Communicating sustainability in the middle of a pandemic

by FM Media
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e-waste phones and laptops stacked up

Urgent concerns like COVID-19 have pushed sustainability down the list of priorities for many but, with new incentives and lower costs, doing the right thing is easier than ever, writes Gulrez Tyebji.

It goes without saying that the pandemic has changed the way businesses communicate and interact with their clients and partners, potentially forever. Messaging that would have been perfectly acceptable before COVID-19 hit now has the potential for a PR disaster, and entire businesses have been erased because they no longer fit with the way we live, work, and play. 

Within this landscape, the way businesses approach sustainability has to change, too. On the whole, your clients and partners still care greatly about these issues, but they’re simultaneously battling lockdowns, isolation, potential job losses and cash flow issues. 

Saving the planet has gone from humanity’s greatest challenge to one among a long laundry list of ever-pressing concerns. With this in mind, businesses must find ways to tackle sustainability, waste, and recycling, while remaining mindful of the world’s changing needs. 

If you’re going to talk about waste and saving the planet, it’s vital that you have the knowledge and actions to back it up. ‘Talking the talk’ but not ‘walking the walk’ is no longer an option. Informed clients, partners, and staff are able to smell green-washing a mile away. 

Let’s take e-waste, for example. E-waste is the fastest growing waste category on the planet, and businesses have a duty to make responsible choices about their own waste products. According to the UN Environment Programme, the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and e-waste each year. Out of that, less than 20 percent is properly recycled. The rest ends up polluting landfills or being informally recycled by hand in hazardous work.

Technological waste severely damages the environment, and smartphones have heavily contributed to the escalation of this damage. When you choose to discard your business cell phone, it could end up in a landfill and harm the environment. This is because your phone contains damaging toxins such as chlorine and mercury that could pollute the air and water supply around the landfill.

In order to stop this from happening, businesses can save both money and the planet by recycling their devices through marketplaces such as Reebelo. Recycling can help businesses reduce their costs and improve their bottom line. One means of doing this is through the purchase of refurbished tech equipment – ensuring employees have the best resources available to them, while being socially conscious of the waste that is being produced.

Plus, in some cases, companies and brands are currently facing rising landfill costs, making it more expensive to dispose of waste at the rubbish dump. Taxes and other government incentives are making it increasingly cheaper to reduce, reuse, and recycle materials. 

Clearly, businesses still care about sustainability, but they also need solutions that cater to their other needs, wants and desires. Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of waste, and are simultaneously wanting to save as much money as possible. In our challenged economy, saving money is top of mind. Thankfully, with the right model in place, ‘sustainable’ and ‘budget-friendly’ can go hand in hand.

Businesses such as circular fashion marketplace Depop have achieved this to great effect. Depop has more than 30 million users across more than 150 countries. It has a sustainability plan built around the UN’s Global Goals, the 17 objectives designed to tackle the systemic causes of extreme poverty, including the climate crisis and inequity. It’s also a great place to find a bargain puffer jacket.

Another great example is Australia’s first fashion currency, Swappay, which offers consumers the chance to swap unwanted clothes for ‘digital dollars’. Consumers and businesses are starting to associate sustainability with spending less, rather than having to shell out more. Business models that can play into this mindset are far more likely to succeed in a time when economies are struggling, unemployment rates are wobbly, and everyone is looking to save as much money as possible. 

With a bit of imagination, the facility sector can take these examples and transform them into a solution that would work for their own businesses. Is it rewarding occupants with tokens for their sustainability efforts? How about implementing a marketplace of recycled goods between partners? The possibilities are endless.

It’s easy to want to push sustainability down the agenda, especially in the face of a global pandemic. But when there are so many other business benefits to recycling and sustainable processes, doing the right thing should be a no-brainer.

Gulrez Tyebji is managing director at sustainable tech marketplace Reebelo Australia.

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