Why business must take the lead in our green economy
Ella's Kitchen's chief executive Mark Cuddigan outlines why returning to a sense of normality does not mean reverting back to business as usual, with his latest blog outlining the importance of corporate's spurring the green recovery.
As coronavirus restrictions ease, and we timidly emerge from lockdown and settle into a new pace of life, many of the new habits from the past six months are already fading fast. The Daily No 10 briefings, Saturday night Zoom quizzes and the Thursday NHS clap all disappeared from our daily routines as quickly as they came.
Whilst we are delighted to see the beginnings of a return to normality, there has been one element of normal life that would be better left in the past – our attitude to the planet. While our lives have been consumed by coronavirus, there is another global crisis at our doorstep which we are continuing to ignore: climate change.
It was a welcome surprise when it was revealed in April that the global daily CO2 emissions were down 17% compared to the same period last year. A decline in road traffic accounts for half of this drop in emissions. The disappearance of our daily commutes and travel is also reported to have saved over 11,000 lives in Europe alone as a result of better air quality. This has re-ignited the push for climate action, proving that all is not lost – that the ability to reach our climate targets is indeed possible and within our power.
Under the Climate Change Act, The UK is committed to bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. As the first major economy in the world to commit to this in law, this is a great opportunity for the UK. However, our national leadership is too often inconsistent. Whilst there are currently talks of our new ‘green economy’ post-Covid, the recent push for us to ‘build, build, build’ by Boris Johnson, highlights how, especially in times of crisis, climate action will be sacrificed for wider economic goals.
There might be business leaders who do not think this is their responsibility, and assert that it’s the role of government, or even on individuals themselves to change their behaviours. It could also be tempting to point your finger at the oil companies and airline providers and claim that your business or sector is far less detrimental in comparison.
But shifting the blame onto others is a waste of time – time we cannot afford to lose. The great thing about the net-zero target is the clarity; net-zero leaves no space to shift the burden. Action must be collective and each sector must step up.
The food industry has a large role to play. In his Drawdown project, Paul Hawken ranks areas that have the biggest impact on climate change and three of the top five priorities are about food systems, including reducing our food waste and having a plant-rich diet. This is a big responsibility for us but one we should relish – being in the food business means we can be in the solutions business. We need systemic change, built into the fabric of a business, not add-ons or quick fixes.
Genuine change lies in accountability and businesses need to hold themselves accountable. One of the ways to achieve this is by certifying as a B Corporation or B Corp. Certifying as a B Corp means that as a business you are legally required to consider the impact of your decisions on your workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. You are then reassessed every three years, so you have to uphold these standards to retain your certification.
The significance of certifying as a B Corp lies not just in the rating you get as a business but how it makes you part of a global community. More than 3,000 companies across 150 industries are now certified B Corps, all united in a shared goal to do better for people and the planet. By collaborating, we can do so much more to achieve our goals.
B Corp is also a perfect example of developing a healthy competition to do better. Purpose and profit have frequently been seen as competing ideologies but this is no longer the case. A recent global study revealed that consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase, protect and champion purpose-driven companies. Ultimately, people want to put their money into businesses that they believe in and they are much more likely to come to those who can demonstrate they are doing something, than those who cannot.
This journey begins with asking the right questions, constantly analysing your data to inform your decisions and bringing diversity of thought into your organisation. At Ella’s Kitchen, we are working with businesses like Carbon Intelligence to help truly understand our carbon output and how we can improve, as well as with organisations like Trees for Life and World Land Trust who help us look at how we can give back to restore and protect the ecosystems on which we rely.
This is the perfect time for business to makes these changes, because we are already in a state of evolution, with so much of our old practices and assumptions being challenged. From the carbon reduction caused by home working, the environmental impact of reduced printing, to the huge reduction of business travel globally, it is clear that we can adapt to a more sustainable way of working.
This is not the time for business to ‘go back to normal’ and pursue economic recovery at any cost. Now is the time to think about how we can create a greener, fairer and more prosperous economy. Now is the time to take a step back, identify the flaws in our systems and work together to create solutions. Now is the time to build a better future.
Ella’s Kitchen on edie’s green recovery sessions
The speakers have been confirmed for edie’s series of free green recovery-themed webinars and masterclasses taking place on Wednesday 23 September, with sustainable business experts from Aldersgate Group, BT, Bank of England, Ella’s Kitchen, UKGBC all among the line-up.
Mark Cuddigan has agreed to appear on the “The Big Green Recovery Debate: Shaping sustainability in a post-pandemic world” online session. The session will explore policy enablers (and barriers) to drive a green recovery, the challenges and opportunities of this disruptive time and how businesses can recession-proof their sustainability and CSR strategy.
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