Pathways to carbon reduction through behavioural change

Posted on Feb 23, 2015

In December 2015, there will be an important gathering in Paris at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC). At this meeting, 193 nations will discuss whether or not an agreement can be made to limit the rise in the world’s temperature to 2° Celsius. The outcome of this monumental meeting will have a big impact on how businesses will address the challenge of reducing their carbon footprints. If the world community agrees with a maximum 2° limit, and regulations go into effect by 2020, then the way businesses operate will forever be changed. The question is how will “business-as-usual” change and what steps are needed for a company to reduce its carbon footprint?

For businesses that rely on fossil fuels for much of their power and operational needs, the idea of changing procedures and systems that are cost efficient and reliable may be a tall order. It is also important to keep in mind that these fuel sources have improved humanity’s standard of living beyond comprehension since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. They are integral to almost everything we do, but the upcoming UN meetings may call for change. As a result, a growing number of businesses are looking to implement changes. But, where does one begin?

Changing Habits with Energy Efficiency

A recent report in The Economist suggests, “the best hope… is a huge increase in energy efficiency…[by] using electricity efficiently and cheaply through better design, data-processing technology and changes in behaviour.” However, it is behavioural change that may be most critical to a company’s efforts of incorporating sustainability initiatives into its daily operations.

So, how does such a fundamental shift occur without causing inefficiencies and added costs? In today’s competitive environment, there is little room to invest in new procedures that are at risk of increasing costs or even failure. Fortunately, there are proven solutions and meaningful change is happening. For instance, in Canada, some of the largest industries, including transportation, oil and gas, retail and banking are already taking the necessary steps to become more sustainable while reducing their carbon footprints.

Changing the Conversation – an Expert’s Insight and Solutions

PR Associates recently discussed these sustainability initiatives with Mike Gerbis, president of the Delphi Group. As an Ottawa-based environmental and business “strategic consultancy,” Gerbis and his team work with companies to help reduce their carbon footprints as well as achieving greater sustainability in their operations.

The Delphi Five-Step Process for Change

Part of how the Delphi Group works with their clients is to help them understand what is involved in becoming sustainable. Mike Gerbis explains, “We have developed a series of software products and tools that focus on sustainability and improve efficiency of greenhouse gas management.” One of the tools Gerbis speaks of is Delphi’s five-step process. Often following a conversation about sustainability with a new client, Delphi’s five-step process begins by identifying issues affecting a sustainability strategy that includes environmental, social and good governance. The next step involves developing a strategic plan. The third step assesses the strengths and weakness of the company’s internal and external stakeholder engagement. This is followed by he fourth step involving the implementation and integration of the strategy. The final step focuses on communicating the plan with precision timing for all areas. Gerbis also emphasizes that through each stage of the process, there is constant review and evaluation to make adjustments where needed.

Realizing Meaningful Change is Possible

As Gerbis explains, “when our clients experience the results of our program, they see first-hand, how our initial due diligence leads to implementation and then final reporting. As a consequence, they begin to change their behaviour as the results become evident.” To maximize the benefits of implementing the right solution for each client, Delphi has produced a wide range of services. These include customized software and specialized tools that inform and help their customers with everything from optimizing trucking fleets to risk assessments for product portfolios and GHG emissions. Gerbis says, “when our clients understand how their business operations fit with our customized solutions, they realize meaningful and profitable change is possible.”

The Corporate Sustainability Equation

To add perspective to these actions and solutions, Gerbis also points out that environmental policy is only one part of the “corporate sustainability” equation. For example, there are social factors, including employee engagement, stakeholder engagement and protecting human rights that are critical to the process. As a result, Gerbis contends that “behavioural change” is indeed possible. The challenge is changing enough minds to spring into action and make the necessary deep cuts in carbon emissions. To avoid the potential adverse consequences of remaining with the “business as usual” approach, Gerbis is confident the customized solutions the Delphi Group offer will help increase confidence that meaningful change is both possible and profitable.

Photos courtesy of World Climate Ltd. and Delphi Group.

Edward Munro is a Communications & Sustainability Consultant with PR Associates, a Vancouver-based public relations and communication firm.

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