally friendly technologies exist for entrepreneurs like me. XRP Ledger forgoes PoW, using Federated Consensus to validate transactions, closing more than 62 million ledgers while using only as much energy as 50 U.S. homes.
Particularly for new business ventures, creating a core of environmentally friendly infrastructure will have myriad benefits for you and for your world. It will reduce your own energy costs and position you as a CSR leader.
It’s now or never
Environmental projections are rarely anything but grim. Scientists predict that in 50 years, if humans maintain current emissions levels, ocean water will become more acidic, major coastal cities will flood, ecosystems will be fatally warped and much more. CSR is essential, and environmental action should receive the lion’s share of your attention. All sectors of our world — your private one and our public one — can’t afford anything less.
Impact is possible
A common misconception is that only large or profitable companies have CSR plans, and that’s simply not true. You don’t always need to have a huge budget to create one. Whether it’s just you or a team of ten employees, creating significant impact is possible. After designing a CSR plan that aligns with your business model and morals, consider leveraging your network or cultivating new partnerships. I currently have a lean team of four people, and we leverage our network of social-media audiences to create various movements towards sustainability.
Measuring your impact
Measurement is often the biggest challenge many entrepreneurs encounter. Typically, it’s a lot easier to report on fundraising dollars; however, impact is not just all about monetary contributions. We measure our impact by our reach and focus on developing the necessary awareness tools and educational resources to inspire a call to action.
For Earth Day 2021, we took a creative approach, partnering with a social-impact agency called Project-Everyone. We commissioned an artist to create impactful content that spoke to our environmental goals. Using social-media captions, we asked, ”What steps will you take towards making a change this Earth Day?” The post sparked valuable conversations and feedback from artists, teachers and people from around the world. Collectively, the content piece was reshared on various digital platforms and generated over 180,000 views.
If corporations take the necessary steps towards sustainability now, we’ll all reap the rewards in the future.