21 May 2015, 11:30
14 July, 11 Cavendish Square, London
The global business community is heading towards a perfect storm of challenges and opportunities. The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment's (IEMA) conference aims to upskill the global workforce to face the threats head-on.
By 2020 the worldwide economy will be facing a supply deficit driven by global mega-trends around population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, soaring costs of energy and escalating impacts of climate change. All are combining to pose significant challenges to the long-term success of business and the global economy.
The transition to a sustainable economy presents significant opportunities that business needs to grasp - and yet, according to IEMA research only 13 per cent of companies are fully confident that they have the skills to successfully compete in the sustainable economy. With the evidence building that a sustainable economy can deliver significant opportunities for business (research has shown that businesses can save between £5,000 to over £1m per year through improved use of resources), businesses cannot afford to delay action on arming their organisations with skills for a sustainable economy.
"In the new business world, environment and sustainability can no longer be a bolt on; it needs to be part of businesses' DNA. IEMA is seeking to shine a light on this issue and catalyse action to address the skills deficit," said Tim Balcon, chief executive of IEMA. "Businesses need to urgently turn what is a growing and prevailing list of challenges into opportunities. The most effective way of grasping this opportunity is by ensuring that all businesses have access to a new set of skills - environment and sustainability - to ensure that UK plc and businesses globally can transition and survive in this new economy."
The opportunity to implement the right skills and capabilities lies not only in the hands of environment and sustainability professionals but also with professionals from across the business; those in sustainability, human resources, recruitment and leadership roles have the right combination of knowledge, foresight and influence that enables them to embed the right skills framework. An upcoming industry-wide conference aims to enthuse and empower all professionals to drive optimal sustainability performance.
Delivering Sustainability: Culture & Capability will demonstrate the latest practical approaches to up-skilling individuals, organisations and value-chains to meet the sustainability challenge. This one-day conference is all about what can be achieved through capable people and the right culture. Delivering a sustainable business is a journey that involves people within, and beyond, the organisation; this conference day will help many to begin that journey by learning from leaders in the field.
With leading edge keynote speakers, a workshop and plenary programme led by the industry's best and invaluable networking opportunities, Delivering Sustainability: Culture & Capability will help delegates to refresh their thinking on sustainability and skills and establish a stimulating link between the two.
Book your place today - while spaces remain - and you'll secure your seat in front of experts including:
Mike Barry, director of sustainable business for Marks and Spencer, leader of the Plan A journey and Guardian Sustainable Business Innovator of the Year 2011.
Jane Davidson, director of award-winning sustainability institute #INSPIRE in University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Tony Juniper, campaigner, writer, sustainability advisor, environmentalist, former executive director of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and current president of the Society for the Environment.
This one day event in July has the potential to completely transform your organisation's skills profile and drive future business resilience and prosperity. Ensure you are there to be the catalyst for change.
Visit http://www.iema.net/bg to find out more and book your place today.
20 May 2015, 14:34
Environmental labelling and management schemes first appeared in the 1970s and many corporations now see green labelling as a key part of marketing strategy. But are environmental labelling and information schemes driving eco-innovation - and better business?
SMEs leading eco-innovation
Research shows that eco-innovative companies of all sizes are growing, on average, at a rate of 15 per cent a year, at a time when their respective markets have remained flat. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly responsive to eco-innovation due to their adaptability and flexibility.
More than 99% of all European businesses are SMEs, providing two out of three of private sector jobs in the EU. Nine out of ten SMEs are actually micro enterprises with less than 10 employees. These micro enterprises are in fact the mainstays of Europe's economy - and clearly have a key role to play in transitioning to a resource efficient economy. What can eco-labelling do for them?
According to Victor Vázquez at the Andalusian Institute of Technology: "One of the most relevant benefits of environmental management schemes (EMS) is improved legal compliance and the capability of continuously monitoring compliance. In addition, some studies demonstrated that EMS support rationalization in the use of resources (such energy and raw materials) and, at the same time, reduction in CO2 emissions. Of course, the adoption of an EMS improves the image of a company and, consequently, its relations with customers and local communities. Companies that adopt an EMS also show increased employee motivation. All of these are factors affecting the competitiveness of SMEs."
