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Be a champion for sustainability impact, not optics

Man watering plant

Act now, have a sustainable company culture and create strong partnerships are three ways to ensure your company is making a positive carbon impact. 

As more companies take a stance on climate change, the question arises: Will they make a genuine impact, or will their efforts begin and end with feel-good promises? If you are one of the many seeking to champion sustainability efforts within your company, you may feel it’s a challenge to create real impact. But remember, sustainability isn’t just about doing "the right thing" — it’s a business imperative. If your company fails to protect the planet, you compromise the longevity of your business. 

As director of Shopify’s Sustainability Fund, it’s my job to make sure our investments advance two primary goals: empower entrepreneurs; and build a company that will see in the next century. By aligning your sustainability approach with your corporate mission, you’ll position yourself for maximum impact. Whether you’re just getting started or want to improve your current efforts to reverse climate change, here’s where you need to focus. 

There’s no need to wait until you have it all mapped out to start supporting carbon removal projects that capture your historic emissions.

Don’t forsake action for planning

Many companies follow a very linear path when putting together their sustainability plans — measure, then reduce and finally offset. Rather than doing everything linearly, consider buying and supporting carbon removal while you’re researching and developing your plan for reduction initiatives. It’s critical to pull together data to find opportunities for reductions in your company, but there’s no need to wait until you have it all mapped out to start supporting carbon removal projects that capture your historic emissions, then lock them away for the long-term. Take advantage of short-term opportunities while supporting solutions that permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere; these are imperative to go beyond emissions reductions and remediate the atmosphere. 

Ensure company culture supports sustainability goals

When creating a mission-driven sustainability plan, you need to look at your company culture. For instance, as companies discuss bringing employees back into the office, they must examine the environmental impact of each option. While a fully remote working model may seem better for the environment on the surface — obviously deleting employees’ commutes has climate benefits — this option essentially takes office-centric emissions and scatters them around to each employee’s home. Remote work can help reduce climate impact, but it’s not a fix-all solution. Make sure your company decisions align with your sustainability commitments. 

Forge partnerships for long-term results

Companies have an historic opportunity right now to become trailblazers, collaborating and pooling parts of their budgets to purchase high-quality offsets before they become mainstream. If parts of your sustainability budget can be spent on atmospheric capture with long-term storage — such as taking biomass, refining that into bio-oil and storing it underground — you can help emerging technologies become available on a wider scale. At Shopify, we encourage collaboration between businesses working towards common climate goals. However, we recognize that a gap exists in the current ecosystem, where companies have to set up their own climate teams and initiatives without a lot of guidance or support. That’s why we released our Carbon Removal Playbook — to help companies follow our lead, capitalize on our learnings and further sustainability initiatives around the globe. 

We need to get sustainability right, and claiming a seat at the table is just the start. To make sure your climate change initiatives have a real, lasting impact, they must be approached as an integral part of your holistic business strategy and not kept isolated in a corporate social responsibility silo. To reverse climate change, the planet’s health must become a core consideration across company programs and operations and prioritized by corporate leaders. 

The truth is, the climate crisis is a long-term issue that requires long-term solutions. It’s important that companies do their part by committing to practices that serve as real solutions as opposed to only temporary solves. By placing bets on high-potential, emerging technologies that permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere, we can play a crucial role in fighting climate change. 

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