Jan-Hein Hemke, Managing Director of Facilicom UK & Ireland, explains why the cleaning and hygiene sector must not lose sight of its responsibility to the environment, despite the crisis we find ourselves in.
At the start of 2020, sustainability was very much at the top of the agenda. In fact, for the cleaning and hygiene sector, it had long been one of the most pressing issues, with many organisations making great strides towards becoming more environmentally friendly, both in products and practices.
However, with a global pandemic on our hands it seems that, for some, climate action has fallen down the list of priorities. Of course, tackling COVID-19 and safeguarding public health has become our primary concern, but it doesn’t mean that sustainability should take a back seat.
In fact, with UNICEF stating that climate change is the world’s ‘largest looming public health emergency’, we simply cannot afford to push further action to one side as the coronavirus crisis rumbles on.
Turning challenges into opportunity
We have never had a better chance of improving our planet’s health. As the world went into lockdown, there was breathing space for our environment. As our activity reduced due to movement restrictions, pollution levels also decreased.
In fact, according to reports, London alone experienced an almost 60% reduction in air pollution during lockdown. A similar pattern occurred across the globe, with many countries reporting cleaner air and lower emissions during restrictions. But as the world gets ‘back to work’, we must ensure that these green gains aren’t reversed.
We’ve already started to see some countries using the pandemic for good, by placing eco conditions on their coronavirus-related state support packages. UK government advisors called for a green recovery, recommending that funds earmarked for post COVID-19 economic recovery go to firms committing to reducing their carbon emissions.
France is following suit; when Air France asked for a multi-billion Euro bailout in April, the government set out a number of green conditions. From a significant reduction of domestic flights, to reducing its overall carbon-dioxide emissions and renewing its fleet with more efficient aircraft, the government’s finance ministry made it crystal
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clear the bailout only applied if Air France contributed environmentally.
However, just over the border in Germany, the government faced a huge backlash for granting a €9bn bailout to Lufthansa, with no green strings attached. It was a sign that ignoring our sustainability responsibilities is no longer acceptable.
In a further attempt to make business more sustainable, many European governments have also insisted that they won’t be offering support to those companies that are registered in a tax haven.
Many companies that don’t comply with tax laws have been declined bailout and furlough requests. This recognises the injustice of funding those that refuse to contribute to the system, and also marks a great opportunity to clean up on tax avoidance, making the business world a fairer place.
In today’s world, there’s no place for selfish, unethical business. We all have a role to play in supporting our economy and environment, but we must lead by example. This is something that I champion at Facilicom, from our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, to operating in a way that is ethical and sustainable towards both our customers and colleagues.
In an attempt to change the world for the better, we are currently in discussions with Social Enterprise UK about becoming a supporting member. This partnership would see us working with them to increase the level of Social Enterprises in our supply chain, delivering the same quality and competitive prices that we have become renowned for, whilst supporting businesses that are creating a real positive social change.
2020 has been one of the most challenging years for so many, from the risks to our health to the impacts on the economy and business. If we are to rebuild society, and make it a better, healthier place in the process, we mustn’t forget about our sustainability commitments.
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