“How can one small change really make any difference?”
This is a question I am frequently asked when discussing the environmental disaster we currently face and the changes needed to make help make a difference.
The environmental crisis our planet is facing right now is huge. The number of humans on our planet all contributing in some way to this crisis is huge. The number of changes that we, as humans, need to make to help turn this crisis around is huge. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness when we start to consider whether anything is really having an impact or making a difference is huge.
When I am asked this question my answer is nearly always the same; if you look at any one small change on an individual level then it doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference at all, however, if you add up each of these small changes and look at them on a collective level, then the impact becomes much larger and the difference that one small change makes also becomes huge.
Let’s take the disposable coffee cup as an example of this; the UK uses an estimated 3 billion disposable coffee cups each year. Yes I did say 3 billion! Only a very small percentage of these 3 billion cups gets recycled with the rest ending up in landfill or as litter, and just trying to picture what 3 billion coffee cups looks like is pretty impossible. I made the small change a few years ago of no longer using disposable coffee cups and trying to always carry my reusable cup with me, or choosing the ‘drink in’ ceramic option if I’m caught short without one. Now, individually my very small change of no longer using a disposable cup each time I order a coffee does not make much of a difference, but, it is estimated that 5% of all hot drinks are now sold in a reusable cup as more and more individuals choose to make this very small change. So, if we calculate 5% of the estimated 3 billion disposable coffee cups used each year in the UK it represents 150 million disposable cups, which is a pretty big number. Collectively, alongside other individuals making this small change, my small change is now having a big impact on reducing 150 million disposable cups a year. And as the number of individuals making this very small change increases, the collective impact of these small changes continues to increase.
Making no changes equates to making no impact or difference, but each small change collectively adds up to having a huge impact and difference.
This can be directly translated across into the business world where businesses will often ask me how much of a difference a few changes to their processes or structure will really have. When a business first considers committing the time and resource to review its own environmental impact, the question of whether or not anything it can do as an individual business can really make a difference is often the first reason that stops any progress before it starts. But in reality the changes do not have to be big nor do they all need to be implemented overnight to start making a difference.
When we consider that the UK has an estimated 5.6 million private businesses then the same answer as above can be given; the impact and difference may feel small from an individual business perspective, but considered collectively, all the relatively small individual changes made by businesses to reduce and improve their overall environmental impact will add up to making a huge collective impact and difference.
By working with each business to understand their strategy and model, conducting a green audit, and applying the correct processes, systems and techniques, I help them overcome their initial fears and skepticism and implement sustainable and achievable action plans, reducing and improving their environmental impact in both the short and long term.