13
Oct
Kate Roche

In the race to net zero, let’s not waste time picking sides

Posted by Kate RocheTagged , , ,

When we talk about the journey to net zero emissions, the scale of the problem looms so large it can start to block out the view of the path ahead. The IEA estimates that global investment in clean energy needs to swell by more than double its current rate to reach the $5trn needed annually to keep us on track by 2030, which is alarmingly close and getting closer every day.

It’s easy to be daunted by figures of such magnitude but achieving our collective goal of carbon neutrality requires a cool head and a rational approach. This becomes critically important in sectors like transport, heavy industry, and energy, where the shift needed to decarbonise is less a step and more a total paradigm shift. Some have argued for immediate divestment from industries like these, but the best gains for carbon reduction are to be made in precisely these spaces. Should we not be encouraging them to transform their business models rather than starve them of the ongoing investment they need to take the leap?

In the last few days, the International Council on Mining and Metals, which represents the world’s leading mining companies, agreed to a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. The Global Cement and Concrete Association quickly followed suit, and in one fell swoop the two groups made a significant step towards accelerating our journey to net zero. Together, cement and mining are responsible for between 11- 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and there are few other industries able to make such a significant impact so quickly. This illustrates just how important it is to bring everyone along on the journey towards a clean energy future, and how easily we might hamstring ourselves if we unilaterally cut off support from the most challenging parts of the energy landscape.

Of course, throwing arms open to corporates and blindly trusting their reports of progress on emission reduction is no guaranteed recipe for success. ‘Greenwashing’ has become a commonly cited barrier to progress in sustainable investment, and businesses are rightly being expected to demonstrate the validity of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) credentials in a space that until recently was largely lacking in any standardised regulation. Calls for science-based climate targets are getting louder as investors and consumers alike demand that major companies set independently verifiable emission reduction goals or risk both reputational damage and competitive advantage. Soon it may well be these metrics, rather than the sector an organisation is situated within, that counts for the most when it comes to climate credibility.

In terms of both infrastructure and capital investment, much of the legwork necessary to get us where we need to be by 2050 will need to be put in over the next decade, so the message is clear: there’s no time to delay. If we’re to get the job done in the limited time available, not only do we need to continue pushing for rigorous regulation and global standardisation of metrics across the entire sustainability system, but we need to couple it with an open-minded approach that welcomes progress regardless of where it originates from. Only by pursuing these twin goals will we be able to harness the high impact, large-scale transformative change of the hardest-to-reach sectors whilst giving consumers, corporates, and investors the confidence they need to drive the clean energy revolution.

Now more than ever, it’s time to keep eyes firmly planted on the big picture and focus on constructive action. The next few years are certain to be full of innovation and progress, and we’ll achieve much more, much quicker, if we make room at the table for everyone.

29
Sep
Chloe Roberts

Is it time to challenge our perceptions of nuclear power?

Posted by Chloe RobertsTagged , , , , ,

The UK has a long civil nuclear heritage dating back to the 1950s. But reputationally speaking, the industry has a tricky past. In the court of public opinion, it has proven unpopular. Despite being stringently regulated, it is viewed as high-risk thanks to the incredibly steep upfront costs of building power sites – take Sizewell C at £22 billion – and sites are slow to build and decommission.

When we hear the word nuclear, we almost instantly think of the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. HBO’s drama Chernobyl also reminded us of the volatility of nuclear plants. Some believe there were a million fatalities from a toxic plume that spread across Europe in April 1986, although the UN directly attributes only 43 deaths to the disaster.

In our more recent history, a catastrophic chain of natural events resulted in a back-up power supply failure to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A tsunami caused by an earthquake led to a radiation leak from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area. There are a lot of mixed views about the impact of this leak, but the dominant reaction to it has been that of fear and uncertainty about the real human impact of such an event.

A slow shift in public discourse

It is hard to forget the past, and the words ‘nuclear’ and ‘disaster’ may be linked in public perception, in no small part because of disasters of the past and reporting in the media. But the tide is turning. According to billionaire philanthropist, technologist and climate change evangelist Bill Gates, nuclear energy is “absolutely” becoming politically palatable.

