Recycle yourself

 This blog is a 2 minute read...

This blog is a 2 minute read...

A common rut to get stuck in as an environment and sustainability professional is assuming others should be energised by the same messages as us.

We can end up banging the same old drum, thinking if we keep shouting, maybe a little bit louder, people will ‘get it’ eventually and take action. It’s obvious right - why wouldn’t they?!

The truth is - different people find different things motivating, and if everyone was going to be motivated by the reality of climate change etc we’d already have much less of a problem.

We need to shift our thinking to tap into other motivations, ones that can appeal to broader audiences. Competition, ‘what’s in it for me’, esteem of self or others, incentives, and rules.

Find the 'hook' and align to the motivations of your audience. 

We can do this within organisations by aligning to company objectives and the prevailing culture or ‘personality’ of the business, and by keeping communications fresh, and positive. No polar bears sat on icebergs please.

Nobody wants to feel persecuted for doing something wrong, or like they are giving something up. The ethical argument may also fall on deaf ears if it feels self-righteous, not relatable, or immediately urgent.

Sustained and self-directed action is much more likely from a place of positivity. We can apply similar thinking to societal behaviour change too.

It can however feel like a difficult and illogical puzzle to solve, when there is such a compelling scientific case for action. It can be tiring and difficult to work through, and easy to fall into old habits.

So it’s important to find ways to recycle yourself too, don’t burn out. Go back to an earlier stage in the process, repurpose your messaging.

I always find it reassuring and inspiring talking to other professionals who are working at this. Recycle your messaging, and recycle yourself. 


This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.

What makes a city smart?

 This blog is a 2 minute read...

This blog is a 2 minute read...

As I used my contactless debit card to enter the London Underground, I thought, how convenient and seamless - am I in a smart city?

By 2050 two thirds of global population will live in cities, they are the ecosystems that shape our lives. Trends like population growth, resource scarcity and climate change will bring challenges to our cities, as well as lots of opportunities for innovation to improve our lifestyles.

The way we interact with, and in, our built environment is unquestionably getting easier in lots of ways. Drive-through coffee, apps to plan journeys, pay for parking and access services, contactless payment, wireless charging.

Does this make our cities smart? Convenient, but not necessarily smart in my book. Convenience by itself is missing something. Especially when it enables behaviours which exacerbate social and environmental challenges, like linear consumption, inefficient use of energy, and polluting travel.

A smart city should enable better lives for people tomorrow, protecting the environment through innovative business models which also create societal wellbeing and economic growth today. A city should seamlessly make the sustainable option the convenient one - thats smart.

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Buckminster Fuller said it best..."you never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete".

Thats the role, and opportunity, for smart cities. Make our old unsustainable lifestyles obsolete. Use technology, trends, new business models, and data, to create innovative and sustainable ways of doing things that are just better anyway.

Integrate how we access mobility, energy, and use infrastructure, in a sustainable way which enhances our lifestyles and creates new industries, jobs and communities.

I want all coffee to be served in reusable cups, and contactless payment tech to put money back onto my card for deposit return schemes. I want new shopping centres to have a great public transport hub, instead of massive multi-storey carparks.

New houses should be built with solar PV, battery storage, and electric vehicle charging points as standard, and sat nav's should show you the most efficient route as an option, not just the fastest.

Lets start thinking smart and sustainable...the possibilities are endless. Moreover, they could just be plain better than what we're used to!


This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.

Mainstreaming

 This blog is a 3 minute read.

This blog is a 3 minute read.

What do the Queen, Scotland, and the supermarket Iceland have in common? Plastic waste. I know, it seems like an odd one.

But Queen Elizabeth is behind plans to ban plastic straws and reduce plastic waste at Buckingham Palace, Scotland is planning to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, and Iceland has announced plans to eliminate or drastically reduce the plastic packaging of all its own-label products by 2023.

Plastic pollution seems to have captured all our imaginations, and it’s leading to real action in such a wide range of places. This got me thinking - why?

Of all the worthwhile causes and harsh statistics we hear, plastic pollution has seen probably the most rapid ascent to 'hot topic' I can remember. It’s bordering on a social and corporate movement.

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I think Blue Planet 2 was the singularity that started it all. What an impressive and engaging programme that was. Visually stunning, captivatingly informative, and a national treasure at the helm. But perhaps its most impressive feat was stimulating such broad attention on plastic pollution.


Since then we've seen wide coverage of the issue in the press, on TV, and on the high street, and its leading to real action. I think what’s made it an attention grabber is that it’s relatable, we all use plastic every day, and the consequences of us doing so and throwing it away are obviously causal and immediately visible.

We can see the plastic islands in the ocean, and the sea-life suffering at the hands of an item we recognise, and probably used that day. At least that week. A cotton bud, plastic lid, or drinks bottle.

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We can see the unjustness and jarring consequences of our impacts, and see how we can, and should, do something about it. The issue, and understanding of the need for action, has been 'mainstreamed'.

