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We need a credible green innovation growth strategy

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Innovation equals growth. More importantly, green innovation equals sustainable growth. Large businesses shed jobs through recessions and shed jobs during growth as they outsource and focus on efficiency. Large incumbent businesses are part of the problem, and not part of the solution to our economic, societal and environmental woes.

If large corporations aren’t screwing the environment through pollution and waste, they’re screwing society by dodging tax and sacking people or wrecking the free market economy by acting as cartels. Often they’re doing all three. Not all large corporations do this, but most of them do.

Big has often been seen as good.

In almost every sector from finance, utilities, retail, transport, media to leisure, privatisation or demutualisation and then consolidation has been promoted as the way to create world-beating industries. Sadly, it has created environment, society and economy-crashing behemoths, or world-wrecking industries, that flout necessary regulations and safeguards, ignore democratically elected politicians and treat their customers like cattle.

Large industrial corporations will spend millions to preserve the status quo, strangle innovation and squeeze every last drop of profit from a market.

This is the antithesis of capitalism.

True capitalism is about risk-taking, disruption, failing fast and failing often. Large corporations cannot afford to fail.

In an excellent blog by the marketer’s marketer, Seth Godin eloquently set out this difference between industrialists and capitalists: “Industrialists seek stability instead. Industrialists work to take working systems and polish them, insulate them from risk, maximise productivity and extract the maximum amount of profit. Much of society’s wealth is due to the relentless march of productivity created by single-minded industrialists, particularly those that turned nascent industries (as Henry Ford did with cars) into efficient engines of profit.”

As we learnt in Autumn 2008, many financial players proved far too big to fail and had to be bailed out by taxpayers which, according to Maurice Glassman, “was the biggest transfer of wealth from poor to rich since the Norman conquest.” That is not the role private enterprise plays in the economy.

Failure and losses should not be nationalised, if successes and profits are privately hoarded.

Godin goes on to point out that industrialists like regulations only if they write them, are rewarded by stock markets that celebrate ruthless efficiency over messy innovation and really hate competition, change, creativity and, most of all, people. As he puts it, people are “inconsistent and interested in things other than the last zero. The best employee is a robot that can be plugged into a wall.” That is not a recipe for optimal employment.

So where does our nation’s wealth and growth really come from? And where will it come from in the future?

Small and medium sized businesses provide nearly 60% of our jobs and 50% of GDP (BIS, 2010). Between 1995-99 new businesses were found to be the greatest single source of new jobs, accounting for 2.3m extra jobs, of which 85% were in small businesses.

As we wrote on Thursday: “Food, energy, housing and water, plus an ageing population, will be placing severe strains on the economy and environment within and across borders. Civil society will be under similar pressure if voting turnout continues to plummet, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow and the cost of everything begins to rise as we reach the limits of growth.”

Each of these areas needs significant innovation and the UK is truly exceptional at innovation. We are ranked 5th, above every other G8 member, in the Global Innovation Index 2012, published by INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

The agricultural, industrial and information revolutions have all, in part, been led by British inventors and innovators – as demonstrated by the incredible opening ceremony that kicked off last summer’s Olympic Games in London. It is time we used our natural curiosity creativity and genius to take our role as leaders of the sustainable revolution. Turning in on ourselves and clutching at past glories as though it was ever better than now is a fool’s errand.

Our research universities and technical universities, applied science and creative industries are all world class and we could harness these strengths to build the world-beating industries our future economy needs.

The Confederation of British Industry reported in 2012 that the green economy provided one-third of growth in 2010 and was then worth 8% of our GDP.

Old, dominant and stagnant industries stifle growth and innovation – with the odd notable exception. The many problems we face as a country and world can be solved through British innovation and creativity. This requires vision, leadership and determination – something sorely lacking in our current government, in which one of its leading figures described the environmental and renewable energy sectors as an “environmental Taliban.

Britain’s future lies not in wrapping ourselves in the flag, retreating from the future and backing ageing, dirty and shrinking industries, but instead striding out with confidence and innovation.

Further reading:

Home-grown innovation that might just change the world

Sharing the responsibility of a green future

Jonathon Porritt: the wonderful world of clean energy technology

Taking steps towards a new ethical age of business

Merging the great business dilemma: profit v sustainability, responsibility and ethics

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.

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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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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