Part of being a socially and environmentally responsible business means prioritizing the protection of the health of your employees as well as the environment. Joining the ranks of sustainably-minded companies means not only adhering to federal environmental standards, but also going the extra mile to invest in the renewable energy that our planet so desperately needs. By converting to alternative energy and keeping track of waste management, businesses are looking towards the future of the environment, as well as their employees and their employees’ families.
Adhering to Environmental Standards
Although environmental standards are only the beginning of what a business needs to abide by to be socially and environmentally responsible, they are extremely important. Even as a small business, not following through on regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can result in hefty fines. To have the opportunity to grow as a business, you should research which regulations apply to you and how to comply with them.
Agricultural businesses apply to business owners who either grow crops or raise animals for monetary gain. These businesses must abide by the most laws, including:
- The Clean Air Act: This requires businesses to obtain clear air permits within their first year of opening in an attempt to limit the levels of pollutants they emit. This is done in hopes of protecting air resources and fostering better public health.
- The Clean Water Act: This act bans sources of pollution in an attempt to repair and conserve the chemical properties and overall cleanliness of the waters.
- Toxic Substances Control Act: The EPA has the authority to regulate commercial chemicals for agricultural use to ensure they don’t pose any toxic risks.
For employees working with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, toxic substances can lead to serious risks, such as occupational cancer. When a person contracts cancer due to exposure to carcinogens during the course of work-related duties, they can often take legal action to be compensated by the employer.
The risk of this disease is higher among various occupations around the U.S. The National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health have found that their studies continue to support reports that farmers are at a higher risk of contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
All retail businesses must ensure regulatory compliance by properly managing and monitoring their buildings, other facilities, transportation, supply chains, merchandising, and customer programs. The following acts apply to retail businesses:
- Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program: This program requires greenhouse gas emission data to be reported to the EPA by retail facilities that emit greenhouse gases.
- Merchandising Compliance: In order to contain substances that have the potential to hurt the ozone layer, the EPA regulates all products sold by businesses.
Businesses that involve the moving of cargo or passengers are considered part of the transportation sector. This industry is subject to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, as well as other regulations that deal with clean resources, some of which include:
- National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: The EPA regulates a long list of hazardous air pollutant compounds.
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System: This system uses permits to help the EPA regulate business wastewater production.
Other industries in the U.S., including the construction and healthcare industries, have their own personal set of regulations that are specific to them and that the EPA enforces to help protect people and the environment. However, now that these regulations are the standard, businesses should go above and beyond to do their part in sustainability efforts.
Social and Environmental Sustainability
One of the best and most straightforward ways to implement more socially and environmentally sustainable policies includes adhering to fair trade business policies, which are meant to prioritize the wellness and economic stability of disadvantaged producers around the world. Fair trade is one of the top standards of ethics for businesses that aim to cause the least amount of harm to the people they work with.
Although there are various labels for fair trade standards, they all are centered around supporting fair pay, positive working conditions, anti-discrimination, and respecting cultural identity. The policies are centered around fair economic practices that help producers running small operations. Businesses that implement fair trade policies often gain the attention of socially and environmentally responsible consumers.
This is reflected in an experiment that studied the consumer response to fair trade labels and price increases on various coffee brands. Fair trade labels helped increase coffee sales — even when the coffee brand became more expensive. However, brands without a fair trade label experienced a dramatic drop in sales when prices increased.
Fair trade is a great step towards socially sustainable business policies, but it’s also important to make sure that your business is being a leader in workplace safety and sustainability on your own turf. Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that in 2016, there were 5,190 work-related deaths in the U.S. In order to keep your workplace safe, it’s important to take precautionary measures, such as extensive training and safety workshops that can give employees the safety tools they need.
The most important part of being a business is maintaining the trust of your employees by providing them with a safe work environment where they don’t have to worry about being injured. To keep your business as safe as possible, it may be beneficial to hire an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist to assess your business’ safety practices.
A professional can help ensure you’re going over the workplace safety legislation that is covered in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). In 1970, this law was passed to ensure that workplace environments removed notable hazards, like the presence of toxic chemicals, machinery risks, dangerous temperatures, or unsanitary conditions. They created specific regulations for the construction, maritime, and agricultural industries.
Protecting the health of your employees and the environment means going the extra mile to implement socially and environmentally responsible business practices. This can entail exploring alternative energy, working towards fair trade certification, and creating a safe work environment for everyone involved with your business. Providing this type of work relationship and environment for clients, employees, and suppliers can help elevate your businesses to a new level of success.
Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices, head to the mountains and read novels based in the American Southwest.