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Future sustainability leaders: Rebecca Trevalyan



What will business look like in the future and who are our future leaders?

We started a new feature last week, speaking with a group of young people who are making waves in sustainability. All 12 are scholars on Forum for the Future’s renowned master’s course in leadership for sustainable development.

Rebecca Trevalyan, who is currently on placement with Gen Community, is up next to tell us about her ambitions.

Tell us about your experience on the Forum for the Future master’s course. What have your placements involved?

Six weeks at Innocent’s Fruit Towers was a thrilling insight into the fast-paced food and drink industry. I spent days tramping around apple orchards, interviewing top fruit experts from across Europe and drinking rather a lot of juice. A visit from Bill Clinton was undoubtedly a highlight, too.

My second placement was at construction giant Carillion, where I donned a hard hat and steel-capped boots for a tour of its new development at Battersea Power Station.

Next up was international thinktank IIED, where I learned all about the energy needs of smallholder farmers – and had a sneak preview into the lofty corridors of power.

Finally, I project managed a share offer for a community energy project in the Orkneys at alternative finance start-up Gen Community. After a few days spent furiously reading Investopedia, I started to feel a little more versed in the world of finance.

Where does your interest in sustainability come from?

I was born and raised in a little patch of countryside in Lancashire – that early menu of mud pies must have given me a taste of looking after the big outdoors. During my undergraduate days, I worked with a variety of social enterprises, and was convinced that a profit-for-purpose model could be the answer to many of our challenges today.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your course?

At the start of the course, a lecturer warned that some people are prone to burn out in sustainability. The size of the issues faced and the seemingly universal resistance to change can be overwhelming. Surround yourself with positive people, he said, and don’t dwell too much on the bad news. The principles of the League of Pragmatic Optimists strike me as a wise approach to maximising personal resilience and achievement in the field.

What’s most important business lesson you’ve learnt?

Learn to speak the language of the organisation or sector you want to persuade. It’s unlikely you’ll change a bank’s investment portfolio by dressing in hemp and talking about the birds.

What one idea do you think could change the world for the better?

Investment in social enterprise and an acceptance that profits will not be short-term. Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth points out that our current capitalist system depends on constant growth to maintain a given level of employment – due to year-on-year efficiency gains in labour productivity. Jackson suggests that, in order to slow down resource depletion and climate change, we need to move towards what he calls ‘dematerialised services’ – because the human input is the value in them.

We need to fund growth in sectors like sport centres, local repair services, performing arts, community energy, slow food co-operatives – which may have a longer return on investment (ROI) than FTSE 100 investments, for example.

What do you see of the future in terms of sustainability, business and the environment?

I think businesses are waking up to the idea that developing sustainable practices and supply chains is the only option. Given likely future price rises in energy and commodities, the successful players in 2020 and beyond will be the businesses blazing the trails now.

Where will you be in 10 years’ time?

Having founded several community-based social enterprises, I will be co-ordinating a whole network of them, helping them to scale by connecting them to the newly mainstreamed ethical finance sector.

Further reading:

Future sustainability leaders: Sam Gillick

Future sustainability leaders: Patrick Elf

21st century leadership: from business as usual to business as a force for good

The business case for sustainability – an exceptional Forum for the Future event

The Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility 2013


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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