Change is in the air: World Environment Day and the businesses building a better world

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Today is World Environment Day – an annual UN campaign which encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment.

Every year World Environment Day highlights important global issues like climate change, marine pollution and wildlife crime, which affect the natural world and the sustainability of our future.

This year’s global theme focuses on the blight of air pollution.

While plastic waste and the climate emergency have dominated news headlines around the world recently, less attention has been paid to air pollution – despite the fact that it poses a major health risk and causes around 3.8 million premature deaths around the world each year.

More than 6 billion people regularly breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and wellbeing at risk.

That’s more than 90 per cent of the world’s population.

In London alone, two million people are living with illegal levels of air pollution.

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has been taking measures to tackle the problem, such as moving the cleanest buses to the most polluted routes and introducing a charge for highly polluting vehicles that enter the city centre.

However he faced criticism recently for instructing the Extinction Rebellion activists to end their protests and allow London to return to “business as usual”.

Many environmentally conscious consumers, business owners and sustainability experts are blaming “business as usual” for creating many of the problems our environment is currently facing, and are calling for big business to change their ways.

Power generation, waste and transport are all major causes of air pollution where businesses of all sizes can make a positive impact to reduce their emissions and become more environmentally friendly.

Air pollution, social justice and the Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals aim to create a “better and more sustainable world” for us all by 2030 – by tackling issues from clean air and water, climate change, education, gender equality and global poverty.

The health and wellbeing of people and the planet are at the heart of the sustainable agenda – which means that air pollution is a global threat to delivering on this vision for a better world.

As with many environmental issues, there is a strong connection with social justice too.

Air pollution disproportionately affects people living in poorer, developing nations; the 3.8 million people who die each year from indoor air pollution are overwhelmingly from developing countries, where people living in poverty must cook with dirty fuels in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 97 per cent of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet air quality guidelines.

That percentage falls to 49 per cent in high income countries.

Businesses have a huge amount of power and influence over the products we buy, how they’re made and delivered to us and the quality of life for people working in global supply chains.

Their production and transportation processes have a huge impact on air pollution and other environmental issues too.

Around the world, more and more businesses are operating with a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit, to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, address social justice issues and create a better world.

Business as usual won’t solve the problems we’re facing, but positive impact businesses are embracing their role and creating a new normal – a world of responsible consumption and production where people and planet can thrive.

Across all industries and business types, changes can be made to improve air quality and tackle social and environmental issues.

Better products, better systems, better world

Tackling toxic ingredients

We know that the ingredients in our products can have a huge environmental impact.

Over the Christmas period, palm oil hit headlines through a major awareness campaign in the UK which led to many consumer boycotts.

But there are still some products and ingredients that we don’t often question, or where public awareness is lacking.

Many people have started switching to plastic free beauty products in an effort to tackle the waste generated by their beauty routine, but did you know that using scented products (such as perfumes and hair sprays) emits the same amount of chemical vapours as petroleum emissions from cars?

Not only is this causing air pollution, but synthetic chemicals in perfumes, air fresheners and other scented products can have harmful effects on our health and wellbeing too.

There are 3,999 chemicals approved for use in perfume, but in the EU only 26 must be declared on the label.

Some of the worst synthetic chemicals include hormone disruptors, which we may be spraying on our skin around our homes without even being aware.

Conventional perfumes can make us feel ill, manifesting in headaches, lethargy and asthma-like symptoms.

Thankfully demand for natural products is increasing, and ethical businesses are working hard to create quality products that do no harm.

When Melissa started Awake Organics, she committed to making beauty products with food grade, organic and sustainable ingredients.

They’re also piloting a packaging return program that will enable you to earn points towards your next purchase by sending back your empty jars – called the Zero Waste 500 Club.

By April 1, 2020, Awake Organics aim to fully refurbish 500 empty jars and give them a new life.

The energy saved by reusing 500 jars in one year will be equal to 4 Acres of forest absorbing 4.3 tonnes of CO2!

Supply chain transparency

Manufacturing across industries is having a huge impact on emissions, water and air pollution.

Power generation which relies on burning fossil fuels pollutes the air, which is why programmes that increase energy efficiency and production from renewable sources have a direct impact on air quality.

Many industries involve complex supply chains, which can make it harder to ensure ethical and sustainable production.

This is particularly evident in the fashion industry, which is currently responsible for 10 percent of global carbon emissions – and that figure is set to rise by more than 60 percent by 2030.

Clothing supply chains involve many different individuals, factories and production systems, from raw materials through to distribution.

When the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 killed over a thousand garment workers in Bangladesh, many fashion brands were criticised for not taking responsibility, and most didn’t even know that they were using those factories.

Thankfully, consumer interest in ethical and sustainable fashion is on the rise. In 2018, searches for “sustainable fashion” increased by 66 per cent.

Consumers want more transparency from fashion brands, and ethical entrepreneurs are meeting their demand.

One such entrepreneur is designer Anna Herman, who isn’t afraid to ask her suppliers the tough questions to ensure the highest ethical and eco standards are met.

