Friday, March 27, 2009

Sustainable Savings

SUSBIZ Sustainable Business Strategies.

A few notes on how climate change and sustainability affect business. I’m going to talk about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Stern and the Institute of Directors. I’m running a teleclass with a few places left on Tuesday, and next week I shall be going up to the Low Carbon Best Practice Exchange in Newcastle. The RPI has come down, the CPI has gone up but the COBRA Matrix will help you deal with it, and at the beginning of May the Prince of Wales has his Mayday Summit on Climate Change.

Although the economy is in a state that nobody has seen for many, many years, it hasn’t pushed climate change and sustainability off the agenda. Pressure is coming from all quarters. The latest is the Archbishop of Canterbury who said that the case for action on climate change was a moral as well as a practical one. On Tuesday’s Radio 4 Today Programme he warned that billions could die if governments and individuals did not take moral responsibility for climate change now. Didn’t James Lovelock say much the same a few weeks ago? This comes after Lord Stern’s presentation to the Copenhagen Climate Conference when he said that the situation was very much worse than he had thought when he prepared his report on the economic consequences of climate change back in 2006.

But let’s not be negative! At a recent Institute of Directors event addressed by IOD environment spokesman David Boomer and by Todd Holden from Enworks we were told how adopting environmental policies could lead to a direct improvement in the bottom line. On the basis of studying more than 2000 companies it’s been shown that they saved 8% on energy, 2% on materials, 13% on water and up to 50% on waste. You can do a lot of this without spending any money. Apparently 70% of savings come from behaviour change. If you do need to invest to save, there’s a range of low carbon grants and soft loans. I’ve recently been looking at the work of Bob Willard who is a specialist in sustainable business based in Canada who also talks about the savings on staff costs which can be made from environmental policies; from improved morale and productivity to lowered recruitment costs and less turnover. It all depends on the structure of your business, of course, but anything that can make a quantifiable improvement to your bottom line, particularly in the present economic climate, must be valuable regardless of where it comes from.

Next Tuesday 31st March I’m running a teleclass which will cover these points and expand on them. This event is by invitation only but there are one of two places still available so if you want to take part please log on now to this link and you’ll find full details. The session will take place at 18:00 BST but if you can’t make it there will be a recording which will be available the following day.

Next week on 2nd April I shall be running a roundtable discussion session at the Low Carbon Best Practice Forum in Newcastle. If you haven’t already registered for the event go to www.Carbon–

The big news this week is that inflation is going up, or at least it is as far as the Consumer Price Index is concerned. It’s risen from 3% to 3.2% while the Retail Price Index has declined to zero; no change. The difference is that the RPI includes housing costs which have been falling as house prices fall and mortgage rates are cut. Both these inflation indices are very crude instruments; it all depends on your lifestyle as to whether your costs are rising or falling. The other issue is the oil price. It peaked at $147 last July and crashed to $36 in January. Now it’s on the rise again - and after adjusting for the exchange rate in the UK it’s halfway back to last year’s peak.

In business, each organisation has its own set of risk factors and I’ve derived the COBRA Matrix to help managers balance impact against possibility. I’ll be covering this in Tuesday’s teleclass and there will be examples of the COBRA approach in the accompanying working papers. Download them here.

As I said to start with, pressure and the realization of the impact of climate change are coming from all quarters. On 1st May the Prince of Wales’s Mayday Summit on Climate Change takes place for the third year running. It brings together businesses at regional centres all over the country to report on progress and to commit to Carbon Reduction and environmental improvements for the year ahead. You can sign up here.

Government regulations demand that business become environmentally responsible and despite the economic environment, consumers are continuing to demand that organisations are green as well. You can find details of a survey published by the Carbon Trust here.

You don’t have to look far to find people who say how dreadful, how terrible, how earth-shattering the risks from climate change are. I prefer to concentrate on the opportunities for staying in business and staying in profit. In the coming weeks I shall be interviewing people from the Carbon Trust and Virgin Media among others to reinforce the positive message.

If you want to add your comments I look forward hearing from you. Add them to this blog or give me a call.
My name’s Anthony Day and my number is 01904654986. I hope we’ll talk soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Age of Stupid

Do we need another misery movie?

Review: The Age of Stupid - premiere at Leicester Square and 65 cinemas across the country.

In The Age of Stupid Pete Postlethwaite addresses us from the wrecked planet of 2055 and asks how we could be so stupid as to let climate change destroy humanity. He flicks through endless archives showing us the obvious clues to catastrophe from 2009 and before. It seemed a long film, partly because technical problems meant that about 30 minutes of footage was played twice. Partly, too, because it replayed the breast-beating and lamentations already seen in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Leonardo di Caprio’s The Eleventh Hour, The Day After Tomorrow and all the rest.

What these films lack, and that includes the live debate following The Age of Stupid, is a credible call to action. Watching this film you might conclude that the best thing to do is to run your car on chip fat, live self-sufficiently on a small holding and protest against the nasty nimbies who oppose wind farms. It goes without saying that there’s not enough chip fat and not enough smallholdings. The effectiveness of wind farms is also very much in doubt. After the film Pete Postlethwaite pledged to give back his OBE if the government approved the proposed new Kingsnorth coal-fired power station. Ed Milliband was there to respond, but they let him off extremely lightly by not once mentioning government support for Heathrow’s third runway. Surely that’s a much more powerful national political issue than some power station down in Kent.

Sustainable economic growth is still possible in a low carbon economy, but if we are going to solve this problem we must all drive less, heat less and consume less. Life will be very different - potentially much more pleasant - if we take the low-carbon route. The Age of Stupid has missed the opportunity to show what ordinary people can do to safeguard our future, and to show what sort of future we can all enjoy if we act now. Certainly the showing raised enthusiasm both in Leicester Square and in the cinema where I was, but I fear that people will be rushing off to protest, rather than rushing off to change their lives.