Compliance and green public procurement
With environmental legislation set to increase in the coming years, compliance will be a recurring issue for many businesses. At European level, a legislative package for a ‘circular economy' was controversially withdrawn at the beginning of this year; however it is promised that a new, even more ambitious plan for enabling the circular economy and resource efficiency will be reintroduced later this year. Consultation begins this month with the European Commission launch of the roadmap for its revised Circular Economy Package.
In the meantime, green public procurement - a voluntary process whereby public authorities can include environmental criteria when tendering for goods, services and works - is providing opportunities to environmentally-credentialed companies.
Italian-based company, Mobilferro supplies furniture to schools in Europe, Central America and North Africa. In business for over 50 years and with 60 employees, Mobilferro's sustainability credentials include ISO 14001 compliance, Forest Stewardship Council certification and SA 8000 compliance. Mobilferro decided to apply for the EU Ecolabel in 2013 after assessing their clients' needs; the majority of their clients are from educational institutions participating in the EU's Green Public Procurement scheme.
Family business Gomà-Camps first started manufacturing paper in the mid-eighteenth century. Today this Catalan company produces 60,000 tons of paper and tissue products per year and has an annual turnover of EUR 170 million.
Half of Gomà-Camps products carry the EU Ecolabel; environmental manager Emma Mariné Ortiz explains why: "The key drivers are sales and marketing. The fact is that green procurement is becoming compulsory, not only in public service contracts but also in b2b (business to business) commercial agreements. This of course has a positive impact on the number of suppliers willing to obtain an official environmental accreditation such as the Ecolabel."
Support for business
Despite the potential business advantage, companies may shy away from going green due to upfront costs.
Laboratorio de Eco innovación opened last year in Barcelona to promote eco-innovation amongst Spanish companies. Jordi Oliver, Executive Director at Inèdit, the environmental consultancy managing the lab, said: "The main barrier companies face today while considering implementing eco-innovation measures is basically the long term return on investment of eco-innovation in comparison to other investment considerations. Nowadays private companies seek profitability in a time as short as six months. While an eco-innovation investment might have a fairly reasonable ROI, other priorities take the lead in the very large majority of decisions-taking processes in business."
However, there are a number of European public funding programmes available to support eco-innovation.
On 21 May at the 18th European Forum on Eco-innovation in Barcelona, Lana Žutelija from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment will present the funding opportunities for innovative business from European programmes such as Horizon 2020, LIFE+, COSME, ESIF, EFSI. (You can watch the event online - at http://live.ecoapforum.eu/18th-forum/live_en.html)
Guillermina Yanguas, Director-General at the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture is unequivocal on the value of environmental management schemes and labelling as drivers for eco-innovation: "Environmental management systems such as EMAS and Ecolabel are key tools for analyzing the life cycle of products, identifying new materials, reducing consumption and enabling closed production cycles by applying the principles of the circular economy.
"Reinvigorating the traditional sectors of our economy in terms of sustainability, processes and more efficient services, and identifying new business niches with eco-innovative and sustainable products are important strategies for the transition to a low carbon economy," concluded Yanguas.
• On 20 and 21 May in Barcelona, the 18th European Forum on Eco-innovation will focus on the role of environmental labelling, management and information schemes. #EcoApForum @EU_ecoinno
07 May 2015, 13:21
More than 95 per cent of Europeans say that protecting the environment is important, and a recent global survey found that only six per cent of consumers in Germany felt that enough sustainable products were available. Consumer demand is accompanied by a proliferation of environmental labelling and information schemes (ELIS) which have been monitored by the OECD since the 1970s.
Andrew Prag, policy analyst at the OECD, says: "With more environmental labels available than ever before, how can we make sure the consumers are connected with the greenest products?"
According to a recent study consumers care about the source of the label and the quality of information it contains. Government labels are more likely to be trusted than corporate ones.
Yet public schemes, both voluntary and mandatory, account for less than 20 per cent of all schemes. This is partly due to the risk of trade disputes. By insisting on a mandatory, government-led scheme, authorities are likely to run afoul of the free trade principle of non-discrimination.