In a plan put forward last year, Boris Johnson’s government backed the development of “small and advanced reactors which would also lead to the creation of ten thousand jobs. The language around nuclear in the plan is noticeably cautious. What many may not know is that the UK currently generates 20 per cent of its electricity from nuclear – although almost half of current capacity is to be retired by 2025. There’s been a consistent decline in the amount of nuclear energy the UK generates since the 90s, mostly because of ageing plants. But things might swing the other way, or might need to, to manage the ongoing energy crisis.

Read more “Is it time to challenge our perceptions of nuclear power?”

16
Jul
Aga Maciejewska

The pandemic of inequalities

Posted by Aga MaciejewskaTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, the Health Foundation’s Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery report made headlines, revealing that throughout the pandemic, the chances of dying from Covid-19 were nearly four times higher for adults of working age in England’s poorest areas than for those in the wealthiest places.

The report is just the latest in the string of evidence that the pandemic has not been ‘a great leveller’, as some people referred to it back in the spring of 2020. The UK has struggled with deep-rooted, socioeconomic inequalities for years. Those have not only contributed to the country’s high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 but have also been exacerbated and made worse, particularly for some groups, including ethnic minorities, women and those on low pay.

Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director for Programmes at Impact for Urban Health, has been working with families in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to understand how various inequalities impact population’s health. As he explains:

“Health inequality is the starkest manifestation of other inequalities – unfairness tends to layer on unfairness. If you’re subject to systemic racism, you are also more likely to be poor, live in lower quality housing and then you’re more likely to get sick. All those things interact. Fundamentally, it’s the inequality that’s the issue and health inequality is just the starkest example.”

Looking at the impact of the pandemic,  Andy has no doubt that it has made the existing inequalities worse and that this might sadly be just the beginning:

“We layered Covid on top of an already very unequal situation. We haven’t really even started to feel the impacts of the economic pandemic and the long-term health effects of it. We’ve seen a lot of policy changes, such as furlough and the uplift of universal credit, designed to help people through the pandemic. When those start to fall away, we will have an economic wave that could have huge long term health consequences.”

 

Read more “The pandemic of inequalities”

07
Jun
Jevan Watson

World Environment Day; a farce or a timely reminder?

Posted by Jevan WatsonTagged , , , ,

World Environment Day took place this past Saturday, and in the run-up, many companies around the world plastered their social media accounts with posts about their drive towards net-zero or a reduction of single-use plastic. This is a small, but significant win – the fact that companies feel they need to be seen and heard in the green environmental space highlights a shift in mindset, not only by consumers but some of the largest corporations in the world.

We all know that we need to do more as a society – there isn’t an onus on one organisation or a set of individuals. This year, World Environment Day focused on our ecosystems to Reimagine, Recreate and Restore. This call to action comes as we are reminded of our situation, such as every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch.

Fundamentally, healing our environment and driving towards a net-zero future is a multifaceted task that requires more than just pretty pictures, flowing social media copy and pledges. It requires tangible action, and this is coming from someone that has a career in crafting this external messaging.

Read more “World Environment Day; a farce or a timely reminder?”

28
Apr
Lucy Chapple

A tale of two crises

Posted by Lucy ChappleTagged , , , ,

Introducing our new series, ‘Sustainnovation in a post-pandemic world’.  

In his now famous speech to London’s insurance market in 2015, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, described catastrophic climate change as the ‘tragedy of the horizon’. Limiting global temperature increases would necessitate leaving valuable fossil fuel assets in the ground – a scenario with cascading implications for the energy sector, and investors and governments banking on future profits from those assets. Because the burden of climate change will be carried by future generations, the incentive to change felt ‘abstract’. The risks of inaction were real, he argued, but not immediate.

In the five years since Carney delivered this speech, climate change consciousness has steadily grown. 2019 was a watershed year for environmental activism. Warnings by the IPCC on the far-reaching effects of inaction, and new evidence of mass biodiversity loss, prompted the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’. Global protests led by Greta Thunberg and other young people around the world dominated the news agenda. ‘Our house is on fire’ Thunberg warned, urging international leaders to take decisive action.

In 2020, a new crisis emerged that was more urgent and more immediately catastrophic. The Covid-19 pandemic threatened to bring our healthcare system to its knees, to tank our economy, and to take the lives of society’s most vulnerable. As resources were redistributed to support international efforts to combat the deadly virus, some wondered about the impact of this new crisis on what we’d come to recognise as the moral crisis of our time – climate change. How could we sustain momentum to avoid devastating our planet, in the face of a health emergency devastating our people?

