Recolight CEO Nigel Harvey speaks to BusinessGreen after being among 250 arrested for their part in Extinction Rebellion actions in London this week
A chief executive who was arrested during Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests in Parliament Square on Monday has told BusinessGreen that the urgent need to rebuild a greener economy from the coronavirus crisis inspired his actions.
Nigel Harvey, CEO of waste electronics recycling compliance scheme Recolight, was arrested at around 2.30pm on 1 September and taken to Sutton police station, before later being released "under investigation". He is among more than 250 people arrested so far for their part in XR demonstrations in London this week, which have seen activists take actions such as blocking roads and glueing themselves to buildings in order to draw attention to the climate crisis.
Harvey said he was "incredibly proud to stand alongside" other XR activists arrested this week, warning that the opportunity to 'build back greener' from the pandemic was at risk of being squandered.
"The coronavirus crisis gives us a once in a generation opportunity to drag a silver lining from this dark cloud and to build back better and differently," he told BusinessGreen. "Instead, I can see us sliding back into business as usual and it is business as usual which has got us into this mess."
It is the second time in 12 months Harvey has been arrested during Extinction Rebellion protests, having previously spent a night in the cells for taking what he called a "principled stand" during the activist group's previous major demonstrations in October 2019.
Harvey said he "would love to see" other business leaders follow his example, citing the climate emergency as the biggest issue humanity faces.
"I think every SME has to recognise that if they do not take important action in the next decade or two their business models will become flawed and out of date," he said. "I'm not the first person to say that there is no business on a dead planet."
Harvey's arrest came during a busy week for Extinction Rebellion, which has looked to capitalise on the return of millions of people to workplaces after months of pandemic-induced disruption.
In Manchester, activists have focused some of their actions on Barclays, highlighting the banking giant's continued financial support for fossil fuel firms. Today has seen three branches of Barclays hit by protests, including those in Mosely, Market Street, and St Anne's Square.
Peter Somerville, an Extinction Rebellion member in Manchester, claimed Barclays "sees itself as a responsible investor but this does not mean being ethical".
"It means merely investing where it can get the highest return at the lowest risk," he said. "Over the years this has involved unethical investment in apartheid, in tobacco companies and increasingly in fossil fuels. This must stop! So, I am here to try and do that and shame them into changing their ways."
Barclays was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press, but in March it announced plans to become a net zero bank by 2050, in a move aimed at aligning both its own business as well as its entire financing, investing, and lending portfolio with the goals of the Paris Agreement. It also promised further restrictions on fossil fuel financing, as well as a target to provide at least £100bn in green financing by 2030.
Elsewhere in Manchester, meanwhile, the city will also play host to 'Free the Truth', an Extinction Rebellion campaign aimed at media companies - particularly the BBC - which it accuses of downplaying the climate crisis. The campaign is being launched at the piazza in Media City in central Manchester on Saturday morning, a site which hosts BBC and ITV studios.
In January the BBC announced a year-long series of programmes dedicated to examping the climate crisis, encompassing news, documentaries, debates and a monthly 'Climate Check' in its weather programmes. But the broadcaster has faced criticism in the past for giving equal weight to climate sceptics and established scientists and experts in its coverage of the issue, which led to a shift in policy in 2018.
A BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC already covers many climate change and environmental issues across its output. Programmes like Blue Planet II and Climate Change: The Facts have had a huge impact on the public debate both in this country and around the world. We know how important these issues are to audiences and will continue to focus on them across both news and non-news programmes, whilst internally doing all we can to lead the way in promoting sustainability in the media industry.
However, Zoe Cohen, a member of XR Manchester, said the BBC was still not doing enough to raise awareness of the climate crisis, despite being "in such a powerful position to really tell the full truth".
"They have such an incredible reach in the UK and globally through the World Service, and yet they repeatedly hide or downplay the scariest scientific findings and information," she said. "There are still far too many people in this country who don't yet really get it, and it's not the public's fault. Imagine if the BBC did their public service duty and did wall to wall coverage of the climate and ecological crisis, its causes and the potential solutions, like it has done with coronavirus."
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