7 Meaningful Actions SMBs Can Take Today to be Eco-friendly

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Aiyana Bodi, Senior Associate & Jamie Beck Alexander, Founding Director, Drawdown Labs

Corporate sustainability has traditionally approached climate action too narrowly: the task is often undertaken by relatively small sustainability teams. But the climate crisis is too massive for action to fall under the purview of just one team—every team and employee needs to be involved. Businesses must expand how they approach climate action, moving beyond “net zero” targets and toward more systemic actions that truly harness the financial, political, and social power of the private sector. Luckily, businesses of any size can take this type of holistic climate action using their in-house employee expertise and passion.  

Because corporate climate action is more than just the work of sustainability teams, it means that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have a unique opportunity to engage their entire organizations, orchestrate cross-functional sustainability strategies, and create meaningful impact much more easily than a large corporation. SMBs are often limited by available resources, but they also have important “climate superpowers”: they are flexible, quick to make changes, and their employees are often multifaceted and innovative—all key traits needed to embed climate action into a business. 

At Project Drawdown, the world’s leading resource for climate solutions, we’ve surfaced and shared numerous ways that every business function can help make a difference within existing roles and responsibilities. Below we detail seven ways SMBs can utilize their strengths and the interdisciplinary knowledge of their employees to take high-impact climate action, without exhausting already limited time and resources.

  1. Finance: Make sure you’re banking with a bank that is fossil fuel-free.

Did you know your business’s most significant source of emissions could be the carbon footprint associated with investments and cash held in banks? Most major banks invest in fossil fuel development, meaning your company’s cash could be indirectly contributing to the climate crisis. Consider allocating your business’s financial services needs and cash to banks that are fossil fuel-free, B Corp, or members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV).

  1.   Government Relations and Public Policy: Keep up-to-date with local legislation and voice your support.

Especially as an SMB, your ability to meet ambitious climate goals is dependent on governmental policies and regulations, and you can influence these policies and regulations for the benefit of both your company and your broader community. Identify local and state-level climate policies to advocate for, and take note if your state is involved with a regional climate coalition, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), as these coalitions can help guide and aggregate business influence.

  1.  Human Resources and Operations: Provide your employees with climate-friendly 401(k)s.

Much like how your company’s investments and cash can indirectly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, so can your employee’s retirement funds. Offer climate-friendly retirement plan options to your employees—and better yet, make climate-friendly options the default. (You can use this great tool from Fossil Free Funds to see if your company’s current retirement plans are invested in fossil fuels.)

  1.   Legal: When you work with external counsel, choose climate-committed law firms.

Much like picking banking partners, choose law firms that are committed to ambitious climate action and do not take on fossil fuel clients. If you work with law firms on a regular basis, develop guidelines for outside counsel that incorporate your company’s climate goals. 

  1.  Marketing: Nudge your customers to take their own climate action.

Find creative ways to move your consumers toward taking their own climate action. Take to social media to educate your customers on climate solutions or even integrate nudges into your products (check out this innovative example from LL Bean!). If your company has an online store, consider adding an option for customers to donate to a climate organization at checkout.  

  1.  Procurement: Give preference to sustainable suppliers. 

Develop company policies that give preference to sustainable suppliers. (You can use Salesforce’s supplier agreement as a template so you don’t have to start from scratch.) Start by finding sustainable alternatives for the items you purchase frequently and/or in large quantities.

  1.  Sales: Integrate climate action into your sales models.

There are numerous actions you can take to integrate climate action into your already existing sales models. First, consider integrating the cost of carbon into your products and services (a ‘carbon fee’ that helps show the true cost of a company’s climate impact), and reinvest that cost into other climate-friendly actions, like donating to climate organizations or using those funds to help reduce your business’s own greenhouse gas emissions. You can also offer special discounts on your products or services to those working within the climate movement or other social impact spaces (check out Askov Finlayson’s Climate Pro Program for inspiration!).

As an SMB, you can harness your unique strengths and opportunities to drive climate action as a foundational part of your enterprise, integrating solutions across all business functions. By taking these seven steps, your company can be a climate leader, all while utilizing the skills and resources already at your disposal. To keep exploring private sector climate action, visit Drawdown Labs.

Drawdown Labs Jamie Beck Alexander is a climate activist, mom, and founding director of Drawdown Labs, Project Drawdown’s private sector testing ground for accelerating the scaling of climate solutions quickly, safely, and equitably. Jamie developed and launched Drawdown Labs in early 2020 and has led the program to push the boundaries of private sector climate action. Her popular TEDx talk helped usher in a new wave of employee climate activism inside the world’s most influential companies. Jamie has been a guest on popular news outlets to talk about climate solutions, including CNN International, The Weather Channel, Al Jazeera, and NPR. She has also authored numerous articles on climate change for CNN, Fast Company, and others. As Senior Associate with Drawdown Labs, Aiyana Bodi works with corporate partners and their employees to scale climate solutions in more meaningful and impactful ways. Aiyana is passionate about intersectional environmentalism and aims to use employee activation as a vehicle for just and equitable solutions. She uses her background in communications and research and interest in design to help people find their place in the broader ecosystem of change—turning their climate concern into action. Aiyana holds a Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science in Ecology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, her home state. She is based in Brooklyn, New York. Drawdown Labs | TEDx talk |
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