What is the definition of environmental ethics? Although the term can have different meanings, here is a good summary.
The underlying principle of environmental ethics is that nature has intrinsic value. Meaning that nature and its parts are not mere means for accomplishing one's purposes but end in and for themselves.
This definition sounds simple enough, but it's quite a radical reversal of centuries of anthropocentric thought. It was easy to believe that nature existed for human beings to exploit for centuries.
The more trees we could cut down and convert into magnificent buildings, the better our quality of life. The more coal we could mine for fuel, the more energy we had available to power factories and produce more life-enhancing goods. And best of all, no matter how much we used, there was always plenty more available.
However, it's become clear that this is no longer true in recent decades. As economies around the world have grown, the human impact on the environment has grown to the point where we are depleting the available resources, causing the extinction of thousands of animal species, and altering our planet's climate each day.
Many businesses, however, have continued to operate on the traditional model. Environmental ethics aims to question the basic assumption that nature is there for our benefit. If nature has an intrinsic value, how should that change how your company uses energy or packages its products or treats animals? It can have significant (and impactful) implications for how you do business today.
For many small Australian businesses, the cost is a genuine concern. Many small businesses in Australia today have no environmental management systems in place. Despite that, most business owners wanted to reduce their environmental impact. Still, they were held back by "resource constraints" and other factors like lack of support or guidance.
Another barrier to businesses is competitive pressure. Suppose your competitors are importing low-cost goods with no regard for environmental sustainability. Won't you be at a disadvantage if you insist on the highest ethical standards?
These are valid concerns. Even if a business is not all about profit, it does need to make a profit to survive. And although some environmental policies can also have a positive bottom-line impact, others can add to the cost.
What's important is to look at the overall impact on your business, including the positive effects.
There are the benefits of cost savings, business reputation, resource recovery, OH & Safety, and legal compliance benefits.
Follow the steps here to plan and you can prioritise your environmental management activities -
Schedule an environmental audit. An audit can help identify how you can reduce your environmental impact.
It can help you prioritise your environmental management activities. You can also demonstrate your accountability to the government, customers, and shareholders by conducting an audit. Ensure you store your audit results to compare improvements and results as you progress.
Set up an environmental management system. Once you understand your current environmental impact, you can plan and see your changes in results and reduction in impact. Set up objectives and targets for changes. These targets can be with costs and targets for cuts, and outline responsibilities within your business.
For companies and organizations of any type that require practical tools to manage their environmental responsibilities, there’s the ISO 14000 family. These targets will also help you to identify areas for future improvement. You can also take steps to have your environmental management system accredited – the requirements are here.
Report on your impacts. Make sure you monitor and report your effects. You can track environmental reporting for businesses by looking at, for example, greenhouse gas and energy reporting, corporate sustainability reporting, and natural resource management monitoring.
Ensure you are up to date with all Government requirements. Australian, state and local governments jointly administer EPA laws in Australia. As a business owner, you need to understand which laws apply to your business. Each state in Australia has its own EPA for you to keep up to date with requirements for your business.
Research, research, research - recognised environmental initiatives that you can access. Environmental awards are available in each state has options available - such as the Climate Active Certification - which is for carbon-neutral businesses, to name just one.
Search for grants and programs here and see which ones you may be eligible to apply.
There are many benefits to being environmentally ethical for you and your business.
Read all about the Cream Collection Ethical and Sustainability policies here.