Tech companies must approach World Earth Day with a strategy

WORLD Earth Day, which is celebrated today, began as a form of outcry for greater environmental awareness, protection and rights springing from an oil spill incident by an American petroluem company. Fast forward 55 years later, it is a trend for organisations to momentarily engage in Earth Day before reverting to type.

Instead of a corporate greenwashing article that praises the bare minimum being done by companies as public relations stunts on Earth Day, here are some options tech companies could adopt not only to celebrate April 22, but also diminish their environmental impact in the long run.

Setting realistic goals

For those serious about mitigating the impact of their operations on the environment, long and short term goals need to be set. In fact, this will prove far more beneficial in the long run rather than impromptu stunts like buying solar panels and being done with it.

Due to the vast number of objectives that can be adopted for Earth Day and moving forward, companies have such a wealth of options available that whether they take on a small or big amount, it will still be valuable to the environment.

Examples of environmental goals companies can strive towards:

▶ Active and progressive energy reduction

▶ Acquire insights from environmental consultants

▶ Form an environmental management team

▶ Office supply and paper waste reduction

▶ Switching to sustainable packaging

▶ Switching out tech peripherals to more sustainable, eco-friendly options

$!A 2023 study found that hybrid workers who work from home can reduce carbon footprint by 11% to 29%.

Reduce and recycle

One of the biggest types of waste surplus in the world is electronic waste (e-waste). It is a global issue and Malaysia is no stranger to it. Last month saw local authorities seizing 2,000 tonnes of e-waste from a factory in Seremban.

Though the waste is believed to have come from the US and China, local tech enterprises can still do their part in the global effort, such as having an electronics recycling programme within their companies. To encourage recycling internally, give incentives for contributing employees.

An extension to that and for e-waste generated by the company, find external recycling providers. A step beyond the above is creating a dynamic network for e-waste recycling by looping others in the supply chain to encourage the recycling, along with working with non-profit organisations to perform waste clean-up in affected areas.

$!Tech companies must reduce the 50 million tonnes of e-waste produced yearly.

Options for remote work

Though the prehistoric management in other industries are known for pushing back against allowing their employees to work remotely, tech companies are not beholden to such archaic labour models.

By shifting to remote work, certain tech entities will need to make upgrades to their old technology and ageing business models, but the net positive far outweighs any negatives. For instance, employees offered remote work will free up time and resources, while the tech company as a whole will benefit from digitising and streamlining operations.

As Earth Day represents environmental progress, change is inevitable particularly for tech industries. One of the environmental upsides to remote work is the reduction of fossil fuel usage due to employees not commuting to work, especially in Malaysia’s ever-increasing traffic congestion.

Meanwhile, auxiliary benefits include a shift towards green tech such as cloud storage over energy-intensive traditional hardware, the reduction of office expenditure and identifying and phasing out outdated items for eco and energy-friendly alternatives.

$!A simple move to install solar panels for Earth Day will still make an impact.

Carbon reduction

Carbon footprint has been regularly trotted out in environmental discourse for the past three decades as it is a crucial measurement when it comes to ecological footprint particularly as humans continue to colonise the planet in an almost unregulated manner.

Everyone and everything has a carbon footprint, especially tech companies. Every individual working for tech companies expels greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere, from work commute right down to PCs being turned on.

A feasible option to negate the carbon footprint of tech operations is investing in carbon offsetting programmes to balance out their own carbon footprints, as these programmes are commonly designed to reduce future emissions by reducing or storing carbon emissions. This was seen last year when Malaysia Airlines launched its voluntary carbon offset programme.

Companies may also opt for alternative options more in line with their specialty, such as emissions reduction from waste or bankrolling upcoming carbon capture tech.

No matter how tech companies choose to approach Earth Day, it has to be done with a goal and sustainability in mind.