The climate crisis is reaching boiling point. Earth’s biodiversity is receding daily, in tandem with the exponential growth of the human population and atmospheric CO2 levels. If we don’t act now, the planet faces a similar fate to Chernobyl in 1986.
This is the central message of the new Netflix documentary David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. In the moving documentary, we’re taken step-by-step through the environmental catastrophe that has occurred during the presenter’s lifetime. We are shocked by his prediction of disasters to come if action is not taken. Finally, we are reassured by advice about how to halt the crisis in its tracks – if we act now.
But what role can businesses play in the reversal of the climate crisis? When it comes to taking this kind of action, it’s certainly worth remembering that addressing sustainability isn’t just about doing good. It can also do wonders for the public perception of your brand. As a survey conducted this year by the IBM Institute for Business Value found:
"Nearly 6 in 10 consumers (57 percent) are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative impact to the environment [... and] while Millennials may be leading the charge in sustainability awareness, every age group indicates that sustainability, environmental, and/or personal wellness attributes are significant considerations in selecting brands."
When it comes to doing your part, Attenborough has sage advice for business owners as well as individuals.
Attenborough’s overwhelming conclusion is that all of us must act together if the crisis is to be halted. As a business owner, your workforce is your greatest asset in protecting the natural world.
In an interview with LinkedIn, he explains that encouraging your employees to take responsibility for their impact on the planet is the first step. Not wasting paper, energy or plastic will go a long way to protecting the resources we have.
Avoiding the use of plastic where possible is another point that Attenborough emphasises. The global consensus is that the use of plastic, and its impact on the environment, must be reduced. Despite this agreement, plastic continues to be a ubiquitous element of our everyday lives. When each of us makes the choice to consume goods with less or no plastic, the natural world will benefit.
The burning of fossil fuels has accelerated the heating of the planet in a fraction of the time that this would naturally occur. While predictions place renewable energy as the main source of power in the future, Attenborough says that this can be the only source of power.
And yet, banks continue to invest in fossil fuels. Calls to create wind farms and other renewable energy sources are met with resistance.
So, when choosing who to bank with, and which suppliers to enlist, businesses must keep the environment in mind. What small changes could you make that will have a big long-term impact on the health of the planet?
The growth of the world’s population has occurred in tandem with the reduction in biodiversity and increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The more of us there are to sustain, the greater the pressure will be on the natural world to do so.
One of Attenborough’s key takeaways in the documentary is the need to raise the global population out of poverty. He suggests that this be done through education, financial support, and access to healthcare. He particularly emphasised the benefit of keeping girls in school for longer.
While this needs to be a global effort, every business can do their part by creating and committing to a corporate social mission.
Attenborough explains that a company, unlike an electorate, is able to issue instructions to its workforce and management. They can commit to reducing waste, investing in renewable energy, and making the right choices for the environment.
A commitment to the environment benefits everyone, but it must be done for the right reasons. Setting targets solely to remain competitive will do little for the long-term health of the planet.
Those who do so out of a belief that it is the right thing to do will surely play a role in the halt and even reversal of the climate crisis. Not only this, but their employees and customers will support them in this endeavour too. The creation of an environmental policy statement for your business is a crucial element of this.
Attenborough closes his documentary as the camera pans out showing that nature has reclaimed the site of the Chernobyl disaster. He hits the audience with a sobering remark. Nature will always rebuild and reclaim the land. Whether we are here with it when that happens is up to us.