Other causes are less communicable like this, waste often gets more attention than energy or carbon emissions for example. But I think the key to action lies in finding ways around this. What other issues would get momentum for action if mainstreamed in an engaging and relatable way?

What about making James Bonds next car an electric one, why not have somebody on EastEnders running a Solar PV business instead of a cafe or car dealership, Attenborough documentary about peak-oil anyone?

There are a wealth of opportunities to change the way we communicate, lets get mainstreaming...ideas on a postcard.


This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.

Eye of the beholder

 This blog is a 2 minute read...

This blog is a 2 minute read...

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that” said Thomas Edison, in 1931.

Nearly 90 years on, we’ve made huge progress in global deployment of renewable energy, including solar. However oil and coal still account for around 62% of primary energy consumption, with renewables coming in just shy of 10%. Still a bit of work to do then Mr. Edison.

From a logical point of view it’s hard to deny the case for using renewables instead of their finite fossil friends. Why build dependence on a fuel that will run out?

But at what environmental expense do renewables come? Sure they reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions, and don't deplete finite resources, except in one sense they do. They have to be put somewhere.

“People must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure” said David Attenborough, broadcaster and national treasure most recently known for the BBC's ‘Blue Planet 2’ which seemed to inspire the nation in 2017.

It’s a good point! Due to the nature of renewables however, it’s often by being placed in our most ‘beautiful’ and wonderful’ spaces, as Attenborough puts it, they can have maximum output.

The rolling hillside exposed to high winds that turbines can harness, or the open fields which provide a perfect expanse for solar panels to harvest the sun’s rays. Now that is a tricky one from an environmental point of view. Is renewable energy or conservation more important?

On a recent trip to Iceland, I pondered this conundrum while stood in front of Gullfoss, one of the Country’s most amazing waterfalls. Gullfoss has almost been used for hydro power in the past.

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I’d like to think even the most committed renewables advocate would have some regret at the thought of such plans going ahead, given the detriment it would have to such an awe inspiring natural feature.

But Iceland is truly unique as the only country which sources 100% of its electricity and heat from renewables already, only using fossil fuel as back-up.

It wasn’t just its abundant resources in relation to its small population that motivated this transition. For Iceland the risks, given its remoteness, of energy insecurity and exposure to price volatility were too high. Also the cost of creating a national energy grid didn't make sense. Decentralised energy independence does makes sense, and is practically possible.

So what’s the lesson, this got me thinking…

There is an imperative to preserve our natural world, and we should do as little damage to it as possible while providing energy. But my gut says the greater need is to get off the fossil addiction.

If we don't, that's where way more damage to the natural world will accumulate down the line.

To echo Tomas Edison, I hope we tackle this way before fossil fuels run out. That is the lesson from Iceland, sometimes we need to view the risk as a bigger driver to act, rather than the opportunity. The longer we consider it an optional opportunity, the less choice we have.


This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.

Green-chip company

 This blog is a 3 minute read.

This blog is a 3 minute read.

71% is a big piece of any pie, right? Well that’s the proportion of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions which have come from just 100 companies since 1988. The corporate sector is clearly a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to environmental challenges and opportunities.

Given that companies fall within the jurisdiction of national governments, and that international treaties and agreements to tackle climate change are led by states, surely it’s up to them to control emissions and impacts from business? Perhaps.

There’s certainly encouraging commitment being shown by nations around the world, nearly the whole world in fact. The landmark Paris agreement, which aims to keep warming well below 2C, now has 197 signatory countries. All counties but one, after the USA decided to withdraw.

In the turbulent times in which we live, getting this level of positive sentiment on climate action is great, especially given the plethora of geopolitical mind-boggling going on around us.

However, these national governments then have to go home and put in place real frameworks to deliver on the goals they commit to. A primary lever to make this happen is policy to stimulate emissions reductions and green economic growth by incentivising or penalising businesses.

The wheels have started turning on such national strategies.

In the UK for example, the Clean Growth Strategy published in October was well received, seemingly embedding decarbonisation within core thinking for economic growth. A very welcome move, though many eyes and ears are still peeled waiting for the supporting policy detail.

As a general rule, the skeleton of strategy can come quite quickly from international agreements, but the policy meat on the bones can take longer. Plus, it tends to be more gradual than ground-breaking. But that is missing a trick.

There are huge opportunities to be had in green economic growth. Growing sectors like renewables, and circular and sharing economies will shape our future. Why wait for incremental policies which push us in that direction anyway?

Climate change is not a macro issue which is generations away either. We’re all influencing it now, today, and feeling the impacts. Try telling the people who are still recovering from hurricane Harvey, Irma or Maria otherwise.

There is a lot of other stuff to deal with these days, but the window is closing to make a meaningful difference. We need fast and definitive action. That’s where businesses come in, and a growing number of them are gearing up to grasp the green opportunity.

Following the announcement that the USA would pull out of the Paris agreement, 25 huge American corporates sent President Trump a letter urging him to keep the USA in the agreement, citing competitiveness, creating jobs and growth, and reducing business risk. They see the opportunity.

