Sustainability - Take Action Today

You want to have a positive impact on the planet, be more sustainable at home and at work, but how do you go about it? Here are 10 ways you can still be the change you want to see.

This article was first published in the Orient Magazine, 25 September 2017.
 
By Sarah Cragg, Account Director, MullenLowe Salt
 
The word sustainability is overused and often associated with long reports, technical language and a general sense of guilt that you should be doing more. But sustainability does not have to be this way. While the dictionary definition means the ability to maintain something at a certain level, it has come to mean something far broader and is now linked to not only minimising your negative impact on society and the environment, but also maximising the positive impact you or your company can have.
 
In 2016, 58% of companies with a clearly articulated purpose experienced 10% growth, compared to only 42% of companies not prioritizing purpose. But how can you bring purpose to your job, if you are not the CEO or responsible for sustainability? Or maybe you want to be more sustainable at home, but don’t know where to start. To overcome action paralysis, here are 10 changes anyone can make, regardless of role, to have a positive impact and be more “sustainable”. 
 

At Work:

 

1. Skills-based volunteering.
This entails leveraging skills of individuals or teams to support charities, helping them achieve their missions. Many companies have hours dedicated for volunteering and by providing their services, charities can take advantage of professional skills they could never normally afford. In Singapore, TalentTrust partners with businesses to provide charities with advice from expert volunteers who help with their vision, mission and business plan.
 
2. Choose impactful suppliers.
Businesses can have a positive impact through their purchasing power. Are you supporting companies doing good for the environment or community? For example, if you’re looking for a barista, have you considered Bettr Barista, a first-class coffee company empowering marginalised women and youth at risk? Or, if organising a team building exercise, consider working in a hawker for a day with Dignity kitchen. You will have a great bonding experience while supporting Singapore’s first hawker training school for disabled and disadvantaged people. 
 
3. Reduce your air conditioning.
Nearly 80% of homes and 100% of shopping malls and offices in Singapore have air conditioners, which if too cold, release unnecessary carbon emissions and heat up the planet’s atmosphere. If you are too cold at work, your colleagues will be too so why not speak to your Facilities Manager and ask them to turn up the temperature? Find out more about the impact of air con and the steps you can take to reduce it with #up2degrees. 
 
4. Carbon offset your flights.
One round-trip flight from Singapore to the UK creates a warming effect equivalent to 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide, per person. The average European generates about 10 tonnes a year - almost half your allowance. However, the reality of living in Singapore means you cannot avoid flying, whether for work or to see family. Alleviate some guilt through carbon offsetting, where emissions are calculated using an online carbon calculator and pay a company to counterbalance your climate pollution by investing in a project elsewhere. 
 
5. Create a culture of purpose.
Now more than ever, employees seek a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. Can you create this for your team? Organisations should help employees connect to the impact they are having. Through meeting with customers (or with the community the organisation is impacting) and sharing stories, you can create an atmosphere where people are open to sharing ideas for impact, benefiting the company, community and employees. This can unlock potential for impact which can otherwise be easily missed. 
 

At Home:

 

6. Recycle.
Recycling is nothing new but Singapore’s domestic waste recycling rate is only 21%. However, this is improving; all condominiums are now required to provide recycling bins and the government is launching a campaign teaching Singapore residents how to recycle properly. Singtel and SingPost also announced the launch of a nationwide electronic waste recycling programme, where people can dispose of redundant electronics at ReCYCLE bins or by mailing through any post box. Increasingly, there are no excuses for not recycling!
 
7. Eat less meat.
Drawdown, a book that analyses 100 solutions to global warming, ranks switching to a plant-based diet as the fourth-most impactful climate change solution. Livestock farming produces from 20% to 50% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, so, eating less meat can lead to big savings on emissions. One way to change habits and eat in a carbon-conscious way is the Climatarian Challenge App. 
 
8. Go plastic-free.
Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made still exists? By 2020, (unless we drastically change how we use plastic) it is expected that there will be more waste plastic in the sea than fish (by weight). Be part of the solution and take action by:
 
a. Avoiding products in plastic packaging (e.g. pre-packed fruit and vegetables)
b. Reducing where possible (bring your own water bottles and refill, remember your reusable shopping bags)
c. Refusing plastics that escape as litter (e.g. straws, takeaway cups, utensils)
d. Recycling what cannot be avoided
 
9. Invest in green.
Green finance is the setting up of market instruments and policy tools to fund public and private investments that contribute to sustainability. For example, there must be positive climate or other environmental benefits such as in renewable energy or energy-efficient infrastructures. In April, City Developments sold Singapore's first Green bond and now DBS is taking orders for Singapore's first offshore green bond, speak to your bank about their green finance options. 
 
10. Choose sustainable seafood.
Today, more than 75% of the world’s commercial marine stocks are being fished close to, already at, or beyond their capacity. Use WWF’s Singapore Seafood Guide when shopping for ingredients or eating seafood in restaurants. Each year, 73 million sharks are killed primarily for their fins to feed our demand for shark fin soup. Say no to restaurants or hotel chains that serve shark fin soup. 
As Ban-Ki Moon, former Secretary-General of the U.N. said “We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impact of climate change.” There is no silver bullet for addressing climate change or creating a more equitable world and being more sustainable will require a variety of strategies. While these may not all be relevant to you, try one that is. Every little bit helps.
 

 

About the author

 

Sarah is co-chair of Britcham’s sustainability and responsibility committee. This is the first of a series of sustainability articles looking at how everyone, no matter what their role, can have a positive impact. Watch out for an upcoming workshop in the new year, to help people find their purpose. 
 
Sarah is an Account Director at MullenLowe Salt, an award-winning strategic communications and sustainability agency whose mission is to create positive change through communication. They manage corporate and consumer communications for clients to enhance their external reputation, promote internal alignment, embed purpose and ensure impact. Clients include complex multinational companies (Unilever, Givaudan, Roche) and iconic Unilever brands (such as Lifebuoy, Closeup, Pepsodent and Ben & Jerry’s).
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