BPOs Can Make a Big Environmental Impact
The environment is in crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions have reached their highest levels in 2 million years and the last decade was the warmest on record. Every year, over 20 million tons of plastic waste ends up in our waterways - that’s more than 2,000 Eiffel Towers put together. If nothing changes, air pollution will move well beyond safe guidelines by 2040. Entire regions will become unlivable, and waste flowing into our aquatic systems could triple. It can be so overwhelming that it may seem impossible to make a difference. Fortunately, business process outsourcers (BPOs) are uniquely positioned to use their size, scale, and resources, to ignite real change in the world. As we approach the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day, let’s explore a few ways that BPOs can make a big environmental impact.
BPOs Have the Size to Make a Big Difference
Every small action counts. Amplify that by a workforce that spans thousands of people across several countries and that small ripple can become a tsunami of global change. BPOs have size and can elevate environmental initiatives from small, local grassroots projects to international efforts coordinated across several sites and geos. Large, global organizations can spread awareness of sustainable practices everywhere, and as employees learn new, greener habits, this effect can ripple out across their families, friends, and peers, leading to a big environmental impact.
Additionally, companies can implement their own educational programs in the workplace, ones that urge people to make changes throughout their communities. In fact, by simply discouraging the use of single-use plastics and promoting reusable options, 30% of plastic pollution could be eliminated by 2040. If recycling programs were to also increase, that could remove another 20% of all plastic waste.
One example of small efforts leading to tremendous change is itel’s “No Plastic is Fantastic” campaign, launched in 2019. Though our end goal is to eliminate all single-use plastics across all our sites, we first focused on disposable plastic water bottles, a major source of pollution in our Caribbean waters. We began with simple steps: educating employees about the dangers of plastic pollution, removing plastic water bottles from on-site vending machines, installing water fountains, and giving out reusable aluminum water bottles to thousands of staff as a greener alternative. Four years later, this led to the elimination of 161,899 plastic water bottles, over 4 tons of waste, that had been kept out of the environment.
BPOs Have the People Resources to Make a Positive Impact
As larger enterprises, BPOs often have the financial resources to affect environmental issues. After Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in 2019, leaving a trail of destruction that damaged many island communities, itel at once deployed $30,000 USD in emergency relief items to aid storm victims and their families, raising a total of $60,000 USD overall through partners and staff. The funds were used to aid with the rebuilding of neighborhoods and communities, which included removing copious quantities of disaster waste littering the environment.
Donations, however, are not the sole resource that BPOs can offer. In this instance, itel also provided the people needed to help with the hurricane cleanup. Many itel staff, leaders, and volunteers pitched in to help with the removal of debris and collection of garbage, and it’s this massive organization of labor that sometimes makes the most impact. As organizations driven by thousands of people, BPOs are uniquely capable of mobilizing large workforces to lend a helping hand and put the call out for volunteers, especially when an environmental disaster strikes.
Also, volunteerism often leads to better employee retention because it instills a sense of purpose, which nearly 70% of employees say is a critical factor in their decision to stay with an organization. Even if the opportunities to volunteer are simple acts, such as cleaning up local parks, the positive impact cannot be underestimated. itel’s regular community cleanups, for example, may pull in smaller groups of volunteers, but annually, these consistent efforts result in more than 2,000 meters (about 1.24 mi) of beach and public spaces that are cleared of litter and plastic pollution.
BPOs Have the Influence to Inspire Others
BPOs often benefit from close working relationships with local governments, policymakers, and industry influencers, and many BPO leaders are in the unique position to use this influence to spotlight environmental causes. They can amplify the voices of climate scientists, researchers, and activists, and help raise awareness about environmental causes both on the global and regional level. They can even inspire local politicians to act.
BPOs can also leverage their large networks of vendors, partners, and clients to raise charitable donations, create ‘donor matching’ opportunities, or even joint programs that go beyond the BPO organization itself, and extend to the millions of customers across the world that BPOs serve on behalf of their clients. It can create a self-reinforcing cycle, where BPOs raise important environmental awareness across their client base, those clients become inspired to initiate change in their own organizations, and then spread that message to their customers, partners, and vendors, which sparks the whole cycle again.
This was the inspiration behind itel’s 4Ys Foundation, a private charitable foundation entirely funded by the company, through which we execute our own corporate social activities throughout the year. This was also envisioned as a way for our corporate partners to become involved, giving them a chance to expand their philanthropic footprint in meaningful ways, either through donations, or through joint initiatives in the four key areas we support: education, environment, sport, and innovation. And the results speak for themselves. In just the past few years, we have raised over $500k for educational and charitable programs, with 1,600 youth impacted, more than 50 local athletes sponsored, and 10 children’s homes and schools supported.
A Big Environmental Impact Has an ROI for Businesses
Because of their size, considerable resources, and influence, BPOs have the unique capability to advance eco awareness and make lasting change. Maybe even more impactful, they can awaken enthusiasm for greener choices in their large, and traditionally young workforces, by educating people about environmental issues and solutions, and the things they can do, day-to-day, to recycle, reduce, and reuse. This in turn, causes a trickle-down effect to family and friends, and spreads throughout communities, causing that ripple of change that spreads across the globe, from one shore to another.
Though some organizations may worry that environmental initiatives will involve significant investments of time and money, overall, it has a huge ROI. Over two thirds of consumers care about corporate social responsibility and want to buy from companies committed to making the world a better place. More than 70% of investors also say that their investment decisions are often driven by a company’s efforts to improve the environment.
More critical yet, is the cost of our inaction if we don’t do something. If we want to leave this beautiful world to our children and grandchildren, now is the time to get involved. The environment is in crisis, and it will take all of us, working together, to save it.
Want to become a corporate partner? Find out how you can get involved with itel’s 4Ys Foundation. Reach out to our team to learn more.