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Sustainable businesses: Reducing emissions in everyday operations

Yasmin
Yasmin November 2021 6 min

Table of contents

These days, sustainable business should be one of the central tasks of any company. It is no longer enough to merely save paper, opt for green energy, or occasionally cycle to the office. Customers, employees, and society at large are putting enormous pressure on companies. They expect responsible action that does not end with environmental protection but takes a holistic view of a company’s actions – starting with climate-neutral production, through fair trade in goods and services, to a company’s social commitment. This calls for comprehensive strategies that promote responsible action and sustainable operations. 

Verifiable sustainability instead of greenwashing

The demand for climate-friendly products has increased enormously in recent years. Consumers are making earth-friendly buying decisions and are prepared to spend more accordingly. The same trend is also emerging among investors: Ecologically and socially responsible products are increasingly represented in equity funds, bonds and other financial products. There are already sustainable versions of various index funds, like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), which exclude shares of companies with non-sustainable business models from the outset. 

A competitive advantage

On top of benefitting society and the environment, companies who adopt a sustainable business also gain a competitive advantage. Provided, of course, that the topic is taken seriously and their efforts are transparently documented and communicated. 

Carbon footprint reduction

On the one hand, it is management’s task to spur a company’s green revolution. At the same time, the workforce needs to fully accept and support such an initiative. It’s essential to make a reliable assessment of the actual situation in order to take the appropriate measures to reduce a company’s carbon footprint. Orderly documentation makes the process transparent, shows progress, and at the same time provides indications of where there is further potential for reducing emissions.

Determine CO2 footprint

Companies that want to reduce their CO2 emissions must first determine their CO2 footprint. There are various international guidelines to help along the way:

Further, emissions are divided into three different scopes:

  • Scope 1 describes direct emissions resulting from a company’s business activities.
  • Scope 2 describes indirect emissions arising, for example, from the generation of energy such as electricity and heat, which the company purchases from an external supplier.
  • Scope 3 describes indirect emissions that are caused by a company’s activities but are beyond its control. They arise, for example, from associations with suppliers, service providers, customers, or the recycling of products.

On this basis, a foundation is created for clear and direct communication about a company’s efforts and successes on the way to becoming sustainable.

Measures on the way to becoming a sustainable company

Companies can use different measures to integrate sustainability and climate protection into processes, strategies, and corporate goals in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Cut waste and conserve resources

Not too long ago, it was unthinkable to ban plastic bags and straws. Now, there is no excuse for producing wasteful packaging. This applies both to the company’s own products as well as the products and materials the company purchases. But it also applies to the entire team – how lunches and coffee to go are packaged, for example. Here, there is ample opportunity to use reusable containers.

The best way to avoid waste is not to produce it in the first place. Printer paper is a classic example. It’s up to each individual to save paper and, in the age of digitization, to avoid printing e-mails, page-long presentations, or reports.  

Switch to renewable energy

On the one hand, digitization offers opportunities to conserve resources. For example, video conferencing and digital collaboration tools make travel or trips to the office virtually superfluous. On the other hand, using these tools increases companies’ energy requirements. Plus, office lighting, heating, and IT operations all require energy as well.

Companies can cut back on emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels by switching to renewable energies. Renewable energies are almost inexhaustible or regenerate quicker than fossil fuels. They include:

  • Wind energy
  • Hydropower
  • Bioenergy
  • Solar energy

Become an energy producer

Sustainable businesses that want to go one step further have the option of investing in renewable energies or producing energy themselves. That way, those who require a lot of energy cover their own needs with energies from clean sources. At the same time, they can make this available to other companies by contributing to the energy grid, thus promoting the use of renewable energies. 

Carbon-neutral service providers and suppliers

Scope 3 describes emissions over which companies have no direct influence. Control here lies with suppliers, service providers, or even their customers. Of course, companies can choose who to work with. An increasing number of climate-friendly companies offer CO2-neutral products or services. Companies who consider the CO2 footprint of their business partners help promote sustainable companies and thereby reduce their own emissions at the same time.

CO2-neutral stationary, equipment & green IT

Companies can also take that which applies to service providers and suppliers when purchasing their office supplies, production materials, electrical appliances, and information and communications technology. Electrical appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and microwaves are divided into energy efficiency classes. Choosing one that uses electricity efficiently is a no-brainer for climate-friendly companies. 

Green IT

The term “green IT” refers to the use of information and communications technology in a way that protects the environment and conserves resources, from production and operations to disposal. This includes, for example, reducing energy consumption during use, minimizing material consumption during manufacture, avoiding unnecessary pollutants in the production of IT equipment, and recycling or proper disposal. At the same time, the concept aims to use IT as a means of saving resources.

Climate-neutral travel

Resource-saving travel management also plays a major role in the evaluation of sustainable companies. If, for example, travel to customers or to other company locations is necessary, companies can choose a green mode of transport. Domestic flights can be avoided by taking the train. Using public transportation instead of cabs also reduces CO2 emissions. Even better, of course, is the bicycle – how about giving employees a work bike instead of a company car? Companies that cannot do without their own vehicle fleet can switch to e-mobility. Together with a company’s own energy generation, this is a perfect way to reduce CO2 emissions.

Climate-friendly events

Trade shows, conferences, seminars, employee events – all represent a major burden on the environment. However, they are also indispensable for many companies. The good news is, mindful eventful planning can cut back on CO2 emissions. Make sure all necessary measures are checked for their climate neutrality in order to make events as climate-neutral as possible. This applies to how attendees travel, water and electricity consumption, which resources are used for info materials such as flyers and brochures, and the avoidance of unnecessary waste, for example, by using recyclable exhibition structures.

Compensation

Climate neutral does not mean that sustainable companies should not produce any CO2 emissions at all. It means avoiding and reducing emissions to one’s greatest ability. But even with the best intentions, this is not always possible. In this case, companies can compensate for their carbon emissions by actively or financially participating in projects that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, thus balancing their climate footprint.

Sustainable banking with Penta

As a fintech, we are aware of our responsibility for climate- and resource-friendly behavior. Our goal is to offer customers climate-neutral products and services by 2022 at the latest. In order to achieve our goal and reduce CO2 emissions at Penta, we have identified four fields of action as a first step:

1. Buildings
Electricity
Heat
Water
Waste

2. Employees
Employee vehicles
Home office
Commuting and business trips

3. Purchasing
Consulting (taxes, marketing), IT services
Office equipment, Stationery & Supplies
IT infrastructure
Employee catering & Canteen

4. Clients
Software solutions for their users
Website visits by potential customers

Our Climate Officer and our entire team will start to implement the necessary changes quickly and efficiently throughout the company. We will keep you posted on a regular basis about our next steps on the way to sustainable banking.

We shape business banking of the future

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