In the spirit of positivity, we’re looking for those bright spots that have come out of the COVID-19 crisis. These include environmental benefits like reduced pollution and increased animal sightings.
The swift spread of the coronavirus shines a light on how nature can change business overnight. As we work to reduce our impact on the world and consider our Triple Bottom Line, we’re encouraged to see positive environmental changes as a result of social distancing and remote work.
Because of the lack of cars, companies shutting down production, and air travel reductions, countries around the globe are seeing pollution reductions. For example, experts believe China had a 25% drop in emissions during its lockdown, equal to about 200 million tons of avoided carbon — or 33,861,190 homes’ worth of electricity.
Closer to home, meanwhile, emerging data from California, New York, and Washington show lower particulate matter in the air. Particulate matter comes from power plants, as well as automotive and industrial pollutants released into the air, and is correlated with decreased lung health.
Many of these environmental benefits will start to drift as we work to ramp up our economy again. So how can we continue to take positive environmental steps after this turning point for many businesses and individuals?
Let’s look at how business has already changed and where the environment fits in.
How can we maintain the spirit of innovation that has led companies to pivot to masks, support nonprofits, and rally around their communities?
Consider looking at environmental opportunities, like reducing waste or improving supply chain relationships, through the same innovation lens.
Employees working at home save emissions by reducing miles driven. You may have even noticed this for yourself — when was the last time you drove your car?
As businesses become comfortable with employees working at home, tally up the environmental benefits from those changes. You can also consider creating a travel policy that includes remote work and the miles saved per employee working from home.
The importance of supply chain relationships has been exposed in this pandemic. Without a strong supply chain, or an understanding of supply chain, businesses can get lost.
Take steps to look at your supply chain, reach out to suppliers and customers to see how you can help. You may also consider sending supply chain surveys to see how you can strengthen existing relationships.
Supporting Small Businesses
Small businesses are especially affected by the coronavirus. It’s more important than ever for all of us to stand up and step in to offer whatever support we can. Consider the following:
- Which small businesses will you continue to support when this is over?
- Which small businesses do you miss?
Make a list and support them through gift cards, leaving online reviews, or by making a plan for supporting them soon.
Revamping Outdoor Spaces
A backyard can be a backyard of your own or your greater neighborhood if you live in an apartment.
What brings you joy about these spaces? Your vegetable garden? Shade tree? Figure out the environmental translation for that enjoyment and find a cause or group to focus on for these interests.
Recreating Human-to-Human Interaction
We all miss seeing friends, being with family members, and hanging out in groups. For many of us, these gatherings happen in special places like the beach or mountains.
Seeing clearer water in Venice or animals in the streets can make us think of ways to preserve the places we love, whether that’s reducing trash, protecting hiking trails, or picking up plastic at the beach.
While there are lots of volatile changes in business right now, we can look to both positives and beneficial environmental changes to set the stage for what’s next.
Eliza Erskine has a Master’s in Sustainability from the Harvard Extension School and a BA in Business Administration from Boston University. She founded Green Buoy Consulting in 2018 to help small and early stage businesses with sustainability. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and lives in New York City.