HomeIndustry SectorsEnergy EfficiencyOp-ed: Tackling emissions via multi-generational stakeholders

Op-ed: Tackling emissions via multi-generational stakeholders

Under the restrictions of the recent lockdown, Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions were reduced by an unprecedented 17% (when compared to levels in 2019).

The reduction in emissions was due to most industrial and economic activity being suspended writes Eckart Zollner, head of business development at EDS Systems.

This incredible feat in emission reduction would, unfortunately, need to be maintained for at least 30 years to make a real impact. Currently, industries and economic activity all over the world have resumed operations. So, where does this leave us?

With national Arbour Day on the 1st of September and the entire month dedicated to celebrating trees, members of society across all generations should be encouraged to participate in community “greening” events to improve the health and beauty of the local environment and propose a green future for South Africa. This, as we resume operations during level two of the national lockdown.

One planet, one shared responsibility

It’s easy to pass the buck when it comes to environmental accountability as we tend to assume that it is a corporate problem.

Interestingly enough, although the millennial generation is perceived to be most eco-conscious, older generations are now gently leading the charge and taking steps to care for the planet. This is exactly as it should be because accountability for environmental stewardship starts at an individual level.

However, in order to make an even bigger difference, people need to start rallying together and start making a difference on a business and corporate level. This means implementing green initiatives across organisations and sectors. One can already see governments pushing companies to make an effort by implementing legislation such as the Carbon Tax Act.

But, what is global warming?

Global warming is a continuous temperature increase of the earth’s atmosphere that is explained by the greenhouse effect caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other manmade pollutants. These pollutants collect in the atmosphere, absorb and retain sunlight and solar radiation from the earth’s surface, slowly pushing temperatures higher.

Climate change is already having devastating, long-lasting effects and many of the physical consequences of global warming are already visible. These are evident with extreme weather patterns, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and seasonal timing changes which in turn impacts food and water security severely, placing human and animal health and life at risk.

Is there a green generational difference?

Although millennials (accounting for 30% of the world’s population, born between 1980 and 2000) are considered the most vocal about environmental and social issues, it’s important to remember that Baby Boomers were the original environmentalists.

While millennials place importance on feeling connected to a company’s mission beyond profit, Baby Boomers reached adulthood at a time when the connections between humans and our environment were examined in powerful ways. Born right after World War II between 1946 and 1964, their ‘flower power’ is ultimately responsible for the modern-day eco-consciousness movement.

If there was a generational cause for concern, it would be Generation X.

A smaller generation (only 41 million) born between 1965 and 1979, these were our first techies. Generation Xers started their careers during the dot-com bubble and living through three global recessions has made them impervious to change.

According to the Generation X Report, they are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening, and they don’t spend much time worrying about it either.

So, what can we do about it? Bring it all together

With a clear picture of an organisation’s carbon footprint, multi-generational stakeholders need to be properly engaged to ensure the planning, adoption and success of decarbonisation efforts.

Despite Generation Xers’ cynical nature, they are pragmatic and driven to achieve real results, and where they are stimulated in a meaningful manner, their appetite for change and ability to find alternative solutions can be leveraged for good and when combined with Boomer ideals and held to account by millennials, Xers have the power to achieve a greener future.

What does it take? All generational stakeholders putting aside their differences and aligning to a common set of goals and objectives, playing their part according to their strengths instead of dismissing environmental concern as “someone else’s problem”.

All generations need to take part in the greening of society, from the celebratory actions taken during Arbour month to demanding carbon-conscious brands.

It starts with your business

In addition to engaging stakeholders across the organisation in a manner that appeals to their generational style, businesses need to examine ways to reduce their emissions, while simultaneously cleaning up their impact on the environment.

This involves investigating opportunities to reduce or eliminate emissions from production, along with embracing cleaner energy alternatives to traditional fossil-based fuels.

Before this is possible, it is necessary to have an understanding of the company’s carbon footprint as a starting point for strategising decarbonisation measures. This is where carbon analytics tools provide value, along with the ability to visualise emissions sources.

Such tools not only remove the complexity from the mandatory GHG reporting, but furthermore provide a near real-time view on GHG emissions and the effect of a manufacturing process change. By simply plugging in their emissions or process data, it is possible to generate a report that classifies emissions by source, while calculating liability in terms of the Carbon Tax Act.

Guest Contributor
The views expressed in this article by the author are not necessarily those of the publishers and/or association partners. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the publisher and editors cannot be held responsible for any inaccurate information supplied and/or published.