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Economy

Stepping down from the sustainability soapbox

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We are dramatically altering the planet and environment on which society’s prosperity depends – yet talk to the ‘man at the pub’, and he’s apathetic, inert and often cynical at all this “green nonsense”. For Blue & Green Tomorrow’s third birthday, Alex Blackburne looks at how best to communicate the gravity of the threats we face – and indeed, if we even need to.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since joining Blue & Green Tomorrow just over two years ago, it’s that not everyone shares my interest in sustainability and environmental issues. I often quip, with a pinch of sadness, that I become the most boring person in the pub after a couple of pints.

For some odd reason, my friends and family don’t enjoy me telling them their bank launders money for Mexican drug barons or their energy supplier is helping screw up the planet for future generations. Yet it does, and it is.

When I first joined the magazine, I remember our publisher Simon Leadbetter doing a “Welcome to Blue & Green Tomorrow” presentation (that he still uses today) about what it stands for and why it exists.

I hadn’t thought of myself as a particularly impressionable person prior to this – and I’m the first to admit that at the time, I knew no more than the layperson about the issues I now write about every day – but the images, statistics and charts that I was shown on that first day struck a real chord. As such, my ambition of becoming a sports journalist quickly went out the window.

When it came to investment, not investing in companies that had atrocious human rights records, contributed to environmental degradation or were simply part of an ‘unethical’ industry seemed obvious. As did channelling capital towards burgeoning, exciting new sectors like renewable energy and cleantech.

However, while by no means representing the full extent of the challenges the world faces, it became evident pretty quickly that climate change was the big issue.

From the very beginning, B&GT has grappled with how to best approach it. For starters, the science tells us that man-made emissions (from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal) are contributing to global average temperature increases, posing a threat to the environment that society’s prosperity depends. While there is and should be debates on how to tackle the problem, the fact that it exists and is indeed a problem is not up for debate (in the same way that we accept the causal link between smoking and cancer).

Because it represents such a fundamental threat to our way of life, and is the sole or primary motivation for many people working or investing in the sustainability space, we naturally write articles about it.

Where the difficulty lies, however, is when we’re writing about our core tenet: sustainable investment.

Trying to avoid preaching to the converted was something that was drummed into me when I started at B&GT, and is something I share with colleagues to this day. We have never wanted to be another ‘green’ magazine (we prefer blue and green, anyway), as there are plenty of titles out there fighting the good fight doing just that – and doing it excellently, might I add.

But if we are to succeed in doing this, we have to accept that there are investors and consumers out there who will deny that manmade climate change exists (a poll from 2012 found that in the UK and the US – our two biggest countries of readership – only 65% and 58% respectively thought that humans were mostly responsible for climate change).

We know that the presence of online ‘filter bubbles’ can help reinforce one’s view on a topic like climate change, regardless of the side of the fence you sit (Avaaz and Upworthy founder Eli Pariser once said, “The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”); and we know (and have experienced first-hand) that engaging in the climate change debate invites trolls.

So, all things considered, we therefore look for other drivers to encourage our readers to invest sustainably. Instead of, “Your investments in fossil fuels firms are causing climate change”, it’s, “Your investments in fossil fuels firms will be worthless financially in the future.” Economic or financial reasons (i.e. X is cheaper than Y, and X happens to be greener than Y) can be very effective.

The communication dilemma is one that I’ve pondered in recent months, and asked a number of interviewees for their take on it.

Peter Ainsworth, the former Conservative MP and shadow environment secretary, spoke to me earlier this year about the “enormous difficulty” he had experienced for himself, while trying to communicate the gravity of the threat posed by climate change to the layperson.

However, he said, “I absolutely, profoundly believe that most people, given a choice of doing the right thing for the environment or the wrong thing, most people would choose the right thing. Most people want to do the right thing, so we need to make it easy for them to do the right thing and not complicated.

Another interesting perspective came from Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist based at the University of Manchester. After sitting through an hour-long presentation of his on climate change during National Ethical Investment Week I felt suitably terrified. I asked him afterwards how he suggested communicating the issues raised in his presentation to the layperson. His answer? We don’t need to.

Instead, he said, we need to play up the wider financial and social benefits of being more energy efficient and less wasteful.

Anderson spoke about how in the UK, we sell (though no longer manufacture) A-rated fridges – even though there are A+, A++ and A+++ models available which in some cases use 85% less energy than the older versions. Firstly, it’s mad that we still sell the inefficient models, but secondly, the cost savings involved with using 85% less power are huge.

To conclude, I turn to The Debunking Handbook, an essential nine-page document from the brilliant Skeptical Science. “When you debunk a myth, you create a gap in the person’s mind”, it says. “To be effective, your debunking must fill that gap.” Filling these gaps and connecting these dots is what Blue & Green Tomorrow is all about. Omnia coniuncta; all things are connected.

In an interview in 2012, Chasing Ice star James Balog told me, “We are clearly in the middle of a crisis already. We are not looking at the crisis coming at us in the future; the crisis is upon us.”

Let’s not play down the gravity of the threat posed by climate change. It clearly exists, and clearly matters. But the key in successfully overcoming it could lie with effective communication to the broader society.

Further reading:

Climate change: the time has come to become unreasonable

Sir Mark Walport: scientists must better communicate the disruption of our climate

The climate clock is ticking. Normal isn’t working. What should we do differently?

We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

Climate change? Let’s talk about…

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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