Turning it Around – Looking at The Effect of the Environment on the Company

This is the first of a series by Mark Polet, to help bring people to an understanding that the most spiritually and materially impoverished people also face the most existential environmental challenges. Some BAM companies are already working in these environmentally challenged areas and may not be aware of the risks they face even to their own health, nor to the impact that environment has on their business. The short goal: ‘know the environment in which you live and work’.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures
larry.sharp@ibecventures.com

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In completing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), scientists, engineers and socio-economists assess the impact of a business or project on the environment, (energy use, material use, waste management, management of outputs). Lately the discipline has evolved to also look another way as well, determining what the impact of the environment is on the business. Impacts from the environment could include: lack of resources, flooding, water quality, air quality, provisions of services, supply chain, government functions or societal features.

Let me give you two examples as to how this works, one with a local focus and one with a regional focus.

A successful enterprise makes organic products for the international market out of plants. The products are highly regarded. Lately, however, shipments have been compromised by insects and mold. We have worked to understand the lifecycle of the insects and adapt the production area so that its is not conducive to mold. We are looking for appropriate ways to control both insects and mold to preserve the product in a way that retains the organic brand. Knowing the lifecycle of the insects and understanding mold ecology will likely result in changes in harvesting methods and finding preserving methods already present in nature that resist biodegradation and this particular insect. We will also have to change the environment in the production area to inhibit mold growth. The challenges we face made us aware we had to better understand our local environment.

 FIGURE 1: [1] Global map of modeled annual median concentration of PM2.5, in 𝜇g/m3

[1] World Health Organization. 2016. Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease.

On a regional scale, let’s look at air quality. Many of you work or want to work in the 10-40 window. If this is you, you should look at Figure 1 above. The dark blue areas show good air quality (≤ 10 𝜇g/m3 PM2.5); other colours show poor air quality. The red and yellow areas show extremely poor air quality. Recently the air in Delhi was between 20 and 100 times the allowable limit for long-term exposure.[2], [3] This is the air you breathe. This is the air your neighbours breath. They face dark skies in more ways than one.

In an assessment of one city, I found out that the people of that city had not had one ‘clean air day’ in 2019. This finding necessitated us to develop a strategy to provide clean air to the institution I was serving.

The concept of evaluating the impact of the environment on the business is an important one for any transformational business to embrace. You may be working in areas where access to clean water, stable power, working infrastructure, and functioning business systems are not guaranteed. Ensure you know intimately the social, economic, spiritual and ecological environment you have chosen to serve.  It will help you move toward success in your business and protect your employees.

Knowing your environment intimately will also allow you to see market opportunities. One could expand the question to, ‘What are the social, environmental, spiritual and cultural features that will affect your business planning and operations?’

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[1] World Health Organization. 2016. Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease.

[2] BBC. 2019. Millions of masks distributed to students in ‘gas chamber’ Delhi.

[3] Economist, The. 9 Nov 2019. Festival of Darkness.

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