sustainable cannabis environmental justice

Sustainability IS Environmental Justice

sustainable cannabis environmental justice

Although it’s true that the health of the entire planet is threatened by climate change - the added strain of colonialism, exploitation, and discrimination has made historically disenfranchised--communities of color--that much more vulnerable to its potentially catastrophic effects. Twenty years after racial bias was found in the locations of toxic waste dumps in the United States, sadly, little has improved.

It doesn’t take too long to find more unfortunate examples. Recent studies have shown that African American, Latinx, and low-income children are more likely to be exposed to air pollution in their public schools. Puerto Rico is still struggling with destruction wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria as well as political and economic neglect. Even the crisis in Syria has been linked to water shortages on our warming planet.

Making Sustainable Choices

As an industry, cannabis can not only limit our negative impact, but also mediate ongoing injustices. Because the effects of climate change overwhelmingly affect low-income communities and communities of color, choosing sustainable business practices has substantial environmental and equitable social impact. Using an environmental justice framework in our business allows us to go beyond asking “what” and also ask “who” – Who is impacted? Who benefits? Who will live with the consequences of our actions in the long-term?

Starting Locally: Environmental Justice & Community Responsibility

For instance, we want to conserve water and electricity for environmental and business efficiency. Environmental justice asks us to also think about how our use of resources affects other people in the community. Can the local power grid handle our usage along with its regular load? If there is a crisis, like a drought or a brown-out, how do we balance our business needs with the human needs of the community? Proactively engaging with the surrounding residents empowers them to communicate their needs and allows us to create solutions together.

Therefore, whether we are in growing, manufacturing, or distributing, cannabis companies have the duty to use resources effectively, manage waste responsibly, and determine the impact that our businesses have on our communities. Don’t know where to start? Consider hosting a community forum to hear the concerns of your neighbors and to understand what needs are challenging them most. Then, follow-up with opportunities to co-create a solution.

Using Environmentally-Friendly Packaging

Supply chain and packaging matter too. For example, environmentally-friendly packaging is a real concern for products in all markets. In Canada’s first year of legalization, it is estimated that the industry contributed 10,000 tons of packaging waste, mostly plastic.

However, there are companies out there with their minds on sustainability. Cannabis Doing Good 2019 Award Winner, Sana Packaging, sources reclaimed ocean plastic for their cannabis packaging as well as using hemp plastic, which has a smaller carbon footprint. Using recycled materials – and making reusing and recycling more convenient for consumers – can make a significant impact on the pollutants that we put into the air, water, and landfills.

Giving consumers more options regarding the disposal of packaging can cut down on cannabis-related litter around retail locations and also related nuisance complaints that weaken our relationships with neighbors. Lightshade, another Cannabis Doing Good 2019 Award Winner, offers recycling programs at each of their retail locations. Wana has new sustainable biodegradable product storage, and Terrapin Care Station has won awards for eco-friendly packaging, one of the most important aspects of the supply chain in implementing environmentally responsible practices at the production/retail levels.

Facing Climate Change Together

With an issue as crucial as climate change, no single company is going to be able to make a significant impact entirely on its own. So, be sure to talk to your supply chain partners about how they are addressing social and environmental challenges. Are they aware of how their waste is being managed and who is affected by it? How do they minimize the use of pesticides? Are there ways that you can work together to reduce pollutants? Just as consumers have told us that they are interested in environmentally sustainable products, we can tell our fellow business partners also value the environment and our community.

As an emerging market with substantial growth opportunities, the cannabis industry can model how environmental justice can be a guiding principle in corporate social responsibility work. The stakes have never been higher and the potential has never been greater! Together, we can work with affected communities to reverse the impact of climate change and the global legacy of injustice.

Has your business developed a sustainability program that promotes environmental justice? Are you interested in doing more to support equity? Contact us today!

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The Business Case for Sustainability

Guest Contributor Jake Mitchell, President and Founder of Sustainabissustainabis sustainable cannabis

What is Sustainablity?

We all know protecting the environment is a good thing to do, we all know that it is an important thing to do. So why does it so often get overlooked when making business decisions? Many believe it is simply a matter of perspective, which is why the term Sustainability became more popular in recent years than environmentalism. Sustainability is the application of environmental ideals applied and a realistic in practical sense. By its definition, sustainability means: “the greatest amount of resources, for the greatest amount of people, for the longest time possible.”

Although a short definition, the term means so much more. It means thinking in a cyclical fashion, it means building systems which allow us to work in tandem with the environment, it means social equity and justice, and as we will discuss in this article it means economic prosperity. The business case for sustainability shows that not only is it a good societal cause but also a good one for business success and longevity.

Why Businesses Should Care: The Facts

Companies built on a passion for sustainability reduce the need for resources and associated costs and positions themselves in a class of companies that on average outperforms their less sustainable competitors. "High Sustainability" companies catalogued on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index have an average of 4.8% higher returns on assets and equity than their peers.

University of Oxford and Arabesque reviewed the academic studies on sustainability and corporate performance and found that 90% of 200 studies conclude that good Environmental and Social (ES) standards lower the cost of capital; 88% show that good ES practices result in better operational performance; and 80% show that stock price performance is positively correlated with good sustainability practices. Sustainable companies also have improved risk management and as McKinsey reports that value compromised by sustainability concerns may be as high as 70% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. These risks are particularly important to cannabis as an agricultural product because environmental risks take precedence due to their systematic effect on growing and resource related usage (increased HVAC and humidity requirements, increased water demand, and increased energy costs).

Businesses with robust sustainability programs increase employee morale by an average 55% over less sustainable peers and increased employee loyalty by 37% according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Companies that developed environmental standards have seen a 16% increase in productivity.

A company with sustainability integrated into their strategic plan is better positioned to create a dialogue with stakeholders and therefore be more consistently able to anticipate and react to social, environmental, economic, and regulatory changes as they arise. Having a robust sustainability integration in a companies strategy also opens opportunities for long term investment returns and compound savings over time. Something extremely important in the cannabis industry with such sporadic and rapidly changing regulations.

All of these potential benefits from sustainability depend on the base of any company: the customer. Proper marketing of a company’s "story" and "method" is a crucial element in developing a dedicated customer base. 82% of customers in emerging markets believe that they “have a responsibility to purchase products that are good for the environment and society”. Since cannabis is an emerging market this holds especially strong for our industry.

One of the largest examples of this success in marketing is Patagonia and their strategy to "walk the walk" when it comes to sustainable practices and social responsibility. Despite a somewhat alternative approach to business, Patagonia's revenue has continued to increase from $380 million in 2011 to a staggering $750 million in 2017. This is due to a consumer base with loyalty and admiration for a brand.

So next time you consider pitching a sustainable idea to your manager or make a decision to move your company in a more sustainable direction remember, you are not just doing it for the environment but for the business as well. If cannabis can begin doing this now, we can cement this industry as not only a revolutionary one but also as a sustainable one.