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.

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08
Sep
Tani Fatuga

Can social media facilitate social change and political action?

Posted by Tani FatugaTagged , , , ,

Since around October last year, Nigeria has been in a state of political crisis due to citizen revolt and ongoing protests regarding the #EndSARS campaign. The campaign began, intending to end police brutality in Nigeria, but has since expanded to challenge some of the country’s other issues such as corruption, poverty, and injustice.

Being of Nigerian descent and having family and friends that currently live in Nigeria, the #EndSARS campaign has been a huge topic of conversation, especially in light of the Lekki Bridge Massacre where dozens of peaceful protesters were murdered by the government on 20 October 2020. These events led me to start thinking of the key role that social media played in Nigeria’s #EndSARS movement.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the powerful effects of the internet and social media. Similarly to how social media was used in the Arab Spring, during the #EndSARS movement, Nigerian activists used Twitter (and other social media platforms) to raise awareness, mobilise protesters, and discredit government propaganda through real-time information and citizen journalism. The campaign’s use of digital activism allowed it to scale up quickly, resulting in a large amount of publicity and international coverage.

The events of the ongoing ENDSARS campaign have made it difficult to ignore the ambiguity of social media usage in social movements in non-Western settings. The #EndSARS hashtag was first used in December 2017 by Twitter user @Segalink, when an open call was made for Nigerians to protest police brutality and demand for the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – a unit of the Nigerian Police Force that has gained notoriety for its repeated human rights abuses.

Until the 5th of October 2020, much of the campaign occurred online, under the hashtag, #EndSARS, but as soon as a video of the squad murdering a young boy went viral, Nigerians all over the world, including myself, banded together to protest both online and offline.  Since then, the campaign has received significant international coverage and publicity, resulting in the Nigerian government disbanding the unit.

During the ENDSARS campaign, we have seen the integral use of collective and connective action by activists, however, we have also seen the Nigerian government use social media to counter these efforts, calling into question the effectiveness of social media in fostering political reform within Nigeria’s anocracy and third world countries.

The use of mass protesting and digital protesting through social media platforms, predominantly Instagram and Twitter have given Nigerians all over the world a voice that has ultimately disrupted the country’s culture of deference. However, the government still hasn’t reasoned with its people, resulting in little change. These events have made me question the effectiveness of social media in fostering political reform.

In June earlier this year, the Nigerian government accused Twitter, of facilitating ‘activities that are capable of undermining [its] corporate existence’. Their statement came two days after the social media platform removed a controversial post made by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari as the statement was deemed to have violated Twitter community guidelines.

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28
Jul
Salonee Gadgil

So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?

Posted by Salonee GadgilTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, just days after the restrictions in England were lifted, we hosted our first panel event. The discussion brought together great minds: Chartered Psychologist Dr Jennifer Opoku-Lageyre who spoke about her experiences treating patients with trauma and anxiety during the pandemic, Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director of Programmes at Impact on Urban Health, who shed light on what it was like supporting communities in South London during the pandemic and Maccs Pescatore, CEO, Montessori Centre International who shared her views on how lockdowns have impacted Britain’s early years education. The conversation was chaired by Sarah O’Grady, Social Affairs Correspondent at the Daily Express and our Managing Director Laura Oliphant.

It was rich discussion, one that was supposed to last 45 mins, but lingered on for much longer and continued over a few glasses of wine. Our insightful speakers and engaged audience had much to talk about. The discussion swung between being quite pessimistic about the damage done by the pandemic, and optimistic about it being the catalyst we needed to bring about social change. We asked those in attendance what they’d remember most about things that were discussed. What’s the one idea or insight they’d take with them? Here’s what they said they’d be most likely thinking about on the train ride home.

The fact that there is a difference in 12 years of life expectancy within Lambeth borough.  

 We often talk about the great divide between the haves and have-nots in London. But Andy really hammered the message home with this very shocking statistic. It reinforces the need for tailored messaging around things like the vaccine. Can we really be reaching these two very disparate groups of people, one in Dulwich, another on Queen’s Road Peckham using the same public service messages asking them to go take the vaccine? Are we surprised they don’t all behave the same way?

