I have recently completed all six of the University of East Anglia’s Low Carbon Economy courses (part of the Evolve programme). It is a very interesting area in so many different ways. For me there are several topics of great interest and which offer up learning’s for other aspects of business as well as dealing with Carbon Reduction.
1) How do you measure the impact of doing business?
Well is seems to have taken some time, but governments, universities, and power companies have all produced useful calculators to help businesses measure the amount of carbon they produce. Smart meters can help businesses understand when and how they are producing carbon across any resource they may be using.
The more challenging questions are really about at what point does one company’s carbon emission end and another start within a supply chain, and how can all businesses in a supply chain avoid double counting or no counting.
For example, if a business which makes timber doors, imports wood from another country, is the carbon emitted in the milling process the responsibility of the wood supplier, or the door manufacturer?
2) How can you incentivise business?
The easy answer is to tax, right? But sometimes taxing doesn’t work. Either the taxes are not high enough, people refuse to pay them on mass, people avoid them by moving, or people simply pay them and continue as they were.
Carbon trading and reduction schemes are being piloted in Europe, The States, and in South America. Starting with large companies, FTSE 100 in the UK with some exemptions, governments are providing greater incentives to businesses through a credit trading scheme. At first the credits were given away too freely in both volume and value, but this is recognised now and the market is maturing. Furthermore, governments can intervene and buy credits, taking them out of the market and forcing companies in the market to work harder.
It is not a perfect system and it is yet to deliver real results, but it is interesting and it is starting to work.
3) How can you incentivise the public?
Give them stuff for free, right? But sometimes that doesn’t work because if people don’t want something, it doesn’t matter what the price is, they just don’t want it.
So it isn’t about giving people things for free, it is about education. And that is bad news because education takes a long time, sometimes over several generations. Alongside education you need to give people opportunities. Better public transport, better ways to recycle, better cycle lanes, walk ways, smaller smart meters, wider availability of greener light bulbs, more web resources…… it all helps. My learning is that if you educate people and then provide them with opportunities to make decisions based on their own knowledge, they will change behaviour. But it takes time and it is expensive!
4) How do you manage the carbon cost of doing business?
Well just like with any business resources you have or have to buy.
– Cut waste, aim for zero!
– Use more efficient equipment
– Switch to less expensive equipment
– Capture, store, or offset the final costs
It is not easy, and it needs continual focus as with any cost reduction or cost management programme, but if you can get the business culture right along with understanding and consensus, it can be achieved.
5) When tackling a global problem, can countries work independently?
This is something I really wrestle with. How can we make a difference if when we cut back our emissions, other countries like China are actually increasing theirs? Are we actually reducing our carbon in the UK, or are we simply getting other countries to do more of polluting for us? On the other hand, you have to start somewhere, and if nobody did anything, where would we be? I think as a country Great Britain does take initiative in so many ways and by doing this we build skills and knowledge faster than those around us. If we can use those resources to build new businesses or industries in our own country and others, then we get a return which is of great value. The Low Carbon economy is coming, so we need to understand it, be a leader in the discussion, and demonstrate cutting edge thinking to build credibility.
We cannot solve this problem alone, but if we lead, others will follow.
6) What is the tipping point required to get serious action?
We don’t know the answer to that question yet. Our planet is being damaged and our climate is changing, but it is not significant enough or affecting enough of us to create global change. Something will happen that will immediately change people’s thoughts on a global basis but when or what it will be who knows. What I do know is that when humans want to, when they come together with a common purpose, they can do amazing things.
I have touched on many large issues in this post, so do feel free to get in touch if you would like to talk more about a particular point, or would like some more information.