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Economy

‘It’s the economy, stupid’: smart growth has to be at the heart of BITC’s purpose

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Stephen Farrant, Director of Environment and Marketplace Solutions, sets out his vision for how Business in the Community addresses the vital environmental issues affecting business and society. This post first appeared on the BITC blog and is published with their kind permission.

By any measure, 2015 is a massive year for the environmental agenda. The much-anticipated Sustainable Development Goals have just been launched, to be followed by the UN Climate Talks (COP21) in Paris in December.

When you see the Pope teaming up with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Naomi Klein, you know that something big is taking place.  Public awareness of the need for change is increasing, even if slowly. Governments are legislating, witness Obama’s Clean Power Plan, as well as China’s new environmental protection laws which include provision for unlimited fines on illegal industrial polluters and encouragment of transition to more of a circular economy.

For me, mobilising effectively on the environmental agenda is the challenge of our generation.  It is a challenge integrally linked not just to continued economic growth and prosperity, but also to the social justice agenda of jobs, education, and equality of opportunity. Take just the one example of the growing body of research that links the current refugee crisis with climate change. Five years of unprecedented drought in Syria, from 2006 to 2010, was undoubtedly a contributory factor in that country’s social dislocation, civil war and the subsequent rise of extremism. (Even if leading newspapers ranging from the Independent to Time to the Guardian have been criticised for daring to make the connection).

But where should we start to address such complex, systemic challenges? As the age of austerity in recent years has reminded us all too clearly, economies need to grow in order to provide social stability, employment and the tax revenues needed to fund public services. But, just as governments around the world struggle to live within their means financially, so western civilisation has done a very poor job in recent years of living within the carrying capacity of Earth. Both science and common sense tell us that continual growth along the lines of “business as usual” is not ecologically possible on a finite planet.

This is not a new debate – as far back as 1968, Robert Kennedy was highlighting the inadequacy of GDP as a measure of success. The publication of “The Limits to Growth” in 1972 brought the dilemma into sharper relief.  It was more recently explored by Professor Tim Jackson in his work, “Prosperity Without Growth – Economics for a Finite Planet“, while our colleagues at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership have gone further in “Re-wiring the Economy.” So, as we look to the future, we need to shift the debate from the simple quantum of growth to the quality of growth. We must focus on moving from an unsustainable, linear model of growth to smart growth.

BITC is already very strong in so many ways, but we are currently not on track to meet our overall goal of a fairer society and a more sustainable future, because we have not tackled these fundamental questions laying at the heart of our mission. To get there, we need to re-double our focus on the environmental agenda as an integral part of our mission, and show how “smart growth” provides opportunities for the business community to lead the way in re-thinking energy, water and waste, creating a circular economy. This is as much about job creation and commercial advantage as about de-carbonisation and intelligent resource utilisation, challenging and urgent as those tasks are.

We need business leaders demonstrating how to lead on this, along with putting pressure on governments to be braver in setting ambitious long-term policy. As Paul Polman of Unilever has stated bluntly, “If we don’t tackle climate change, we won’t achieve economic growth.”

The notion of smart growth therefore needs to be at the heart of our new environmental campaign. It will provide practical support to enable businesses and the communities they operate in to thrive within a smart (re-wired) economy, leading to effective and circular use of resources, nurturing of healthy ecosystems and preparation for climate change.

We’ll continue doing what BITC has always done best – engaging businesses on practical steps to address the big challenges, and inspiring others to act. We know how to do this; just look at The Prince’s Mayday Network back in 2007 as a call to action on climate change; or how BITC’s partnership with the global hotel industry (ITP) brought 23 companies together to standardise how the hotel industry measures and communicates its carbon emissions, or how our Water Taskforce brought together food retailers and utilities companies to address the issue of fats, oils and greases choking drains by giving away over 200,000 fat-catching devices in 2014. Our new engagement plan to help businesses make a reality of the circular economy (launching in late 2015) will take us further. And then we need to do so much more.

The good news is there are plenty of business solutions out there that can move us forwards; Marks & Spencer’s Plan A leading to carbon neutrality, Veolia’s generation of 22% of its income from circular economy solutions, Jaguar Land Rover’s closed loop waste recovery and aluminium recycling programmes, Tesla’s introduction of efficient household batteries for storing renewable energy. Business is coming together as never before on this issue (for instance through the We Mean Business and theRe100 coalitions). There is no doubt that it has a vital role to play, from using its R&D capabilities to innovate, to mobilising massive global workforces to creating demand among a new generation of customers.

The sharp fall in Volkswagen’s share price and the brand damage it has suffered this week, following revelations that the company had deceived regulators on emissions tests, is a timely reminder that environmental blunders hurt companies financially. It underlines that the change we need to see also requires businesses to be very clear about the social purpose of their products and services, and to build lasting trust in their brands in an age of ubiquitous information.  This is the focus of BITC’s Marketplace Leadership Team. Innovation is key; as the inspiring Solar Impulse project reminded us earlier this year, “It wasn’t the people selling candles who invented the light-bulb.”

The business community is coming together to put their weight against environmental challenges as well as societal ones. Time is short. In this 30th year of the Prince of Wales’ Presidency of BITC, we must embrace this unique opportunity as conveners and as campaigners. Societal wellbeing and economic performance, and the priceless natural environment, depend on this.

To find out more, come along to BITC’s AGM and Annual Leadership Network on 9 December 2015.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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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Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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