We haven’t seen the economic second wave yet.

 A lot of Andy’s work at Impact on Urban Health is around how life hits health, that is, how housing, jobs and income affect ones physical health. So far, we’ve had the job retention scheme, we’ve had benefits, and suspended evictions. People working in the sector worry that when all these support systems are taken away, there will be a new wave of illnesses from people who can’t eat or live as well, or look after their children because of economic pressures. People have been talking about ‘long covid’, but what Andy’s been worried about is the ‘long pandemic’.

The desire to make decisions begins very young and is fundamental to our development.

Maccs reminded us of just how important early years education is, in developing decision-making skills. When a child goes into a Montessori nursery, they learn to make their own choices about what they want to play with, draw, and so on. This ability to make choices, autonomously, is vital in building a sense of self and resilience. Dr Jen pointed out that over the course of the pandemic, rules have been made for us. This loss of autonomy has been the fundamental cause for why people have experienced poor mental health. Humans strive for autonomy and personal freedom. If adults are suffering from the lack of the freedom to choose, what impact has living under strict guidelines had on small children? Should we really be more worried about the loss of their maths ability during the pandemic, when the real issue may be an ingrained lack of autonomy?

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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.”

 

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23
Jun
Natasha Machin

We like big books and we cannot lie

Posted by Natasha MachinTagged , , ,

One of the few silver linings of the multiple lockdowns across the past 15 months, was a significant and unexpected amount of free time at home. At first it was an overwhelming amount of free time – but gradually, people found their own way to fill it and help them get through a difficult time.

With no work commute and extra time spent at home, people across the country seized the opportunity to find new interests, such as baking, exercise, online virtual parties and quizzes, crafting, gaming – the list goes on.

With the recent annual profits report from Bloomsbury Publishing showing that book sales rose by 14% in the year to the end of February, it is clear that many found comfort and solace in picking up a good old book, and reading for pleasure.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for many, and the escapism of a good book enabling readers to explore someone else’s mind, experiences and story, gave us a release from the reality of the day-to-day of lockdown and rising Covid-19 cases. There’s no denying that reading has a positive effect on your mental health and can be a great way to practice mindfulness. A 2015 report from Quick Reads showed that reading helps to reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing – all the more vital against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

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25
May
Georgie Howlett

Can fashion change its ways?

Posted by Georgie HowlettTagged , , , , ,

Clothes are wrapped up in our identity. What we wear says something about us – whether we care about that or not. Over the centuries, clothes have symbolised status. Our outfit can affect our mood. We have special clothes for special occasions. Clothes can be a socio-political statement. And some people can’t afford clothes.

For quite some time, second-hand clothing has been broadly seen as second-rate. There have always been those creative individuals with a flair for unearthing vintage gems in a charity shop, but now society is reaching a tipping point. As someone who is fascinated by human behaviour and how to encourage habits that help the planet, I have been watching this gather momentum over the last few years.

Motivated by ‘voting with their wallet’ and reducing their carbon footprint, individuals have already been pushing change within other sectors e.g. single-use plastics, organic or local food, fairtrade supply chains. But we’ve been a little slower on the clothing front because it’s a hard habit to kick. As I said, clothes are deeply connected to our identity. And the fashion cycle is strong.

But the impact of the clothing industry is becoming harder to ignore: 350,000 tonnes of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill each year in the UK, and it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. Depressingly, the fashion industry is actually responsible for a huge chunk of global water pollution – it consumes more energy than shipping and aviation combined, and by 2050 is anticipated to be responsible for 25% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Better late than never, second-hand is experiencing a much-needed makeover. Driven by early adopters and influencers like Michaela Coel and Maquita Oliver, demand is sky-rocketing, with Gen Z at the helm of social norming pre-loved. Brands are having to adapt to put sustainability at the top of the agenda. (The significance of purpose / ESG / sustainability in the boardroom is something that we’ve seen grow steadily with clients across all sectors.)

