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Can we ignore the sustainability naysayers?



However much we think sustainability should be something we all embrace, we are confronted by an all too familiar reality: that of having to deal with the sustainability sceptic.

These people have a right to voice critical concerns, and we sustainability people have our right to challenge positively and seek to persuade them about the current (and future realities) of ignoring the challenges at hand.

The dangers of not seeking to win them over can be huge. So we need our voice and we need to provide accurate, clear and persuasive positions that can be robustly defended.

Why are they sceptical? Maybe it’s because they have been promised outcomes that were never delivered, or based on their unclear understanding of what it is, or a perception that the sustainability agenda has suffered overkill, has been given too much attention in the past or is an idea that simply doesn’t sit with the person’s ideological beliefs.

We could argue that we can ignore these people, yet they often have significant influence or hold senior positions, responsible for enabling or torpedoing sustainability initiatives crucial for delivering significant change.

Recognising that we aren’t all converts, supporters or champions is an important starting point. Sustainability professionals must be aware and able to respond to this. The approaches we take must be ready and appropriate for the cultures, circumstances and personalities that make our lives more challenging and also more interesting.

As with climate change, there can be fundamental beliefs that apparently defy logic (and science). Seemingly no amount of evidence will change such minds. But it may not be evidence we need.

It could be that we create sufficient agreement and support around them to the point where they no longer feel conformable maintaining a position at odds with the communities within which they work (or live).

Sustainability is, albeit slowly, becoming more mainstream. Within businesses, the proof that sustainability delivers real value is becoming stronger and more relevant in every area of company operations, including the products and services sold. A begrudging acceptance may be all that is needed where pride may be swallowed and for the ‘barriers’ to move forward.

In many cases, as I have written previously, the lack of clear understanding of what sustainability truly means and the systemic consequences of our actions is widespread.

Sustainability has, in many cases, been argued from a vague philosophical perspective. Yet it doesn’t have to be. We can base our arguments in science and in the laws of nature (such as the laws of thermodynamics) which can only be argued against by illustrating complete irrational thought.

Alternatively, we can look to find ways where these blockers can learn in their own terms. Their work, lives and relationships can provide the context for them to consider, internalise, reflect and act in ways they feel become comfortable rather than alien to them. Finding ways that don’t nag or force, rather enable learning, exploration and then ownership of the issue, will be important.

Giving recognition for actions undertaking, and enabling them to realise the wider benefits of their behaviours to themselves and the wider world will help reinforce behaviours and can turn sceptics into advocates.

Sometimes we have to save our energy and avoid banging our heads against such people. We are too few in number and our capabilities are better used elsewhere to motivate and enable others, and outflank those that undermine the sustainability agenda. We need to communicate sustainability in ways that are easy to understand and for others to reinterpret accurately and in their own terms.

In some cases, we need to drop the terms ‘sustainability’, ‘green’, ‘eco’ and ‘ethical’ and use stealth tactics, applying ‘strategy’, ‘efficiency’, ‘innovation’ and ‘staff performance’ as our outcomes, delivered through business management approaches that if scratched below the surface would have sustainability as the glue that holds them all together.

We need to be present, constantly aware of the context we are in and the actors that we relate to. We need to empathise, prompt, enable, challenge, reward, coach, support, mentor, motivate, educate and score more ways to ensure those that may stop us in our tracks become those that can help us along the path.

Our roles are to move everyone forward to create the societies that are for all and forever. Yes, there may still be a few people that are more interested in all for themselves, forever. Yet these will increasingly become marginalised, left behind as the world moves forward to create something that only those who participate responsibly will feel the power of the good that they have done.

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. He has master’s degrees in both in sustainability leadership and environmental policy and works to help create innovative local solutions and lever ideas for transformational sustainability change. He is currently head of sustainability at the University of Greenwich, helping co-create and deliver their sustainability ambitions and visions throughout the organisation and beyond.

Further reading:

Success means seeing ourselves as part of the bigger system

Sustainability isn’t about being fluffy; it’s about being strategic

We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

Charities keeping quiet about sustainability is pretty dumb in the long-term

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. He has master’s degrees in both in sustainability leadership and environmental policy and works to help create innovative local solutions and lever ideas for transformational sustainability change. He also explores ways to engage people to connect authentically and passionately to become the sustainability leaders and heroes the future needs.


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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