In our new series, ‘Sustainnovation in a post-pandemic world’, we hope to uncover a deeper understanding of the impact of the pandemic on the road to net-zero. Exploring the nexus between sustainability and innovation, we’ll speak to business leaders to understand the role of green innovation in economic recovery efforts as we cautiously emerge from lockdown. Deep-dives into key sectors, from transport and mobility to financial services, energy and infrastructure, will reveal shifts in business strategy, attitudes and behaviour over the past year.

We look forward to sharing what we learn with you.

If you are a business leader in our network interested in contributing your thoughts, we are inviting guest submissions for this series and would love to hear from you. For those interested in checking out ‘Sustainnovation in a post-pandemic world’, please subscribe to our newsletter for updates, at the bottom of our home page.

18
Mar
Tani Fatuga

Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders

Posted by Tani FatugaTagged , , ,

Britain is the birthplace of the industrial revolution – and despite the challenges presented by global and domestic events such as Covid-19 and Brexit, for many manufacturers, the past year has presented opportunities to diversify and grow their business.

One of the silver linings of such a difficult 2020 is that we have been forced to look at what we can produce a little closer to home. Supply chains are becoming more centralised as companies have been encouraged to innovate and create better ways of sourcing products, ethically and locally.

Recently, we sat down with John Pearce, CEO of Made in Britain, a not-for-profit organisation that supports British manufacturers under a single, registered collective mark.

John talks about the role of the manufacturing industry in reaching the country’s net-zero target, how we can encourage more people to buy British, and why becoming fairer and more ethical are key factors in the future success of British manufacturing.

Read more “Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders”

02
Mar
Georgie Howlett

Why ‘sustainability’ is falling short

Posted by Georgie HowlettTagged , , , ,

Before I get carried away, it’s pertinent to point out that this was first mooted nearly a decade ago. I am not saying anything new here. But like with any change, there are the early adopters, the pioneers, the people who have an idea almost too soon. Real change occurs a while later, at the tipping point, as Malcolm Gladwell so aptly put it.

Never has the welfare of our beautiful blue planet been so high on the public agenda. Maybe some businesses are talking about it because they’ve realised their customers are starting to vote with their wallets and they are only interested in the bottom line, and some consumers are choosing sustainable brands to look good among their peers, but ultimately, the tide is turning. And ultimately, do individual motivations matter if it makes an overall positive change (for the time being, anyway)?

One of the silver linings of Covid-19 is it has been a bit of a global reset of attitudes and priorities, prompting many businesses to take a long hard look at themselves and do better.  As I am in the business of language, I want to put the spotlight on the word ‘sustainability’ and ask if it’s enough.  There is a whole industry built around ‘sustainability’ and it is a vital one. The people working in sustainability, and the businesses championing it, are doing truly exciting work. They are shaking up old models, interrogating supply chains, and finding the path to net zero, or better, net positive.

But let’s look at the word. To ‘sustain’ in this context means to maintain, to keep at a particular level.  In fact, its definition is ‘to cause or allow something to continue for a period of time’. It’s passive. Haven’t we learned that this isn’t enough? Last year the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted how not being racist isn’t enough – standing by silently is not enough, and the rallying call to society was to take action for change to happen. It is very clear the action we must take now is to put things back, to rebalance, to regenerate the biodiverse soils and seas that we have ravaged. We’ve taken so much from our planet, that operating ‘sustainably’ is not enough.

Read more “Why ‘sustainability’ is falling short”

11
Jul
Freya Trevor-Harris

“Never too latte to make a difference?” – Stand’s thoughts on Starbucks’ 5p charge

Posted by Freya Trevor-HarrisTagged , , ,

Starbucks announced yesterday that it will introduce a ‘latte levy’ of 5p per paper coffee cup to discourage single-use paper cups. The titan of high-street coffee stores has recently received negative PR for the high sugar content of its drinks, as well as accusations of tax avoidance and fallout from a racism scandal in the US. Taking a lead on sustainability may be a good chance for Starbucks to bolster its forward-thinking credentials.

Read more ““Never too latte to make a difference?” – Stand’s thoughts on Starbucks’ 5p charge”