Yesterday, 22nd April 2018, was Earth Day and you might’ve seen a lot of chat about it on social media, in the news and on company’s websites. The focus this year has been on ending plastic pollution and with good reason. If you’ve ever walked along a beach after a high tide then you’ll have seen the amount of debris washed up on shore – and it’s getting worse.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world’s largest accumulation of ocean plastic located between Hawaii and California, is estimated to be somewhere between the size of Texas (three times the size of the UK) and somewhere around the size of Russia. This phenomenon is caused by the gyre of ocean currents – imagine a massive whirlpool which traps the plastic in the centre. The scale of that is frightening but it’s not just a visual eyesore because as the plastic degrades in to smaller pieces it is ingested by fish which are then eaten by bigger fish which humans then eat (ok, that’s maybe a bit simplistic but it shortens the tale).
The Earth is pretty screwed. Scientists were talking about global warming back when I started my Geography undergrad at Dundee University in 1995, but it was suggested by some at the time that the temperature increase could’ve been a natural variation of the earth’s climate. For anyone who has seen the documentary Chasing Ice you’d struggle to deny that humans have had an impact on this and research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that it’s 90% likely that human activity has caused more recent global warming.
But what’s it got to do with Breaking Strain? We’re just an event management company, right? We all have a part to play. Governments have to set policy and legislation to force companies to adhere to emission, waste and recycling rates; councils need to improve their recycling uplifts and facilities and individuals need to use those when they’re available. But brands have a massive part to play too.
At Breaking Strain we love the planet and are incredibly fortunate to work in the outdoors doing a job we love. We run the trails, paddle in the sea and trek in the world’s cold places. But we also recognise that our operations can have an impact on these environments. As such, in 2016 we decided to look critically at what we were doing as a company regarding resource efficiency and sustainability and whether we could improve, so we signed up to the Resource Efficiency Pledge.
Our focus for the Resource Efficiency Pledge has been on business processes and staff engagement to get these embedded in the company whilst we are still small enough to make dynamic decisions. This will be part of our culture going forward and the staff we use will share this vision.
For the Bronze Pledge (achieved in January 2018) we looked to formalise things we were already doing by making the following commitments to:
- Improve our recycling rates: Recycling has been a feature of our events since the Sally Challenge back in 2011 but formalised at Run the Blades since 2015, culminating in almost 78% of our waste being recycled in 2017. More still needs to be done but with better infrastructure, signage and information to participants we aim to achieve a 90% recycling rate at our events by 2020.
- Take the Keep Scotland Beautiful: Clean Up Scotland Pledge: As part of our events we ensure that the routes we use are clear of litter both before (litter identified during route marking is removed) and after (all our routes are cleared of litter and signage within 24 hours of our event finishing). This is built in to our Operational Plans and is robustly adhered to.
- Implement an Asset Register: This makes good business sense as well as ensuring we are resource efficient by ensuring that we don’t double purchase, we repair gear rather than throwing it away and we have a record of what equipment we hold which ensures a robust standard testing regime for all our kit. Good for the environment. Good for us.
For the Silver Pledge (achieved mid-April 2018) we looked more strategically to set direction and ensure that resource efficiency and sustainability were embedded in the company:
- Develop an environmental policy: This was a quick win for us as our environmental policy has been in place for about a year. This sets the strategic direction for our work as a company, especially during our events and links in to ISO 9001:2015 where we look to continually improve.
- Assign senior management responsibility: Again a fairly seamless process to formalise who in the company is responsible for sustainability and resource efficiency.
- Including resource efficiency in our staff induction process: This was added to our existing staff induction process.
For the Gold Pledge we’ll be working towards the following:
- Setting senior management agenda: this means that resource efficiency and sustainability will be included as a standing item at all our meetings.
- Ensuring that we source external training on sustainability and resource efficiency: We’ll be working through the Resource Efficient Scotland Green Champions Training programme.
- Including resource efficiency in to all job descriptions.
Our long term aim is that, alongside delivering safe and enjoyable events, we will work towards becoming a B Corp organisation. “A B Corp is a company that redefines success in business – it looks at the positive impact on people and on planet as well as on profit. A B Corp is a for-profit business that has social and/or environmental outcomes as part of its mission. They are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency”.
Anything that preserves the world’s oceans, cold regions, hills and forests is good with us.
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