How can online businesses embrace environmentalism in 2021?

Growing in popular support and importance, environmentalism should be a major concern for every forward-thinking business 

There are some great reasons why we’ve seen more online businesses embrace environmentalism in recent years, and we can expect this trend to continue throughout 2020. Here’s a closer look at why and how.

Protecting the world around us — the world that gave rise to us — has always been a vital concern, but for a long time the business world avoided treating it as something warranting urgent action. Profit was the primary goal. Anything else mattered only as much as it affected profitability, no matter how hard environmentalists fought to make corporations see reason.

In recent years, though, things have finally started to change. There are two key reasons for this, both stemming from the spread of environmental awareness through the internet.

Firstly, it’s increasingly likely that the owners, managers and/or employees of a company will care enough about environmentalism to put it on a par with profit as a corporate objective. Many entrepreneurs starting businesses today are doing so in an effort to drive positive change.

Secondly, even when companies don’t directly acknowledge the importance of addressing environmental issues, they can’t help but acknowledge the extent to which their reputations rest on how environmentally conscious they are. Companies that attempt to be environmentally responsible will see their reputations enhanced. Those that don’t will attract criticism.

As I write this, the world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and all businesses that can operate online are now doing so as a result of lockdown measures (it’s one of the positives stemming from this terrible situation). The question we’ll consider here is how online businesses can embrace environmentalism as 2020 rolls on. Let’s begin:

They can donate funds to green charities

It’s important for a company to be profitable so the bills can be paid, the employees can get ahead, and the business can grow — but also so some of its revenue can go towards charities that address environmental issues. Any business can commit to donating a certain percentage of everything it makes (maybe 1%) to green charities such as 350.

They don’t need to stop at their regular revenue streams, though. Any business can set up an online store (minimal investment is required), stock it with branded merchandise (ideally green-themed), and donate all profits — or even all revenue — to green charities. Even if a given business has little overlap with the environmentalism industry, it can still support it.

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They can help other companies move online

The transition away from the traditional office has been really tough for some businesses, and many are uncertain about how to proceed when it’s possible to resume normal operations. The more companies that operate online, the better: it demands less energy for regular operations, and allows levels of transport to go down significantly.

Consequently, any online business with some sway in its niche can extol the virtues of the online model, explaining the advantages. More and more operations that would previously have functioned through in-person contact are now automated: mortgage broker Breezeful uses machine learning to compare offers, for instance, and online style service Nordstrom Trunk Club takes the personalized in-store fashion experience and removes the store from the equation.

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They can rationally discuss relevant issues

It isn’t always viable for a business to financially support environmentalist causes, particularly during a time of crisis, but much can still be achieved through the discussion of relevant issues and the promotion of green companies. Most brands today use social media, particularly online brands that need to be proactive. They can leverage their followers to great effect.

Even something as simple as spreading well-researched information about climate change can make a big difference. There’s so much misinformation going around today — particularly through social media — that the support of another organization with some sway (however little) will certainly be welcome to those battling against it.

They can partner with responsible brands

Most businesses can’t ultimately work alone, and that still applies to online businesses. They don’t have the in-house resources to get everything done themselves. Think about everything that goes into the creation and maintenance of a strong online brand: the slick website, the clear guidelines, the robust customer support, the eye-catching graphics, etc.

By committing to partnering only with other brands that make similar efforts to embrace environmentalism, online businesses can not only do more good for the world but also send a clear message to other growing companies: if they want to establish mutually-beneficial working relationships, they’ll need to show that they care about more than just making money.

They can use green energy providers

Online businesses can avoid some of the waste that comes from the traditional business model, but not all of it. Indeed, they need to use more electricity to keep everything running. Some of that electricity will be sourced through service and hosting providers, while the rest of it (any used at the central office — if there is one — and/or the homes of the employees) will be paid for directly through conventional energy providers.

How can online businesses embrace environmentalism in 2020?
Image credit: Piqsels

Not all energy providers are equally supportive of environmental issues, so it’s important to choose carefully. Look for green hosting, and certainly cover any direct energy use through a green provider (Finder has a good comparison of services). In many cases, it doesn’t cost anything more to use a green provider, and if it does then it’s a cost worth paying.

When you operate entirely online (and the movement of your business is limited), you can’t do as much for environmental issues, but you can still do a lot. By relying on green energy, supporting responsible brands, discussing vital issues, and donating what they can, online businesses can seriously embrace environmentalism throughout 2020.

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