By Pianpian Wang
Without a doubt, a major buzzerword of 2020 is coronavirus (or COVID19). Since January, this word has captured everyone’s attention because of its clinical features and the deriving impacts on society and the economy. Countries are experiencing different levels of “lock-down”, many industries are undertaking multiple losses, and people cannot go out to work. The world is on pause.
While the coronavirus is causing panic worldwide, there may be a bright side emerging for our sharing environment from social isolation. For example, China’s coronavirus lockdown likely saved tens of thousands of lives by slashing air pollution from factories and vehicles. The canals in Venice, Italy are clearer than they have been for a long time. Even dolphins have been spotted down in southern Italy, swimming in clearer water.
These facts do not necessarily mean that economic development and environmental protection are in the opposite direction. On the contrary, long-term environmental protection includes sustainable resource usage, which necessitates an inherent and essential capacity for resilience—the ability to recover from disturbance, to accommodate change, and to function in a state of health. In other words, the pandemic indicates that human behaviors under the pattern of business-as-usual practices have brought nature to its limit, and the pandemic has allowed us to rethink, reset and reform.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, many small and mid-size businesses were and continue to be on the frontline of carbon emission reduction, which is one of the outstanding topics of sustainable development for society. These small and mid-size businesses are eco-conscious and are doing their part by embedding carbon emission reduction to their business missions and models. However, small-and-mid-size companies are also the most vulnerable and are struggling for survival, and they will need the most help during and after this unusual period. Therefore, this article aims to offer some resources to these companies, while some tips could be useful to big corporations as well.
Use Available Financial Support for Survival
Small- and mid-sized businesses who cannot continue their businesses during the pandemic are suffering cash-flow problems. It is crucial for these businesses to receive extra money to maintain basic operations and survive. Here are some available resources that qualified small- and mid-size businesses can apply to:
- * Federal Small Business Administration– Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, SBA Express Bridge Loans
- * A guide developed by the US Sensate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship summarizes all kinds of federal programs.
- * New York State: The Shared Work Program
- * New York City: Employee Retention Grant Program, NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund
- * For other states, Workset.com recently compiled a list of relief programs for your reference.
Other than governmental financial relief programs at the federal and state level, some private institutes and social organizations are also offering loans to small- and mid-size companies. It is noted that business owners need to be careful and understand the legal obligations and consequences fully before applying for such loans.
It is also worth mentioning that Google has revealed a $340-million plan to help small- and mid-sized businesses via free Google Ads credits, which will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.
Continue the Measures that Save Money and Reduce Emissions
One misconception is that reducing carbon emissions requires funding. This statement is only partially true when you need to upgrade a cleaner facility, or are building environmentally friendly projects. There are also some initiatives that business owners can adopt easily without budget concerns. Small- and mid-size companies should use the pandemic as an opportunity to explore new ways to save money and reduce carbon emissions at the same time. It is worth mentioning that the following tips will remain valid after the hardship.
Tip 1: Reduce unnecessary business travels
If a meeting or a gathering or event can be fulfilled online, it would be wise to enjoy the advantage of technology and reduce the emissions generated from business operations.
Tip 2: Allow employees to work from home if it is feasible (to save energy, reduce waste and slow down other consumptions)
The pandemic shows us that it is possible to work from home for some professions. Plus, a few studies show that workers who work from home are 30% more productive. Not to mention the benefits of saving rents (in some cases), energy and reduce office waste. Plus, our daily travel harms the planet in a way that you might neglect, even the public transit.
Tip 3: Consider using/supporting local small businesses as suppliers to reduce transportation cost if it is feasible
If it works during the pandemic, why not stick to it to reduce emissions generated from long-distance transportation.
Tip 4: Compost Office Organic Waste if possible
Designate a trash bin to collect your office food waste and find a drop-off location near you. In New York City, you can check out the GrowNYC.
Tip 5: Consider using carbon-neutral businesses to be your business’s supplier
You could work with green companies who already achieved carbon neutrality, and it could potentially neutralize your upstream carbon emissions. For example, The Raw Office has teamed up with us to map all product emissions from raw material procurement, through manufacture, packaging, onward distribution and shipping of products to customers’ doorsteps, so their office supplies are carbon neutral. Other than The Raw Office, we have worked with clients in more than 16 industries and are happy to set up a conversation if you want to learn more.