Let’s make 2021 the year of sustainability
The challenges of the past year have pushed many businesses to shift strategic and operational priorities. Today, among other tasks, the focus is on keeping customers and employees safe, developing new e-commerce revenue streams to offset losses, and managing over-burdened supply chains. But as companies move to recalibrate their performance and respond to unstable global economic conditions, they should be certain not to lose one critical business priority in the shuffle: the drive for sustainability.
Why should sustainability matter more than ever as we enter 2021? The fact is that each year brings more evidence of the dangerous environmental, social and economic impacts of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
Each year also brings us closer to a host of sustainability goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Businesses of all sizes, across industries, have a central role to play in emissions reduction, and with so much at stake, waiting another year to integrate green strategies into your business plan is simply not feasible.
Technology: Ready and evolving rapidly
Ongoing advances in technology make the move toward sustainable business practices easier with each passing year. Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and complex remote sensors are allowing businesses to monitor and reduce energy usage in office buildings, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers.
This technology is also making supply chains more efficient by improving inventory management and transportation planning. Electric vehicle advances and the development of alternative fuels are also playing a role, and they promise to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the next decade as new commercial vehicle fleets are put in place.
For many companies, the most direct route to making a positive environmental impact is through the supply chain. By demanding and achieving green practices from manufacturing, supply and logistics partners, businesses are reducing their carbon footprint beyond their physical facilities, and encouraging a broader commitment to sustainability.
And technology lies at the heart of the sustainable supply chain. At DHL, we have pioneered green logistics practices, and our mission to achieve zero emissions by 2050 is powered by innovative solutions. We’ve committed to new warehousing technologies and last mile delivery innovations, including electric fleets and electric cargo bikes.
Our teams are busy exploring the future as well, including the use of aerial delivery drones, 3D mapping technology, and augmented reality solutions for better warehouse and transportation management.
New policies on the horizon
In the U.S., a new administration in Washington, D.C., is certain to pursue ambitious environmental policies over the course of the next year and beyond. President-elect Biden has indicated that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, and he has outlined plans to cut carbon emissions from electric power to zero by 2035, with a net-zero emissions goal of 2050.
He has also presented a proposal to create a $2 trillion economic investment program designed to help transition the country from fossil fuels to clean energy. While the adoption of many of these initiatives will require Congressional agreement and approval, other steps, like rejoining the Paris Agreement, can happen quickly through executive action.
The bottom line is that sustainability will be front and center in U.S. policymaking in 2021, which makes it that much more important for businesses to act on their own sustainability efforts now. In addition, the promise of new investments in clean energy and emissions reduction technology means that there will likely be significant growth opportunities for companies in the environmental goods and service sector.
Environmental policy will also remain at the forefront in the EU, where the European Green Deal is serving as a framework for the adoption of specific initiatives across member nations. In South America, moves toward electric mobility and overall emissions reduction continue to gain momentum. Today, dozens of countries, along with the EU as a whole, have adopted net-zero carbon goals.
Making inroads in the new year
Even the smallest companies can help advance global sustainability goals by making basic operational adjustments. For your organization, consider developing a green approach that includes educating employees about conservation, encouraging energy saving practices at work and at home.
You may also consider less travel for your employees, and more videoconferencing – something we have all become more comfortable with during the pandemic. Your plan should include a review of office equipment and lighting, and a commitment to work with sustainable partners.
Thinking big should also be part of the plan this year. To this end, you should examine your company’s ability to set a zero emissions goal. If your business owns and operates vehicles, you should plan and begin budgeting now for an eventual shift to electric. You should also examine how investments in new AI-driven automated systems and other technology can help your organization reduce energy usage.
World Environment Day won’t be here until June 5, 2021. But let’s be ready for this important annual event by taking steps now to put sustainability at the top of the priority list this year.
Published: January 2021