What motivates change in business? You would think the answer was simple, something that makes money, saves money or saves time, however you view it, any idea that has one of these features will have a significant chance of improving your profitability; all three and you are probably looking at what most of us would call a no-brainer. So why do many companies struggle to create a clear and deliverable plan to implement such changes, especially when it comes to sustainability and the environment?
The move to a more sustainable way of living and working is largely common sense, reducing waste, recovering value by recycling and reducing energy use are central to sustainable behaviour- for example most of us will recycle, install energy efficient light bulbs or appliances even compost our own food waste proving we can overcome our resistance to change. When we do change we often wonder what all the fuss was about, even when it is forced upon us - we soon got used to wearing seatbelts and the smoking ban, no doubt if it was proposed that these laws were repealed some would resist the change back to the old way. However if we are not forced to change we often feel that we act in isolation the perceived benefits are not that immediate or obvious, so we don’t easily change.
The obvious conclusion is that the most effective mechanism for change is legislation; just imagine how many laws would be required to reach our government’s commitments to climate change through ‘stick’ rather than ‘carrot’ and how much cost would be involved in regulating and policing such laws, inevitably legislation can only take us so far.
The normalisation of sustainability is the greatest commercial and social opportunity this generation, as US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement..."When it comes to saving money and growing our economy, energy efficiency isn't just low hanging fruit; it's fruit [lying] on the ground” and he is right. Much of what we need to do incurs little added cost and little personal or commercial discomfort for long term gain; maybe this is the real problem, we are a ‘now’ generation and need immediate results. How we use water is a good example. To the user water is something that just happens; it is there when you want it, a seemingly inexhaustible supply. When water is in short supply, say during a drought, or where water meters are used then usage tends to go down, we self regulate – we moderate our use. In short we become aware of its value. As a consequence sales of rainwater harvesting systems in these areas increase as the use of potable water for general use is considered profligate; the sums suddenly stack up when a longer-term view is taken. The same goes for, biogas, biomass, solar water heating, air source and other similar renewables, however uptake is poor when there are no immediate incentives to do so, either financial, regulatory or environmental.
The sustainability agenda will only have an impact if legislation, subsidy, reward and environmental conscience are coordinated. Pressure brought to bear on the government over many months has resulted in the inclusion of feed in tariffs for small scale power generation (less than 5MW) in the Energy White Paper announced by Ed Milliband on the 15th July; generators no matter how small will now be paid to produce, effectively subsidising uptake. Schemes such as this also solve one other inherent problem: the perception that small changes are not worth bothering with especially when larger polluters are in plain view as a tailor made excuse for inaction. One calculation suggests that if all UK businesses were to convert to low energy light bulbs they would save the equivalent amount of power generated by Drax in one year, small changes added together create big changes.
So if the legislators are moving we need to provide a mechanism for change and we can expect more legislation in the near future, the smart money is on the early adopters who will provide the necessary wherewithal to deliver government ambitions. This requires new partnerships and structures it is the need for this capacity that has made Burdens Environmental one of the UK’s leading providers of green products, materials and services into the water, energy and waste sectors, to see how your business can benefit contact www.burdensenvironmental.com and discover a better way to do business.
Article written by Will Kirkman (Business Development Director – Burdens Environmental)