Going green – sustainability challenges for businesses and how to overcome them

Irish businesses play a pivotal role in supporting Ireland’s aim to be a net-zero emissions nation by 2050. By adopting sustainable processes and operations – from greening your organisation’s supply chain to reducing energy use and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions – businesses are an essential factor in combating adverse climate change.

There’s a lot of pressure to become a sustainable business from government policies, customers and the supply chain. The Irish government’s Climate Action Plan has set national targets for tackling climate change, including recommendations for businesses to adopt carbon-reduction practices such as switching transport to electric fleets.

Customers, too, are driving change. According to Deloitte, nearly 1 in 3 consumers claimed to have stopped purchasing brands or products because they had ethical or sustainability concerns about them. For B2B customers, large corporations are assessing suppliers as part of ESG activities and to ensure suppliers and commercial partners meet environmental thresholds.

Sustainable business – challenges and solutions

But, what are the business sustainability challenges faced by Irish businesses today?

From transport emissions to waste management, identifying existing and emerging sustainability challenges can allow companies to put in place environmental management systems (EMS) that can monitor, control and improve the environmental impact of an organisation.

Switching to being a more sustainable business and implementing an EMS can pave the way to achieving international recognition through ISO 14001 certification. This can open the door to ISO 14001-mandated contracts and tenders while improving organisational reputation.

Sustainable business - transport and energy efficiency

Transport emissions

The problem – Ireland’s national sustainable energy authority, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), says that transport is the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions in Ireland. EU countries are encouraged to reduce their emissions and rethink their national transport policies. The European Green Deal has set targets for climate neutrality and recommends that EU countries reduce transport-related emissions by 90% by 2050.

The solution – Ireland is gradually shifting towards electric vehicles (EVs), and the government wants nearly 1 million EVs in the private transport fleet by 2030 and increased electrification of rail and bus services. To adopt more sustainable business practices, your business could consider switching your work fleet to EVs or light electric vehicles (LEVs). EVs can bring several benefits to your business, such as a boosted brand image and lower running costs. There are various EV grants you can apply for, which can fund switching your work fleet to EVs.

Business sustainability challenges - concept image

Energy usage

The problem – Ireland is falling behind in its renewable energy targets, according to SEAI data. In 2020, Ireland had a renewable energy share (RES) target of 16% 2020 but achieved just 13.5%. Ireland imports a lot of its energy, mainly gas and oil imports, making it an energy importing economy.

The solution – By 2030, the government aims to achieve energy targets of up to 80% renewable electricity, reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. It also hopes to achieve a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency. Consider switching your energy supplier to a renewable energy supplier to become a more sustainable business. Suppliers may offer green energy plans with cheaper tariffs than your current one. If you have the space, investigate installing on-site renewable energy generators such as solar panels or wind-powered turbines.

Sustainable business materials

The problem – While emissions from manufacturing combustion and industrial processes decreased in 2020, emissions in other sectors rose. The cement sector’s emissions have increased overall by 76.5% since 2011, for example, while agriculture made up over 37% of GHG emissions in 2020. Switching to using more sustainable materials and chemicals can prove challenging.

The solution – The government’s target is to reduce enterprise emissions by approximately 40% by 2030. The EU is also seeking change to its industrial strategy through bodies such as the European Raw Material Alliance. ERMA aims to develop sustainable industrial ecosystems in member states, ranging from energy-intensive industries to construction.

Take action by reviewing materials, supply chains and the manufacturing processes. Conduct an audit and determine if your organisation can onshore material sourcing, reduce materials wastage or use recyclable materials as alternatives.

What is sustainability business - office and team guide

Sustainable behaviours

The problem – People are the main drivers of environmental impact, which makes changing entrenched staff behaviours a challenge. Encouraging an uptake in sustainable behaviours across your business can require employee support and motivation.

The solution – There is an appetite for sustainable behaviour, as 74% of people believe their actions can improve the environment. With planned investments in public transport, including a shift towards widening walking, cycling, and active public transport routes across both urban centres and rural communities in Ireland, government initiatives will help shift behaviours. Consider introducing incentive schemes to improve sustainable behaviour in your business. This could range from encouraging employees to car share to introducing a cycle to work scheme through the Bike to Work Scheme.

Waste management

The problem – In 2019, Ireland generated 3.1 million tonnes of municipal waste but only recycled 37%. Ireland has also relied heavily on exporting municipal waste abroad for final treatment, with only three landfill sites accepting municipal waste in 2021.

The solution – There is a Waste Action Plan in place that is designed to help meet EU waste targets and develop Ireland’s economy. Examine ways of reducing your waste to lessen the impact on Ireland’s waste infrastructure. This could include reusing materials and conducting a waste audit to track the lifecycle of waste materials.

We offer Waste Management Planning inspection services for businesses. We can draw on our expert knowledge of the environmental sector and our involvement in national waste campaign to deliver a high-quality service.

Environmental management systems

A key approach to tackling these sustainability challenges is to implement an environmental management system, which can benefit your business by helping:

  • Measuring and controlling your business’s environmental footprint.
  • Helping your organisation become more energy efficient.
  • Identifying cost savings in recycling, waste management, and energy.
  • Improving your corporate image and credibility with ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 certification.

We offer internationally accredited certification services in both ISO 14001 and ISO 50001.

  • ISO 14001 certification – is the global standard for businesses of all sizes looking to bolster their environmental credentials. It provides a framework that companies can use to make their operations more environmentally friendly. This covers areas such as manufacturing, resource use and waste management. Certification in ISO 14001 can help your business gain customer and stakeholder trust, demonstrate compliance with EU or Irish environmental legislation and provide a competitive advantage.
  • ISO 50001 certification – this international standard provides energy management frameworks for businesses. Through these, companies can seek to improve energy output and efficiency. Certification in ISO 50001 can help your business show its commitment to carbon neutrality. It can also improve your operational efficiency levels and boost your company’s reputation.

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