Covid-19 can reinforce the green business case

Reconomy's head of sustainability Nathan Gray reflects on the appetite for businesses to drive a green recovery as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 can reinforce the green business case

Recently, I was privileged to join edie’s Net-Zero Live event and witness the passion and positivity of businesses, policymakers, investors, and NGO’s. The breadth of participants alone gave me confidence that a Green Recovery is indeed Mission Possible.

Let’s start by recognising the obvious – 2020 has been a pretty hard year. It’s going to take time to recover the momentum, but Government seems set to drive meaningful environmental change.

I believe that we are reaching a tipping point where the pieces of the sustainability jigsaw are coming together. There has undoubtedly been a shift in social attitude towards the environment which I feel has been accelerated as a result of COVID19. We are fortunate to have in place most of what is needed in terms of policy, regulation and the eagerly awaited Environment Bill in December.  Perhaps most exciting is the political appetite to mandate a change in business behaviour to meet our carbon, climate change and social justice obligations.

With the economy and employment looking set to dominate the political horizon, it feels like the right time to push forward a broader carbon tax, which creates a level playing field for all businesses. This will promote more sustainable commercial decisions whilst also generating much needed public funds. These could in turn be used to support the growth of Net-Zero green business initiatives.

Technology also has a role to play, not only in terms of waste processing but in the provision of accurate data to enable informed decision making. Reconomy’s Zero Wasteometer allows businesses to evaluate the carbon equivalence and climate impacts (Scope3) of their waste performance in a broad yet relatively simple manner. This information can then be used to promote efficiencies and drive investment with a common language.

There can be no denying the huge impact that Covid restrictions have had on the high street with an even greater percentage of retail driven online. Despite this, there is still the opportunity for local retailers to harness the commercial and reputational benefits of a green recovery.

I would urge businesses to take this opportunity to review their waste management processes. There are almost certainly ways to reduce the amount of waste being produced and better manage what cannot be avoided. Reducing waste by introducing no packaging aisles directly reduces waste bills. It also limits exposure to other costs such as the looming plastic packaging tax and EPR. Improved management practices help mitigate risks, promote adoption and eliminate wasted resources – further reducing costs. 

Covid-19 highlighted the vulnerability of many of our supply chains with an over-reliance on a small number of producers and markets. This reinforces the business case for the creation of closed-loop solutions, securing supply and bolstering our local economy.

Looking forward, I believe that ‘from adversity we will find opportunity’. The economic value of a green recovery will force more sustainable business practices across the board.  For this to happen we must ensure the fiscal mechanisms employed are proportionate and fair, whilst fostering a culture of transparency, openness and equality.

Mission Possible: Achieving a green recovery for retail

edie’s Mission Possible campaign has evolved to focus on the green recovery, with a new series of reports outlining the challenges that businesses in key sectors face in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, and the opportunities that the green recovery will bring. 

The Retail edition of the report is out NOW. Created in partnership with Reconomy, the report provides expert insight from some of the UK’s major retailers and features exclusive results from edie’s survey of 243 sustainability and energy professionals. 

Additionally, viewpoints from Reconomy and the British Retail Consortium help set the tone as to why businesses can be optimistic when approaching the green recovery.

Download the report for free here.

Nathan Gray, head of sustainability, Reconomy

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