The social and environmental engagement of companies seems to be gaining ground, and the number of “impact” companies has taken a spurt in past years. Impact companies define themselves as engaged businesses, but the whole notion of impact is still hazy for a lot of people. Whether you’re aiming for an “impact” appellation for your company or are “just” looking for ways to boost your impact, this article will give you a push in the right direction with a handful of concrete and easy-to-implement actions.
1. Rethink your packaging
Consumers are more and more aware of the environmental (and other) impacts of what they buy. Sustainable packaging is a “must” for you if you sell physical products. First, try to cut back on your use of plastic: there are plenty of alternatives, like bio-sourced plant-based materials that use things like cornstarch, sugarcane or algae. For some businesses, it can be a headache to sort through, but the long-term benefits are undeniable. Next, keep any overpack to a minimum and opt for minimalist, eco-designed packaging in recycled materials. For example, 100% recycled cardboard, or biodegradable or compostable materials. If you sell products, you can take the eco-friendly route by choosing a recycled or upcycled box for your parcel. Products inside the box are wrapped and packed with newspapers, recycled fabrics or natural biodegradable packing peanuts.
2. Raise awareness through company gifts
Short on gift ideas for the holidays or your events? Why not water two plants with one hose (who would want to kill even one bird with a stone?) by making your gifts ethical and solidarity-based? Tableware, fashion, culture… look for local businesses for added humanity, solidarity and to convey your values! Chocolate from Tricentenaire (website in french), soap from Yolande Coop (website in french) made my people with disabilities, organic zero-waste tea from Kilogram (website in french), a gift card for dinner at Chiche, who helps refugees re-enter the labour market… or one of many other possible ideas your staff and co-workers will love!
3. Outsource to sheltered workshops
In general, think about the activities your business could outsource to sheltered workshops. Your products’ packaging, for example, could be done by people who are unemployed or living with disabilities. Luxembourg has a number of sheltered workshops, such as the Fondation Kraizbierg (website in french), Tricentenaire, Yolande Coop, APEMH (website in french) and Coopérations, that offer a wide array of services (gardening, catering, printing…) and serve as a steppingstone to people with disabilities. Using their services strengthens your ethical engagement and is a real action toward employment for those groups of people.
4. Use “green” and engaged service providers
When possible, opt to work with local partners to avoid any unnecessary commuting. Also, partner up with businesses that are engaged (in waste sorting, recycled materials, or have an environmental charter, for example). Efforts are always good to support and promote. You need to ask yourself these questions: Are your service providers transparent enough, do they share your values? What is the origin of their products and how are they selected? Are their standards as high as yours? Being engaged on all levels as a business will help you stand out and communicate about your approach. And doing so will attract a public, new customers, and retain them too. From having your offices cleaned by a company that respects the working conditions of its staff, to using an eco-friendly dry-cleaner… from having your business cards printed by a certified carbon-neutral printer (website in french) to hiring a social-and-solidarity-oriented caterer for your events… the levers are there for you to pull!
5. Team up with associations
Joining forces with local associations and supporting their actions is a great opportunity to boost your impact and strengthen relationships with customers. Cocottes, a traditional restaurant business, donates their unsold stocks to the association Stemm vun der Stross, who works toward socially and professionally integrating the underprivileged. Luxembourg counts no less than 8000 associations. Take your pick! Do keep in mind that the concept of partnerships is of high importance in the social entrepreneurship sector. Check out local possibilities to enhance your anchoring in the area. Give your activities a run-through from A to Z and use local players to bring added value in the eyes of customers. Did you know Luxembourg has its very own local label? “Made in Luxembourg” marks products and services of Luxembourgish origin.
6. Opt for eco-responsible communications
Communicating is good. Communicating eco-responsibly is better! Always keep in mind that impact is multidimensional. Your approach can also account for the contents of your communication messages (which should be clear and transparent), the design of your materials and how you organize events. In some cases, dematerializing your communication materials can translate into a significant amount of saved paper. Start by assessing your needs: what is absolutely necessary? How many copies to print? What about content obsolescence? When planning events, every step can contribute to your environmental impact: choosing the venue (accessibility and distance), the food, respecting the site and its ecosystem, water and energy consumption, waste sorting, etc. Last but not least, communicate about your eco-responsible communications! Use recycled paper? Mention it in the brochure. Choose your suppliers based on an environmental charter? Tell us about it! Be the greatest ambassador of your green communications.
7. Go digital
Did you know that digital technologies use 10% of the world’s electricity? That’s an area you don’t want to leave aside. Here are a few easy-to-use ideas to soften your impact on the environment:
- Choose a more energy-friendly and responsible search engine, like Ecosia or Lilo.
- Use relevant keywords for your online searches (a google search emits as much CO2 as boiling water in an electric kettle).
- Save your favorite sites in the bookmarks.
- Close tabs you’re not using. When surfing the web, any pages you leave open are constantly refreshing and communicating with energy-guzzling servers.
- Use WiFi rather than 4G (or better yet, a wired network).
- Avoid sending unnecessary emails. If someone is in the same space as you, why not go talk to them directly rather than sending a message? Another good move for your day-to-day communications is to use chat apps like Slack, that consume fewer resources than emails. Also, unsubscribe from newsletters instead of diverting them into your spams.
And why not switch to a green eco-friendly hosting platform for your website to make an even stronger statement about your engagement toward using green energies?
8. Many, many ways to reduce your ecological footprint
Depending on your activity sector, implement as many measures as you can to cut back on your energy use. Choose a green electricity supplier, start a carsharing system within your organization for commutes, pay attention to your logistics chain by using more energy efficient vehicles if you deliver, like Sumy and others. Cocottes, a traditional restaurant business in Luxembourg, has demonstrated originality in its sector by replacing open-doored vertical refrigerators with an Italian-made revolving doors system than consumes and wastes less energy.
9. Give priority to shorter supply circuits
The food sector weighs heavily in the global output of greenhouse gases. Clearly, your business won’t be able to flip the trend alone, but it can contribute to lessening outputs and implementing responsible actions. Perhaps you could start delivering organic food baskets from local or nearby farmers (like Colabor or Les Paniers de Sandrine) to raise awareness among staff and encourage them to consume high-quality foods within a short supply circuit.
In short, being an engaged business takes some research and upstream work, but you will reap the benefits across all levels (environmental, economical, the internal and external dynamic of your business, its image…). More importantly, you will be the one designing your approach, and its benefits will far surpass the cost-benefit analysis. We hope this article has given you some leads to get you started!
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