Environmental sector set to flourish – Minister

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has told a gathering of industry insiders that he expects to see the British environmental sector boom in coming years as the wider business community comes to accept the pressing need for reduced emissions, waste and pollution.

Speaking at the Environmental Industries Commission’s annual reception at the House of Lords, Mr Wicks said that though the origins of the environmental industries could be traced back to the 19th century, it was only in recent years that they had truly flourished.

“There’s a sense that if you look back ten years, maybe even five years, many people in business and commerce would be wary of environmentalists,” he said.

The would have seen them as interfering and a hindrance to competitiveness, he said, but now things had changed.

“Until quite recently there were many companies and industries in total denial about climate change,” he said.

“All that has really changed and now and I think we’re in a position where the average person recognises the scientific consensus about climate change.

“Your association represents a recognition that not only is this very urgent but the investment we spend over the next few years is money better spent than waiting two or three decades.”

Good environmental performance was becoming a key issue in the corporate world, he said, and the industries represented by the EIC are in a position to benefit from this growth area while helping the environment.

“I think the best years are ahead – certainly the most challenging years are ahead in terms of addressing our throw away society and tackling climate change,” he said.

“It’s a huge business and commercial opportunity. Commerce is increasingly up for it and shareholders increasingly expect it.”

Merlin Hyman, EIC director, spoke of the successes of the commission’s working groups across a number of sectors, and the challenges facing them over the coming year.

Adrian Wilkes, chairman of the EIC, told edie that the group would continuing lobbying on behalf of the environmental sector in the coming year while also tackling specific issues in its working groups.

The biggest debate of the coming year, he said, was likely to revolve around the Government’s better regulation agenda.

“There are still polluters who are arguing that we don’t need to do anything,” he said.

“But this industry relies on regulation – if it doesn’t happen, that sets us back years.”

Sam Bond

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