No more “business as usual”: 4 ways business can act on the climate emergency

The latest climate news is stark. A report co-signed by over 11,000 scientists from around the world states that “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency” and that to mitigate the impact of this, we need “major transformations in the ways our global society functions”.

In the sustainability world, the expression “business as usual” has taken on a negative meaning: as the report points out, our usual way of doing things has caused the climate crisis and is now causing it to accelerate faster than predicted. According to the report, economic growth is one of the most significant drivers of the increase in CO2 emissions. What are the main takeaways for business?

Fossil fuels should stay in the ground

The report states that we should leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground and move to low-carbon renewables. Last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) goes into more detail, stating that there should be no new fossil-fuel investments and that some existing fossil-fuel investments will need to be retired before the end of their profitable lifetime if we are to keep warming below 1.5C.

For the energy industry, this represents a huge challenge to its core business. It’s also a warning to the finance sector that in the event of stronger emissions legislation, it’s highly likely that investments in fossil fuels will prove unprofitable.

For businesses in other sectors, there is one easy, positive step you can take towards energy transition: switching to a green energy supplier. By doing this, you are investing in the technologies and infrastructure the world desperately needs to fill the gap left by moving away from coal and oil.

Restoring ecosystems: check your supply chain

All sorts of different plants and animals play a part in absorbing carbon so that it doesn’t heat up our atmosphere. So they can do that job, we need to protect a diversity of natural habitats. For many businesses, making a difference might involve looking at your supply chain. A garden centre could adopt a peat-free policy to protect our peatlands from destruction. A food manufacturer could commit to just using palm oil from sustainable sources, reducing damage to the rainforest. Even the smallest, most local businesses can make a difference by critically evaluating their suppliers.

Cooling systems are heating the world

The Earth’s atmosphere is seeing rapidly increasing concentrations of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are frequently used in air conditioning and as refrigerants. The climate emergency report says that promptly reducing the emissions of HFCs and other so-called “short-lived pollutants” could slow climate feedback loops and potentially reduce the short-term warming trend by over 50%. Sectors with the potential to take action on HFCs include catering, commercial refrigeration, manufacturing of domestic refrigeration units, medicine, scientific research and more. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States has done some useful research on how businesses can transition to cooling systems with lower global warming potential, much of which also applies in the UK. The EPA website has a series of helpful fact sheets on ways your business can reduce its HFC levels.

Energy efficiency: save money and carbon

We can’t phase out fossil fuels while continuing to use energy as if we have an infinite supply of it. One of the most positive steps any business can take towards helping with the climate crisis is to evaluate your energy use. Most businesses who take the time to calculate and analyse energy use will find areas where they can reduce it. Obviously this represents action to tackle the climate impact of your business, but many businesses also see significant financial savings. The Energy Advice Hub is powered by BiU: our team of energy specialists can help any business identify possible areas of improvement. Get in touch with us on as your first step towards those savings.