Sustainability and environmental protection – effective measures for companies

The issue of environmental and climate protection doesn’t stop at companies either. On the contrary, they have numerous ways in which they can effectively do their part in the long run. Measures to increase sustainability and protect the environment not only benefit nature, but are also reflected in corporate success. One more reason why company bosses need to take a closer look at this topic.

Industrial plant

The environment and the economy – what at first glance appear to be two opposites are, on closer inspection, closely linked. Nature is the basis of all life. It is the source of many important resources, including water, wood, rock, coal and petroleum. At the same time, nature recycles biological waste products. It donates habitat to people, animals and plants.

It is contrasted with the economy, which is designed for steady growth in sales and operations. In return, they consume resources provided by nature and pollute the environment with waste and pollutants.

Nature provides space and resources, the economy consumes them to grow. So the growth of one seems to condition the degradation of the other. But this is not quite true. Because the economy can continue to grow even if significantly fewer natural resources are used. Because a high level of economic activity is what makes improved environmental protection and sustainable development possible in the first place. The more the economy grows, the more capacity it has for environmental protection.

The two concepts of "economic growth" and "environmental protection" are therefore not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually conditional. That’s why the goal is to bring them closer together as part of a so-called green economy. The green economy describes a way of doing business that produces hardly any harmful emissions, is resource-efficient and acts in a socially balanced way. The aim is to reduce pollution, increase energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Environmental protection and sustainability bring positive effects

A company that is committed to greater sustainability and environmental protection makes a valuable contribution to the conservation and protection of natural resources. But it’s not just nature that benefits from such protective measures – ultimately, they bring significant advantages to the company itself.

A more efficient use of energy and resources reduces the ecological impact that business activities bring with them. Moreover, more efficiency means less cost. If less water or energy is needed for everyday operations and production processes, the bills that have to be paid are lower as well. The same applies to shorter transport routes, if more emphasis is placed on regional and national goods, production and so on instead of goods from abroad.

Handshake

In general, sustainability and environmental protection measures have advantages when it comes to retaining and acquiring new customers. More and more customers are consciously paying attention to whether or not a company is committed to the environment. They perceive environmentally conscious actions positively – and make their decisions accordingly as to which company they purchase goods from or use services from.

A positive image as an environmentally conscious company can also be used to good effect in marketing strategy. Companies that are energy intensive can advertise that they use renewable energy sources, improving their public image. In this way, a "green image" brings a company greater acceptance in society and, as a result, higher revenues. All in all, it can be said that measures for sustainability and environmental protection benefit a company in many ways and generate positive effects.

An overview of the positive effects of environmental protection measures:

  • Less ecological impact
  • lower costs
  • competitive advantages over the competition
  • better customer retention and acquisition
  • improved image
  • more revenue

Measures for greater sustainability in production processes

Companies committed to environmental stewardship have several options for generating greater sustainability. Some of these possible measures relate to production processes so that they are environmentally and resource friendly.

CNC machine tool

It should also be examined whether the work steps that are associated with the emission of hazardous substances cannot be omitted or replaced by alternatives that cause significantly less or even no pollutants at all.

Sourcing goods and services domestically can also save some pollution emissions – simply due to the fact that goods or production parts do not have to be transported as far. Goods and work processes that are produced or carried out in one’s own country are thus much more environmentally friendly than those from abroad.

When purchasing materials and inputs, companies should ensure that suppliers are environmentally responsible with these goods. Rejects or surplus products can ideally be returned to the supplier or fed back into the production process in the company itself for further use.

Another aspect is the reduction of packaging and waste. Packaging of finished products can possibly be modified so that less packaging material is needed overall. Duplicate packaging and cushioning materials that are not absolutely necessary, for example because there is no risk of damage, can be confidently dispensed with. In some cases, packaging can be replaced by lightweight packaging with a lower transport weight, provided this does not increase the amount of packaging required.

  • The measures for more sustainability during production at a glance:
  • Machines and technologies that consume less energy and resources
  • Replace work steps that produce hazardous substances
  • less pollutant emissions due to shorter transport distances
  • sustainable purchasing of materials and primary products
  • generate less waste and packaging

Measures to protect the environment within the company

A company can do a lot for the environment not only in its production processes, but also in its premises such as offices, sanitary facilities and the employee kitchen. Management should always involve employees in this process. Finally, it is primarily they who use these spaces and who can best suggest material savings and who must ultimately implement these measures.

To save electricity, only energy-efficient lights and light fixtures with low wattages should be used throughout the company. This is especially important for lamps that are on very often or even permanently. Whereby it is to be considered here whether they must be actually in the permanent use. More environmentally friendly alternatives are timers or motion detectors.

There are other measures that can be taken to reduce energy consumption. This includes replacing electronic appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators and microwaves in employee kitchens with ones that are significantly more efficient. When it comes to heating, it can be useful to change suppliers or switch to a better energy source. In addition, lowering the room temperature by a few degrees, for example in the offices, can also bring about savings.

Woman to printer

To further reduce paper consumption, all employees in a company should switch to using misprinted paper or paper that has otherwise become unusable for official documents as scratch paper for notes instead of simply throwing it away. To reduce waste, orders should be efficient whenever possible. One large order is more environmentally friendly than ten small orders, each involving packaging waste and transportation emissions.

Another aspect is the more environmentally friendly use of materials. The paper used for everyday office work should be recycled paper. This alternative has many good features: it is made of recycled paper, so production is absolutely environmentally friendly and resource-saving, because hardly any tree wood and water are required. Recycled paper is also easy to print on, not least because of the nature of the paper and its opaqueness to light. These advantages are also found in recycled cardboard, which can be used as packaging material. Such paper products are also available in white quality, so that a visual distinction from conventional paper with a high content of fresh wood is hardly noticeable, if at all.

