“Everyone needs to be an environmental professional”

Professionals across the whole spectrum of industries need to think about the environmental impact of their work and the implications of the sustainability agenda.

This was the core message of John Carstensen, chief executive of members’ organisation SocEnv, when he spoke at Sustainable Business – the Event last week.

Speaking about recent potholes in the road to a low-carbon planet – the ClimateGate emails and disappointing Copenhagen summit – Mr Cartensen suggested that we’d do well to concentrate on the core issues rather than the controversies on the fringes of the debate.

“The science is solid,” he said.

At the time, he said, there were those who had disputed the reality of the hole in the ozone layer when that was the environmental story of the day.

But the nay-sayers were now a historical footnote, while those who adapted had flourished.

“Nobody questions the ozone science today,” he said.

“And the businesses that transitioned early were the winners in the ozone race.”

He accepted the failures of COP15 and suggested that while a global agreement would be needed, in the short term it would not be national governments that pushed forward the low carbon agenda.

“Copenhagen fell short,” he said. “It was to be a disappointment but the science hasn’t changed so we need to look forward to how that low carbon journey can be achieved.

Progress would come from efforts on the ground, as he put it.

“It will come from visionary people, it will come from businesses and communities.”

He highlighted the well-documented skills shortages in the environmental sector, particularly in science and engineering, and argued that action was needed to address this now.

“We cannot wait for the youth to be educated,” he said.

“We must address this urgently. It’s the current professionals who need to change the application of their skills.”

He said that we needed to look beyond the pigeon-holing of some professions as ‘environmental’ professions and others as non-environmental.

“Financial professionalism is second nature to most – we all think about the bottom line,” he said.

“We need more professionals understanding sustainable technology and importance of changing consumption.

“That goes across the board for lawyers, accountants, teachers, bankers, journalists – all the others not normally seen as environmental professionals.”

Sam Bond

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