The most famous example is the ‘tuna-dolphin' case, which originated with the United States' Marine Mammal Protection Act, which imposed a ban on imports of tuna from countries that did not have a conservation program designed to protect dolphins in the tuna-fishing process. A case was brought by Mexico and others against the US. Nineteen years later, the case still rumbles on (see the latest WTO report on the case here). Open questions remain: can one country tell another what its environmental regulations should be? Do trade rules permit action to be taken against the method used to produce goods - rather than the quality of the goods themselves?
At present, there is no consensus among governments on policy responses. The worst ‘greenwashing' offenders can be prosecuted under current trade description legislation. Governments have lately become stricter in requiring substantiation of environmental marketing claims, with the result that misleading and false claims increasingly often lead to criminal or civil fines and injunctions.
Growth in the numbers of voluntary schemes is primarily (31 per cent) due to an increase in ELIS set up by non-profit organisations on food and agricultural products. A further 18 % of increase in numbers is due to new, private ELIS which cover quantitative, life-cycle based reporting of energy and carbon. Green branding is now an integral part of marketing. However, big business adopting standards can run into trade disputes as well.
In 2013, Walmart sent a letter to fish suppliers, reminding them that wild seafood needed to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) "or equivalent".
But no equivalent certification scheme existed, and most Alaskan salmon suppliers were using a new program called Responsible Fisheries Management, or RFM. The dispute escalated into Alaskan fishermen protesting outside of Walmart stores and a US Senate committee hearing. Eventually the matter was resolved with the help of The Sustainability Consortium, and the result was a set of eight principles that the company will use as a yardstick to evaluate alternative seafood certification programs.
Convergence on standards is evident in the forestry sector, with certification mostly carried out by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). However, Finnish pulp, paper and timber manufacturer UPM, which is the only paper company which is listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, still has no less than six environmental labels - FSC and PEFC, along with German Blue Angel, Austrian EcoLabel, Nordic Ecolabel and the EU Ecolabel. In addition to product eco-labelling, the company also uses a voluntary European-wide environmental management scheme.
Sami Lundgren, Director of ecolabels and reporting at UPM, said: "The widest system I have found so far and one which works at production unit level is the European voluntary EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Although EMAS is rather bureaucratic, I think it is worth the effort to provide verified and reliable information to our neighbours and customers."
So, where next for eco-labelling? According to Antonio Mancini who monitors claims of green washing at the Italian Competition Authority: "There is a big confusion among customers due to the number of schemes and labels available. From this point of view the EU attempt to define common methodology and standards is crucial. The future direction of eco-labelling seems to be linked to an adequate development of common rules."
29 Apr 2015, 10:59
Modern technology has done wonders for our professional lives. It's impossible to imagine our workflows without access to computers and the internet, but our new dependence on electrical equipment is also contributing to our carbon footprint. However, advances in new technologies are now helping businesses all around the globe become more energy efficient.
The average office worker in the UK is said to print off around 50 sheets of paper each day. While the notion of email and e-documents has started to become mainstream, many employees are encouraged to create physical backups as a means of security. This means that even a small company can start to amass a staggering amount of files very quickly. While 70 per cent of office waste is recyclable, only 7.5 per cent of it reaches a recycling facility. Around 80.6m tonnes of paper enters the UK's waste stream each year, making up almost a quarter of the total UK waste figures.
Switching to a cloud storage solution can vastly cut wasteful spending. 125,000 sheets of paper can be converted into around 2.5GB of data. Most online storage plans for businesses start at a minimum 1TB so even readily expanding business should be able to store its data without a problem. If you'd still like to have paper backups of important documents for archival purposes, consider storing them offsite. Spreading your data across multiple locations is actually much safer than having them in a centralised location as it eliminates the risk of everything being damaged by a single accident.
Solar Powered Batteries
Electric car manufacturer Tesla plans host a conference on April 30th detailing its future plans. Unlike the company's last October conference where it unveiled its new Tesla Model S, CEO Elon Musk revealed in a tweet that the company will announce a "major new Tesla product line" that is not a car. The company has been long-rumoured to be using technology sourced from sister company SolarCity to create solar powered batteries that will be able to power both homes and businesses. The Verge stated that this solution could help state power grids remain balanced and further cut bills by 20-30 per cent for some customers. In fact, some commercial buildings have already begun testing this technology, including around 300 homes in California and 11 Walmart locations according to a report by Bloomberg.
