Useful to see the part business has to play reported from COP26, with all of us able to contribute to a critical cause.
Alongside the individual responsibility we hold for reducing the impact of climate change, the companies we work for, or with can do the same.
Temperature control is vital, as is cutting pollution such as particulate matter, nitrous oxides and ozone. A combination we now recognise as a cause of lung disorders, strokes and heart disease, alongside planetary damage.
The statement in the video by Alan Jope of Unilever was accurate, governments do respond to business actions as well as voting intentions. His point on positive change not needing to be a cost is equally valid.
Careful sourcing can be beneficial and cost saving. As we have found from investing in electric cars, high spec window glazing and low energy lighting, they more than pay for themselves and help with external and internal relationships.
There have always been natural sources of greenhouse gases, decomposition, ocean release, respiration, including our own. They are not threatening in themselves, compared to the impact us and our industries have.
The block chart gives an idea of where greenhouse gases originate in the UK but the reality is not that easy to map. Business and domestic life overlap, one is a consumer of the other, how about health, or education, which are they.
Answers can only come from regarding the environment we live in as a shared and essential part of life, with efforts to improve coming from all directions.
Quitting coal is an obvious requirement, weaning ourselves off other fossil fuels, re-forestation rather than the opposite. Large scale needs with political and economic barriers, which we must all hope can be pushed aside.
The need for us is not to ignore the smaller scale targets. What we eat can matter, a bowl of lamb stew has the same carbon footprint as boiling a kettle 250 times, the energy we use in our homes can go beyond reasonable comfort.
Travel is a significant emitter, which applies individually but also to business. Transportation being the highest factor in the chart above is significant and whilst consumers may be the ultimate users, this is largely in the control of business.
Moving to electric vehicles will help, although they still have a footprint and non electric transport such as aircraft are a notable issue. We can not stop this altogether but can help the environment and save money by planning efficiently.
The Recognition Gap
More learned summaries on good practice are available than our synopsis but the core glitch is not knowledge of the problem. For all the publicity, environmental care is still not always part of mainstream business practice.
We recently needed to look closely at a large medical conference, filled with people who care but did their program. They covered innovative drug use, practice management and finance, HR, far more including how the environment affects patients but nothing on the opposite.
Alongside financial, staffing, resource and marketing sections, boardroom documents all need to have another section. Environmental impact has to become mainstream thinking when making commercial decisions, employee awareness and involvement should be the norm.
Choosing A Future
Few consider COP 26 to be an unqualified success. These gatherings tend to mirror geopolitical reality more than decisive action but there was still progress, along with publicity which will stimulate people and business to call for more.
Barack Obama was a high profile speaker who admitted that “There are times I’m doubtful that humanity can get its act together before it’s too late,” but pointed out that “we can’t afford hopelessness”. Neither do we need to take that stance.
Climate change will not ultimately be solved by people reliant on short term goals, we can all solve the problem and should do. Flash floods are no longer confined to distant places, heat which can kill is as evident in Europe as elsewhere.
We need to put environmental policy on the same level as profit or loss, talk to business partners, encourage them, talk to politicians if possible. We are all stewards of our planet, perhaps before we are anything else.