Herman’s Eco Inc. is Based in Montana and all designs are made in America using natural fibres, including organic cotton and hemp.

As we become increasingly aware of the diminishing insect populations and the threat posed to bees and pollinators, it’s becoming increasingly important to opt for organic food, cotton and products that haven’t been produced with pesticides.

The dying process in textile design can also be a huge contributor to pollution.

Roughly 17 to 20 per cent of industrial water pollution is caused by fabric dyes and treatments, with an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals used to bleach, treat, and brighten our clothes.

Hermans Eco does hand dying using low impact and natural dyes to reduce their impact on marine life and the environment, and they choose to avoid dark colours, as they cause more pollution from dye runoff.

Protecting endangered species

Pollution causes multiple forms of contamination to the air, land and waterways.

Even landscapes that appear pristine can experience the impact of pollution from sources located thousands of miles away.

Pollution isn’t just a risk to human health either. It can have a toxic impact on animals, birds and marine life, and can contaminate food chains, spreading the damage even further.

Hermans Eco have an endangered species line that creates awareness of the plight of animals and the natural world.

Another impact entrepreneur fighting for animals is author and ethical marketer Jess Lohmann.

Jess recently published ‘Lily Bowers & The Uninvited Guest’ – her first novel in a series of middle-grade books that will show kids that they have the power and influence to make a difference and change the world.

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Often we can feel too small to change anything. In the face of complex supply chains, global political systems and multinational corporations, individual consumers are left wondering what difference they can really make.

But by voting with our wallets, supporting ethical and sustainable brands and making eco friendly lifestyle choices, we can use our spending power as an activism tool – to demonstrate that we want businesses and politicians to protect the planet.

We can also encourage the next generation to respect nature and make conscious choices with the environment in mind, so that they can play a role in creating a more sustainable future too.

Supporting Earth Hero brands

It’s not always easy running an eco friendly small business.

Huge corporations have bigger advertising budgets and when they don’t prioritise people or the planet, they can cut costs and squeeze profit margins to sell their products at lower prices.

To create a more sustainable world, we need to change consumer buying habits – promote the “buy less, choose well, make it last” lifestyle and make ethical and sustainable products the most desirable, profitable and successful option on the market.

At Ethical Hour, that’s the kind of world we’re working to create – which is why we work with ethical and sustainable brands to build marketing strategies that turn changemakers into thought leaders for their cause.

Our community of changemakers have already helped us plant trees this month – one of the most effective ways of absorbing carbon and purifying the air.

When it comes to starting and growing an impact business, entrepreneurs can benefit from a wide range of support, from connecting and collaborating with like-minded changemakers, to measuring and reporting impact, developing a marketing and growth strategy and establishing supply chains.

Although ethical and sustainable business might not be the norm yet, there’s a whole community of changemakers and business supporters working hard to make it happen.

We believe that nobody can create a better, more sustainable world alone, which is why we’re also proud to be associated with like-minded service providers who share our vision.

At Ethical Brand Marketing, Jess Lohmann works with the brands that “dare to be rare” – those animal and planet-saving leaders who are protecting endangered species through their impact business.

“I want my daughter’s grandchildren to be able to walk outside and breathe healthy air. To drink clean water. I want them to not have to read about incredible species in history books. If we continue with our destructive ways, we’ll more quickly drive our future generations to extinction. If we become more mindful as a whole, we’ll not only become physically healthier, but mentally as well.”

– Jess Lohmann, Ethical Brand Marketing.

To be one of the brands that goes first and paves the way as a positive example takes bravery.

Angela Wallace understands that, which is why she partners with courageous founders to empower and equip them to build businesses that make the world a better place.

Angela has more than ten years of experience working in brand strategy, social enterprises, start-ups and charities, which means she has a detailed understanding of the unique opportunities and challenges facing purpose-driven businesses.

Her dream for 2020 is for her team to work globally with more than 500 consumer product brand founders to train them in conscious capitalism to design for world-changing impact.

Angela is also currently training in the very first cohort of 18 Conscious Capitalist Consultants and will be officially certified in April 2020 – she is the only trainee based in Canada.

“The climate crisis has never been more urgent, yet we see complacency from world leaders . Now more than ever, we hope to empower citizens and hold companies and governments accountable for climate action.”

– Angela Wallace

Running a brave, changemaker brand is all about challenging the status quo – doing things a new and better way. Which is why having an expert by your side as a sounding board, guide and supporter can make all the difference.

Together, these ethical service providers, brand owners and thought leaders are creating an eco system for change  – where consumers are empowered to make more planet friendly purchases.

They’re just a few shining examples of the new wave of business. A new model with responsible consumption and production at its core, which considers the planet to be a core stakeholder and prioritises long term sustainability over short term profit.

This isn’t just about survival. It’s about creating a better world – a more vibrant, thriving world full of opportunities.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals could create 380 million jobs and help unlock at least $12 trillion in opportunities for business by 2030.

Supporting ethical and sustainable businesses is a way we can all help bring our vision for a cleaner, better, more eco-friendly world to life for us all.

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