A study published by the Nature Climate Change journal on the cost of battery packs for electric vehicles between 2007-20014 found that the average price of batteries declined by 14 per cent. Tesla is considered to be at the forefront of this new market, and the company will be hoping it can recreate its success in the automotive market in the business and consumer space.
The solution to climate change is of course not to abandon the use of products that have become essential parts of our lives, but to focus on ways we can improve them. If cloud storage and solar powered batteries can do this, it could have ground-breaking effects on the way businesses operate.
17 Feb 2015, 16:44
We live in a world where consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact of the products that they use, resources are growing scarcer and where regulators are increasing the requirements for products to be more environmentally friendly.
That means that businesses that wish to generate sustainable profits in the future need to make sustainable products. If you don't, someone else will - look at the success of Tesla in making inroads into the electric car market, for example, or the way that solar technology is disrupting the business model of the traditional utilities.
Many people see sustainability as a drag on companies' ability to create value, and something to be resisted, but it is increasingly clear that it is an enormous opportunity for everyone in the supply chain.
At AkzoNobel, for example, we have a target of earning at least 20 per cent of our revenue from products with a sustainability advantage for our customers - what we call Eco-Premium products - by 2020. These range from paints such as Dulux Weathershield KeepCool, which can reflect infrared radiation to help keep buildings cool in warm climates, to Intersleek, our biocide-free antifouling coating that, by stopping organisms growing on ship hulls, reduces the ships' drag, the amount of fuel used and CO2 emissions.
Sometimes we take our inspiration from nature, as with our additive for road salt, Ecosel Asphalt Protection, which is inspired by the ability of certain animals to withstand extremely low temperatures and stop themselves from freezing.
To produce sustainable products requires a process of sustainable innovation. But what is sustainable innovation and how does it differ from what we did before?
Innovation is about anticipating people's needs and figuring out how to meet them.
Ultimately customers buy products that benefit them - but alongside the more conventional benefits of making life easier or more productive, consumers are also starting to consider wider issues such as how resource-efficient materials are and whether products can help them be more sustainable in their daily lives.
Sustainability is like a lens that allows us to look at the world differently and help us to meet our goal of delivering more value with fewer resources.
"It's tempting to adhere to the lowest environmental standards for as long as possible," says a Harvard Business Review article entitled 'Why Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation'. "However," the article adds, "it's smarter to comply with the most stringent rules, and to do so before they are enforced. This yields substantial first-mover advantages in terms of fostering innovation."
But it's not just about compliance. Nor is it just about Research, Development and Innovation - the culture of sustainability needs to permeate the whole business, from procurement to sales and marketing. And it's not just about working within the organization. You need to work throughout the value chain, with your suppliers and your customers - but also with their suppliers and customers as well as other stakeholders such as NGOs and academics. That is where you gain access to new ideas about what is possible and what is useful. No one company or individual has all of the best ideas.
That's why we encourage open innovation through our Open Space initiative. Companies need to do things smarter and they need to do them faster. And we are convinced that we can do that best by joining forces with other innovators out there. When everyone pulls together, they can overcome formidable obstacles and reach their goals sooner rather than later.
One way that sustainable innovation works is by helping to make your operations leaner and more efficient. So, for example, in our specialty chemicals unit, we are looking at ways to make our electrolysis processes - the traditional bedrock of the industry - less energy intensive.
Another innovative process is to turn problems into solutions - our industrial chemicals arm has, over the last four years, created a number of projects to make new products and processes that use CO2 as a source material, in collaboration with SINTEF, a Norwegian research institute.
Making changes to innovation processes can be challenging, not least because of the need to manage different time frames. Whether we like it or not, businesses are judged on their performance from quarter to quarter while sustainable innovation requires thinking five to 10 years ahead. It's a challenge that requires strong leadership and big decisions internally that demand significant resources over the long term.
At the same time, this is an area that stimulates an enormous amount of engagement and motivation among our workforce and unleashes a huge amount of innovation as well as helping to attract the right people to our company. We know that sustainability is good for business and that good business is all about being sustainable.
Andrew Whittaker is RD&I Director at AkzoNobel
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BusinessGreen's Industry Voice blog offers experts from across the low carbon economy the opportunity to present their views, opinions and analysis on the latest green business developments