Companies should use refillable toner and printer cartridges. This produces less waste and also reduces costs. In general, it makes sense to avoid disposable products in the office and instead prefer ecological, environmentally friendly products, such as writing utensils made of wood or erasers made of natural rubber. Office furniture should be made of environmentally friendly and durable materials.

What is particularly relevant for sanitary facilities and the kitchen is the reduction of water consumption. Because companies consume quite a lot of water through kitchen units, coffee machines, toilets and washbasins. A catalog of measures from the city of Frankfurt provides an example of the extensive options available here: Better for the environment are water-saving rinsing solutions that significantly reduce water consumption. Dripping faucets should be repaired as quickly as possible. When buying coffee machines and dishwashers, look for good water efficiency.

An overview of the measures for greater environmental protection within the company:

  • Optimization of energy consumption
  • more material efficiency
  • Reduction of water consumption

Corporate social responsibility measures

Corporate Social Responsibility means that a company voluntarily commits itself to responsible corporate management and corporate social responsibility in the sense of sustainable economic activity. This is about the responsibility of companies for their impact on society. This contribution to more sustainability in companies goes beyond the legal requirements.

How the contribution can look concretely in practice varies from company to company. It depends simply on whether the company is a manufacturing company or a family-run business. A publicly traded corporation, on the other hand, faces different challenges.

VDU workstation

In principle, CSR can only be successfully implemented in a company if the relevant activities are related to its business activities. If this is the case, good corporate social responsibility contributes to the success of the company. It improves the company’s reputation, which is crucial for positioning the company as an attractive employer, strengthens customer loyalty and helps with customer acquisition. CSR in the sense of occupational safety and health management reduces the costs of accident-related production downtime and days lost by employees.

Duties in environmental protection

The EU has set itself the goal of one day converting the energy supply completely to renewable energies, so that only sustainably produced resources are used. In addition, it ensures sustainable use of all natural resources.

In order to achieve these goals, a number of laws have been passed. Companies also have to comply with these certain legal requirements that deal with environmental protection. All laws related to sustainability and environmental protection are listed in the environmental law. Compliance with them ensures that nature is conserved and the functionality of ecosystems is maintained.

In addition, environmental protection legislation is an important basis for ensuring that global problems are significantly reduced in the future. This includes water and air pollution, resource and energy consumption, and waste generation and disposal. Laws have been enacted for each of these issues. Thus, environmental law in Germany is divided into the following areas:

  • Water conservation: To protect groundwater and water bodies, use is coordinated with the water needs of the general public, and human impacts are purposefully managed and monitored. There are water-related laws at the European level, at the federal level and at the level of the individual federal states. At the federal level, the Water Resources Act (WHG) serves as the framework law.
  • Soil protectionSoil protection aims to preserve the various functions of the soil for future generations. To achieve this, erosion, compaction and structural changes must be reduced to a minimum and polluted soils must be made usable again. The most important laws include the Federal Soil Protection Act (BBodSchG) and the Federal Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites Ordinance (BBodSchV).
  • Immission controlIt is important to protect living beings, soil, water, the atmosphere and buildings from immissions. This includes air pollution, noise, vibrations and the like. The central law is the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG). Immission protection is plant-related, traffic-related and area-related.
  • Nature conservation: The aim of nature conservation law is to protect and maintain the entire natural environment and landscape as a basis for life. This keeps the natural balance intact, and also allows natural resources to be used and biodiversity to be preserved. One of the most important regulations is the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG).
  • Waste legislationWaste legislation serves to conserve natural resources and ensure the environmentally compatible disposal of waste. These include avoiding waste as far as possible, recycling waste that has been generated and using it to generate energy. Only then are they disposed of in an environmentally compatible manner. The Federal Recycling and Waste Management Act (KrW-/AbfG) is one of the legal frameworks.

However, environmental law includes many other laws that are listed in other areas of law. This includes environmental private law, environmental constitutional law as well as environmental criminal law. In addition, there are a number of laws relating to energy policy that also affect companies. A significant one is the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which is intended to make the energy supply sustainable and cheaper. The Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) is aimed at residential and office buildings, and to some extent also at company buildings. The regulation aims to achieve a nearly carbon-neutral building standard by 2050.

Conclusion: This is what characterizes a sustainable company

Companies are by no means excluded from the major issues of sustainability and environmental protection. On the contrary, nature and the economy are closely interrelated and mutually dependent. For this reason, companies assume a great responsibility with regard to the implementation of appropriate measures.

On the one hand, there is compliance with legal requirements within the framework of environmental law, which is divided into various areas, including the protection of water, soil and nature, the reduction of immissions and the handling of waste. In addition there are some further legislations, which concern among other things the energy policy.

On the other hand, environmental protection and sustainability refer to measures that a company can and should implement, but is not obliged to. These possible measures can be implemented both in the production processes and in the day-to-day work on the company’s premises. They contribute significantly to using fewer resources (water, raw materials and the like) and energy (electricity, heating). In addition, less waste is produced. In the sense of Corporate Social Responsibility , companies should also be concerned with the sustainable use of human resources, i.e. their employees.

A company that operates sustainably is therefore concerned to conserve natural resources and to burden the environment as little as possible with the emission of pollutants and other immissions such as noise and vibrations. Thus, the positive effects on nature and the environment outweigh the negative effects for an environmentally conscious company.

However, such measures are not only important and beneficial for nature and the environment. A company that takes action in this regard and firmly integrates appropriate measures into its business strategy can benefit from this itself. The advantages relate to costs incurred, customer influx, turnover and reputation in the community

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