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Earth Day 2022: Meaningful Actions Business Leaders Can Take to Invest in Our Planet

This year’s Earth Day comes at the backdrop of a UN report that says major weather events have become more severe and widespread than scientists had predicted. According to a June 2021 report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it would cost 131 trillion dollars to reduce global warming.

The enormity of the task ahead for humanity to take meaningful climate action is now more pressing than ever. Business leaders should consider reevaluating their internal processes toward reducing carbon footprint. They must also look into ways to use their marketplace influence to push for more investments in the planet’s initiatives to combat climate change.

So what can we do to make a difference? Here are five practical things business leaders can do to help the environment:

1. Reduce Work Emails

Work emails are one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions. Most of the emails we send and receive are digital clutter we can do without, yet the number of emails people are sending and receiving is increasing. By 2025, people will be sending more than 376.4 billion emails every day. A standard email’s CO2 emissions stand at 4 grams, and an average spam email contributes 0.3 grams of CO2e. If the email includes attachments, its CO2e can rise up to 50 grams. As these figures illustrate, a day’s worth of sent and received emails adds up quickly in carbon emissions. Try to cut down on the number of emails you send and receive by using other communications methods that have a lower carbon footprint.

2. Switch to SMS, the Most Environmentally Friendly Communications Tool

The average text message has a carbon footprint of 0.014 g of CO2, more than 285 times less than the average email. According to a recent NPR report, the world’s total text messaging carbon footprint stands at around 32,000 tons of CO2e each year. This is a small number compared to planes, automobiles, and manufacturing.

SMS requires fewer intermediaries and transmits less data. It uses more traditional telephony frequencies and networks, allowing for a more direct connection between the originator and the recipient. As a result, the consumption is virtually as low as the energy required to power their gadgets. Another advantage is that users receive text messages on their mobile phones rather than on their PCs, minimizing the amount of energy used.

All this makes SMS the most environmentally friendly communications tool available today. Embracing SMS for your marketing campaigns is a sure way of reducing your and your company’s carbon footprint.

3. Embrace Renewable Energy Sources to Power Data Centers

Data centers are responsible for about 2% of global emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions of the entire global airline industry. By 2025, data centers’ global emissions will have jumped to 3.2%. Data storage will account for up to 14% of the world’s carbon footprint. Data centers use a lot of energy to keep the lights on and servers cool. Data center executives have an excellent opportunity to reduce carbon footprint by investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydropower.

Google’s data centers require roughly twice the power as San Francisco, California. In 2017, the company committed to powering its data centers with renewable energy. It has established a notably ambitious goal of generating carbon-free power 24 hours a day, seven days a week by 2030. Google has entered into power purchase agreements since 2017 to acquire energy from more than 50 renewable energy installations with a combined capacity of 5.5 gigawatts. Although computing needs have grown 550% in the last decade, available statistics show that worldwide data center energy consumption has remained largely the same. With Google’s data centers being a big part of global data center infrastructure, these numbers show the company’s efforts to invest in our planet.

Microsoft has also committed to using 100% renewable energy to power its data centers. The company has said that by 2030, it will have 100% of its energy consumption continuously matched by zero-carbon energy purchases. As a business executive at your company, you should look into and consider switching to renewable energy sources, including working with data center solutions providers that focus on reducing carbon footprint. You can lead by example for other businesses to follow.

4. Join the Call for a Global Plastics Treaty

Every day, we are overwhelmed with images of the devastating impact of plastic pollution on our planet: turtles, birds, and sea animals choked with plastic. We have a responsibility to do something about this.

At the UN Environment Assembly last month, Heads of State, Cabinet Ministers of the environment from the UN Member States, and other officials endorsed a historic resolution to End Plastic Pollution and, by 2024, develop a global agreement that’ll be legally binding. The measure addresses plastic’s entire lifecycle, including its design, creation, and disposal.

The treaty will be an opportunity to address the root causes of plastic pollution and to set binding commitments to reduce plastic pollution. It will also be a platform for international cooperation on plastic pollution, including research and development, technology transfer, and capacity-building.

Business leaders have a responsibility to join the call for a global plastics treaty. They can do this by urging their governments to support the treaty and by committing to reduce the plastic footprint of their businesses.

5. Take Forest Conservation Seriously

Forests are essential to life on Earth. They provide clean air and water, food, fuel, and shelter. They are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Despite all of these benefits, forests are threatened by deforestation and forest degradation. The world’s forest cover decreased by 178 million hectares between 1990 and 2020, equal to roughly the size of Libya. And if current trends continue, the world’s forests will be gone within 100 years.

Deforestation and forest degradation have many causes, including agriculture, forestry, and urbanization. But the primary driver of deforestation is the production of commodities like beef, soy, palm oil, and paper. Business leaders can help protect forests by ensuring that their supply chains are not contributing to deforestation and supporting forest conservation initiatives.

Conclusion

The responsibility to take care of our planet is one that all should share, and business leaders have a unique opportunity to use their resources to enact real change. They can lead the way in making a positive impact on climate change. We’ve outlined five practical ways that business leaders can get started, but many more actions can be taken. As we celebrate Earth Day 2022, businesses need to join the call for global action and work together to find solutions to these pressing issues.

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