All business must be green business Miliband tells EIC

Environmental industry is no longer a niche market and must become the norm for every business in every sector if we are to live up to the challenges posed by climate change and diminishing finite resources, according to the Secretary for the Environment.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Environmental Industries Commission this week, David Miliband told delegates that as well as posing risks, environmental problems also offered opportunities to innovative businesses.

He outlined three major challenges for industry and society in general, saying it needed to do more with less, design out waste and de-carbonise and decentralise energy.

Doing more with less was increasingly important, he said, as demand for mineral and energy resources is surging with the rise of developing economies whilst, at the same time, those very resources are become more scarce as we continued to live beyond our means in terms of what the planet can support.

New products need to be designed from the outset so that components are easily recyclable, said the Minister, rather than leaving it until the end of their useful life before considering what to do with the waste.

With the combination of rising energy prices, carbon released from burning fossil fuels and concerns about energy security means we need to get clever about energy, and not only reduce emissions but look at decentralised, more efficient ways of meeting our needs, he added.

This offered opportunities for the renewables industry and local combined heat and power plants.

“We’re at a tipping point where environmental industry has to undergo a pretty profound change,” said Mr Miliband.

While the sector had traditionally been focused on minimising pollution and other by-products of industry which could harm health and the environment, there was now a need to target the cause rather than symptoms.

“We need to redefine environmental industries,” he said.

“Instead of end of pipe solutions we need to look at preventative measures. Every industry needs to be an environmental industry in one sense or another. Every business need to take resource productivity as seriously as it takes labour productivity.”

It was not all doom and gloom, he said, and those who met the new challenges posed by environmental problems stood to profit.

“This is a massive opportunity in the UK but lets not kid ourselves that we’re the only place that’s spotted the opportunity,” he said.

“The technology is there to achieve big change but we’ve got a huge collective action problem of how to get it done.”

The Minister said there needs to be a fundamental change in economic life and that meant making changes as individuals, as well as businesses.

Government too had a role, he said, and pledged that it would do its part by providing the leadership, legislation and regulatory framework needed to support business as it sought to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Sam Bond

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