Earth Overshoot Day and the Role of Manufacturers
May 18, 2020
Over the past few months, companies have had to adapt a great deal and in some instances have even had to revaluate their entire operations. For manufacturers, maintaining momentum on sustainability plans and continuing eco-conscious campaigns may no longer feel essential in the face of more pressing economic challenges. However, it is more important than ever before to continue driving towards sustainability goals and communicating progress with customers, consumers and policy makers. Doing so will help ensure that there is no loss of momentum towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
If the recent pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we are a single global community that must cooperate and share information in order to overcome threats. Climate change and the waste crisis are no exceptions, and with the recent show of global cooperation, the growing concern over society’s environmental impact, and numerous environmental policies hanging in the air, now is the perfect time to strengthen a stance on sustainability.
The shared global threat of climate change may seem intangible and vast, but there is one particular day in the year that helps bring it into focus. If this year had not been witness to lockdowns, many environmental organisations and sustainable-minded companies would have been watching closely to see whether or not new policies and eco-campaigns successfully moved 2020’s Earth Overshoot Day later in the year than it was in 2019. The day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day not only serves as a warning marker on our calendars, but also symbolises a threat to our planet that we all share and that we can all help overcome if we are willing to collaborate. It also provides a target by which to measure our progress and success.
A lasting positive impact
Here, manufacturers have a unique opportunity and ability to make a lasting positive impact. To shift this yearly milestone from a looming problem into something actionable, partners of Earth Overshoot Day have been campaigning to #MoveTheDate further back in the year, as well as designing solutions by which to accomplish this. Many of these solutions fall into five categories: Cities, Energy, Food, Planet and Population (learn more at www.overshootday.org). Manufacturers play a key role in almost all of these areas and can influence the way we build our world, as well as the materials we use to build it. Being in this role creates agents of change – visionaries that enable companies to pave the way to a truly more sustainable future. Unfortunately, without clear targets and goals, this might be hard to accomplish.
This is where a global, shared goal comes into play: prioritising Earth Overshoot Day can help manufacturers shape a sustainability plan that reaches beyond their own companies, motivates change by having a tangible goal to #MoveTheDate, and connects to others inside and outside the industry on a common mission. To embrace a role as changemaker and build a reputation in sustainability, manufacturers must recognise their potential to improve the environment on a global scale as well as drive change towards a circular economy. To achieve this, they need to be able to communicate to the public so that decision makers may lend support instead of putting up roadblocks.
The role of communication
Communicating sustainability messages to the public and establishing leadership in environmental protection is essential to maximise the positive change you want to make in the world. Once you have committed to your sustainability goals and started taking the first steps to achieving them (no greenwashing, please!), sharing your ambitions and the steps you’re taking ensures accountability and can even contribute to achieving what you set out to do.
It allows you to bring in partners, whether these are your suppliers or customers, and get feedback on what you are planning to do. Of course, here it helps to approach the media who can amplify your message. Be transparent and share your actions on a wide variety of topics. In addition to furthering your sustainability ambitions, this can even establish you as a thought leader in the sustainability space. This requires that your actions and messaging are aligned.
Target the right audience – be they suppliers or customers – and adapt your messages so they carry the desired weight. You can also start to develop relationships with sustainability, environmental and circular economy focused journalists, find opportunities to speak in front of the press on panels and at events, conduct research that will be of use to a wider range of players (including consumers), or build cross-industry partnerships to support industry-wide sustainability goals and generate news.
Consider what impact your company can have in helping #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day, and how you might best communicate your mission to the press. While we are facing the current crisis, we can use this time to reflect on and strengthen our sustainability goals. Let’s break into next year stronger and more focused than ever, ready to lead the pack towards a more sustainable future for our rapidly evolving world.