What can businesses do to help lessen the impact that Christmas has on the environment?

Philip Walter, Chief Operating Officer of Bailie Group shares his thoughts on the importance of being conscious of the environment this Christmas. 

Christmas is a time for celebration and one which many of us look forward to all year. For businesses, it’s an opportunity to show team members that they care — trimming up their offices, throwing lavish parties, sharing gifts, and bringing colleagues together for the traditional office fuddle.

But among the magic, well wishes and camaraderie, it’s easy to overlook the bigger picture – a realisation that the festive season has been negatively impacting upon the environment for decades. Whether that’s because of an uplift in spending, and a subsequent increase in the manufacture and transportation of goods; as a result of glittery wrapping paper and foiled greetings cards that can’t be recycled; or due to the excessive amount of food waste. The list goes on.

As businesses, we need to look at ways to strike the right balance — a method by which we can all enjoy the festivities and remain true to our principles in the process. By celebrating a little more consciously this year — while ensuring staff are involved and in agreement with decisions throughout — we can inspire an even deeper sense of generosity, and in return appreciation too.

Among the areas to think about are Christmas parties. Reducing the cost available per head, could free up money to donate to good causes, as could also be said when it comes to colleague and corporate gifting. By pooling the funds usually allocated to these areas, or raffling any gifts received, companies can create a valuable difference.

Christmas trees are a dilemma in themselves. Real or fake, they each generate environmental concerns which are worth exploring. Instead of cutting down a Christmas tree, how about choosing one with roots which can be re-planted? Opting for a reusable version may feel like a more sustainable option, however, given the methods used to produce these — and the fact that many end up in landfill — it is important that they are indeed reused if the environmental repercussions are to be limited.

Fuddles — an occasion where colleagues share in a selection of food and drink — are another popular tradition, but one which often creates a great deal of waste. Instead, why not ask colleagues if they would be willing to bring their own lunch, perhaps accompanied by a small treat from the company, while the usual ‘spread’ of items is donated to a food bank or homeless shelter instead.

Christmas card giving is a tradition which has already begun to fade, with organisations often favouring digital versions which still deliver the sentiment, but without the added environmental implications which come from their production, delivery and, ultimately, their disposal.

For many, the festive season is an important opportunity to look back at how far they’ve come. But this year let’s not forget to also look forward — because among the celebrations, we mustn’t lose sight of our wider goals. Particularly those which will have an impact for generations to come.