I’d like to offer some proof points that show businesses need to go beyond organic fabrics and ethical supply chains and embrace a truly circular approach:

  • While brands like Mud Jeans have pioneered circular thinking for some time, mainstream brands are now joining the movement. Cos, owned by H&M, has launched a resale service on its website, Asos has seen vintage sales rise by 92% and Asda announced recently that it will sell second hand clothing in 50 supermarkets
  • Trend-setting teens have been trading clothes on Depop, Vinted, and Nuw, and renting through apps like Hurr and ByRotation in rising numbers – younger generations are taking their thrift hacks and tutorials to TikTok
  • Websites and apps that sell used clothing, such as Loopster and Kidclo, are growing fast, and eBay has sold over 60 million used items in the last year

We’re not there yet, though. The global apparel market is worth $1.5 trillion and is growing. A recent article on Bloomberg highlights that “while #thrifthaul and #knitting have a not-insignificant 456 million and 478 million views respectively on TikTok, #Sheinhaul — in which users showcase purchases from the ultra-cheap, ultra-fast fashion store SHEIN — has 2.3 billion”. And despite Boohoo being exposed for serious ethical failings, it’s still trading and successfully.

The other behaviour to watch out for is that, with the pre-loved market easing the conscience, people will continue to buy new, under the premise that they will re-sell rather than throw away. Charities and leading voices in this sector need to keep the focus on starting with second-hand, rather than easing the psychological burden with ‘recycling’. In the end, recycling is the last of the three pillars around addressing our problem with waste – the first two are ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.

But I’m optimistic. Sustainable habits are taking root, and even though this overhaul of the fashion industry will take more than one generation, it feels like a shift that is here to stay.

13
May
Sadie Fox

Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward

Posted by Sadie FoxTagged , , ,

As many will say, the pandemic which has consumed our lives over the last year, has provided us with opportunities to reflect, recoup, reset and rightly reward ourselves.

In one full cycle, we’ve gone through the ups and downs of home working, the trials and tribulations of Zoom and ongoing lockdown fears. After what has felt like a 2-year life break for many, we are now starting to see the circle of life spring back into action, once more.

It’s certainly been an emotional journey; however, despite the majority of us being eager to get back into the swing of things, it is of course important to remember those in our lives who have anxiety about returning to a ‘normal’ society and those who have consistency struggled throughout the pandemic. We are all human, with our own poignant pandemic story to tell, so taking the time to reflect recoup, reset and reward will be just as prevalent post-pandemic, as it was beforehand.

As we break out of our home offices and return to our social offices, now is the perfect time for us to reflect on the workplace champions who vow to continue investing and understanding the importance of the infamous work life balance.

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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.

21
Apr
Eryl Bradley

Lessons from lambing

Posted by Eryl BradleyTagged , , ,

From the time the pandemic hit, I’ve spent even more time than usual back with my family in west Wales. Most notably, this has meant helping out on my aunt and uncles’ 350-acre farm during lambing season. While being a great conversation starter, farming also undoubtedly gives you a new perspective on office life. Here’s three key things I’ve taken away.

It’s PR, not ER

Comms – and specifically, PR – is consistently voted one of the most stressful sectors to work in. With immediate decisions needed almost every hour, and with most journalists expecting everything yesterday, agency life can be extremely high pressure.

When you’re lambing, in some ways, the stress is similar. The constant re-prioritisation of which lamb or ewe is more in need of help is exhausting, and keeping a mental map of where every animal is and who’s been fed is no easy task. This can feel similar to juggling client needs and knowing what member of the team is working on what, when. But the fact that lambing is also a very physical job – without designated office hours – means you tire physically as well as mentally, and frequently have to get up in the middle of the night to do it all again.

As well as this, what you’re doing day-to-day is often the difference between life and death. If you forget to give a vulnerable lamb a bottle, even once, that can be the end. And that’s on you. When you go from dealing with decisions that can alter the life course of an animal, it reminds you to have perspective on that sell in that didn’t go so well, or the harsh client feedback that could have once ruined your day. As a wise colleague once reminded me – it’s public relations, not the emergency room.

 

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