The pandemic has changed the world, and as we come out of Test & Go and look toward the future, we should consider whether we want to return to business as usual or change how things are done.
The term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was coined by Economist Howard Bowen in his book Social Responsibilities of the Businessmen’, published in 1953. He defined it as, “The obligations of businessmen to pursue those policies which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society.” The main problem with CSR is that it lacks transparency and accountability.
In 2006 a new iteration of CSR was introduced called B-Corporations with the lofty goal of transforming the economic system by changing how business is done. Instead of focusing on the single-minded drive for profits, a B-Corporation has a triple bottom line that also considers their environmental impact and the community they serve.
The main difference to CSR is that to become a B-Corporation there is a lengthy certification process and the businesses are regularly audited to ensure they are meeting standards. Some well-known businesses that are B-Corporations include The Body Shop, AllBirds, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Patagonia. They are just a few of the 4,850 B-Corporations located in 79 countries in over 150 different industries.
While most local businesses are not B-Corporations there are still things that they can do to lower their environmental impact, while saving money.
1. Offer vegan/vegetarian options on your menu ‒ A single burger uses the same amount of water as two months of showering. Studies show that 50% of Americans are trying to reduce their meat consumption and over one-third of Europeans are, too. Having plant-based menu options just makes good business sense. If you are not sure where to start, local chef Jamie Raftery, who was trained at Michelin-star restaurants, shares some of his plant-based recipes on his website Holistic Chef Academy.
2. Use soapnuts ‒ These are grown sustainably, inexpensive to buy, don’t use palm oils (which cause deforestation), are hypo-allergenic, don’t leave a perfumey smell and are actually berries, so they are okay for people with nut allergies. You can use them to do your laundry, for cleansers, hand soaps, shaving cream, dishwasher soap, body wash and shampoo. Not only will you cut down on your use of palm oil, but you will also reduce plastic waste while supporting the Indigenous Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand that grow them.
3. Compost and recycle ‒ Even during the pandemic Phuket’s waste collection has been operating beyond capacity. Overall the waste has gone down, but the lack of visitors has been made up for this with an increase in plastic trash from takeaway containers, plastic masks and hand sanitiser bottles. Studies show that between 40-60% of household waste is organic and almost 20% is recyclable. When you combine the two you can reduce your household waste by as much as 80%. Composting also reduces the need for pesticides and fertilisers and reduces water usage.
4. Use drip irrigation ‒ Although it may not seem like it in the middle of the rainy season, Thailand is becoming increasingly water-stressed because of increasing temperatures, drier dry seasons and the fact that it is one of the world’s largest rice producers. Drip irrigation is a strategy that reduces water use by about 70% by watering only the roots. Although commercial systems are available you can also DIY it.
5. Collect rainwater ‒ This can range from a simple barrel to a more complex system that integrates with your irrigation and plumbing. This water can be used to flush toilets or water the garden. Not only does this help to alleviate the burden on groundwater, but it can also reduce the amount of pollution from pesticides, fertilisers and car oil that is washed into the ocean by stormwater runoff.
6. Give out branded water bottles ‒ Almost 1 million plastic bottles are used per minute, which translates to about 62 bottles for every person on the planet per year. Plastic bottles are a scourge on our beaches. A simple way to ensure that your guests are not part of the problem is to give them a branded reusable water bottle. You can then make filtered water freely available.
7. Switch to LED lightbulbs ‒ These last more than twice as long as fluorescent lights, 25 times longer than regular incandescent ones and use 90% less energy than convention bulbs. LED light bulbs are also safer as they emit very little heat and are cool to the touch.
8. Plant flowers and plants that are pollinator-friendly ‒ One-third of our food supply is pollinated by bees, bats and birds. Most plants rely on animal pollinators for reproduction, but about 30% of plant-pollinator networks have been completely lost, which translates to the disappearance of food, bees, plants, trees and a loss of biodiversity. The main culprits driving declines are habitat loss and pesticide use. One way you can help is to plant pollinator-friendly native plant species.
9. Change your gas burners to electric ‒ Gas stoves are not well-vented and can exacerbate respiratory illnesses like asthma, COVID or even allergies. They also leak methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2, even when turned off. These can be replaced with inexpensive induction burners and you will save on your monthly gas bill.
10. Check your tyre pressure every two weeks ‒ Your tires will naturally deflate by 2-3 PSI per month. For every 10% decrease in tyre pressure your fuel consumption increases by 2%. Multiply this across several vehicles driving every day and it can add up. Improperly inflated tires also affect your ability to brake and wear out your tyres and engine more quickly.
Palmer Owyoung is an environmental activist working with the Kamala Green Club and the Global Sustainability Hub.