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Benefits Street residents are not the real problem; it’s those who work in the Square Mile and Wall Street



Which group in society has done more harm to our economy, society and the environment over the last 30 years? Is it the poorest or the wealthiest? Is it families living in poverty stuck in struggling communities or the global captains of industry and finance?

We are not apologists for the tiny cohort of benefit cheats. Anyone defrauding the taxpayer should be identified and prosecuted. It is estimated that benefit fraud cost the UK Treasury £3.4 billion in 2012. That is a lot of money. That said, £1.3 billion of benefits was underpaid and £16 billion of benefits people were entitled to remained unclaimed, which includes 1.2-1.6 million pensioners who don’t claim benefits and between 440,000-610,000 who didn’t claim jobseekers’s allowance to which they are entitled.

Conversely, there was £70 billion of tax evasion and £25 billion in unpaid tax. This tax cheating cost the Treasury 30 times benefit cheating.

Benefit fraud is nothing compared to the economic costs of the financial services crisis.

The Bank of England estimates that the financial crisis cost the British economy £7.4 trillion in lost output, or £115k for every person in the UK. The UK government has £141 billion of outstanding support. Some £375 billion of quantitative easing and historically low interest rates to stem the crisis will have long-term unforeseen consequences for generations to come.

Benefit fraud is nothing compared to the environmental costs of unsustainable investment.

In 2008, the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) estimated that the top 3,000 public companies were responsible for $2.15 trillion (£1.31 trillion) worth of environmental damage. They said this would rise to $28 trillion (£17 trillion) by 2050. In the UK, our investment in, and addiction to, fossil fuels cost the UK £20 billion in health costs from air pollution.

Benefit fraud is nothing compared to the cost to society of growing inequality, social immobility, human rights abuses and poor stakeholder relationship.

The financial service crash of 2008 saw unemployment in the UK rise from 2.9% to 8.1% in 2011, with youth unemployment reaching record levels.

Our financial services sector is not the enemy but it needs radical reform, breaking up organisations that are too big to fail, regulating financial trades that are too fast to control, increasing competition and transparency.

Investment managers like Ecclesiastical, Alliance Trust, WHEB, Rathbone Greenbank, Pictet, F&C and Quilter Cheviot that focus on sustainability are exemplars of what investment could be like, screening out unethical stocks and positively investing in a sustainable economy. Ecclesiastical, F&C, WHEB and Rathbone Greenbank stand out as signatories of the European SRI Transparency Code, developed by the pan-European sustainable investment forum Eurosif.

Banks like Handelsbanken, Ecology Building Society, Charity Bank and Triodos, which have commitments to communities and sustainable investment, represent what the future of responsible banking could be. Meanwhile, the many mutuals and credit unions represent a good alternative to broken high street banks.

Anyone defrauding the taxpayer should be identified and prosecuted. The number of people sentenced for benefit fraud in 2011 was 6,080, the lowest number since 2001. To date, no banking executive has been prosecuted for crashing the global economy, wrecking our environment and devastating society. This is despite proven cases of money laundering, mis-selling and fixing vital rates.

The unfortunates in Benefits Street might make compellingly awful television, but it is just a bread and circus distraction to the real issues and the real wrongdoers.

Further reading:

How wide is the wealth gap?

Functioning markets, functional democracy, sustainable economics and the rule of law

Big is the enemy of the good in all industries

The sustainable investment tipping point is now

Why abolishing corporation tax might make sense

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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