This was followed by the launch of the ‘We Are Still In’ campaign. Over 2,500 American climate champions from businesses to city halls and colleges, pledging to uphold the Paris agreement regardless of national decisions. Who said states need to lead on this?

To coin a phrase, examples of ‘green-chip’ companies are coming thick and fast.

Microsoft has pledged to cut CO2 emissions 75% by 2030, IKEA now owns more wind turbines than stores, Unilever's sustainable brands grew 50% faster than the rest of its business in 2016, and over 100 multinationals have signed up to RE100 - committing to source 100% renewable electricity.

When it comes to climate change, we need quick, agile and absolute action. National governments may gradually funnel us to solutions, but I’d argue the opportunities are there for the taking now. So why wait to compromise later?

Business and the corporate sector have the agility, consumer relationships, and appetite for rapid delivery where there’s a business case. It’s just a case of seeing the signals. 

The future is green-chip.


This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.

Techs appeal: Tesla.

 This blog is a 5 minute read.

This blog is a 5 minute read.

Everyone seems to want a Tesla, they make really cool cars! And that's exactly the point.

They’ve succeeded at making a new and expensive technology, in a very well established market, a truly aspirational product for us consumers. Most importantly it’s a product aimed at solving an environmental challenge, and often these don’t have that level of appeal.

In terms of road transport, private car use is very inefficient and damaging, so shared mobility services should always be prioritised and made attractive for customers first. Any private vehicles left on the road then need to be as low impact as possible to reduce the damage they do.

That's where electric cars come in, still an inefficient use of road space but at least lower emissions than petrol or diesel cars. However, until recently they haven't been too popular.

Tesla however, commands the cool mystique and unwavering support of fans the way a technology company does, not a car maker. It’s exactly this kind of appeal we need for sustainable products if we want to do anything about climate change.

Tesla's mission is to accelerate a transition to sustainable energy, by providing increasingly affordable electric cars and energy products. With a Silicon Valley HQ, some of its neighbours create social media platforms while Tesla builds physical things to solve environmental problems.

As far as car makers go Tesla is a new kid on the block, having been founded in 2003. However for a spell during 2017 it overtook General Motors, 95 years it’s senior, as the most valuable car maker by market cap (the total value of its shares). This despite only ever having two profitable quarters.

Sure, electric cars have been around for ages, about the 1830’s in-fact. Way before Henry Ford transformed the world of manufacturing by mass producing the Model T in the early 1900’s.

However, Tesla is certainly the first ‘household name’ due to its brand appeal. Funnily enough it’s probably going to be mass production that will be its success or failure too, the same way it made the model T’s combustion engine the technology of choice for the mass market.

Musk’s ‘master plan’ for Tesla was really quite inspired. Start with the low volume but expensive Roadster (2008). Bring in cash to develop a medium volume car, the Model S (2012), an executive car to grow brand awareness among wealthy earlier adopters.  It worked, the Model S was the top selling electric car in 2015 and 2016.

Enter the Model X (2015). An SUV to grow the brand in a different market segment. Then use cash from the Model S and X to fund the final vision; an affordable, high volume electric car - the Model 3.

Even before delivering the first Model 3, Tesla had something like 450,000 pre-orders. Not bad for a new car maker selling a ‘new’ technology for the mass market, among well-established competitors, that has yet to prove it can profitably build cars at high volumes.

There was reason to believe the hype. Tesla had production goals of 1,600 Model 3’s in Q3 2017, followed by 10,000 per week in 2018.  It’s investing billions in its ‘gigafactory’ in Nevada to produce batteries in huge numbers. Again, inspired - batteries are a key cost driver for electric cars, so economies of scale really count.

So, prepare for Tesla’s transformational potential to become a reality. The end.

Not quite yet. Tesla is yet to make a profit in 2017, it’s burning through cash at a rate of probably over $4bn this year, and it’s raising more debt funding to the tune of about $1.8bn. Big numbers.

While its gigafactory has begun pumping out batteries, production of the Model 3 isn’t quite going to plan yet. Tesla missed its 1,600 unit production target in Q3, churning out only 260 Model 3’s.

Maybe it's just in an investment phase - its a new carmaker remember. If Model 3 bottlenecks are quickly resolved, and when its gigafactory is complete, this could give it huge competitive advantage. Driving down vehicle production costs with automation, and battery costs with scale.

Its vertically integrated energy storage solution (Powerwall), Solar PV company (SolarCity), and growing charger network could also be big differentiators in a world of smart grid technology and renewable energy. Further evidence of its broader goals and vision around sustainable energy.

Plus, investor confidence in the sector is being bolstered by big moves from governments to promote electric cars over diesel/petrol ones. Other car makers have started to take notice of this, with a swathe of announcements of innovation and promises of big investment in electric cars.

Nissan has announced a new model of its ‘Leaf’, the bestselling plug-in car ever, and trials of supporting ‘smart grid’ technology. BMW is in the market with the i3, sporty i8 and hybrid 330e.

Jaguar, Audi, Hyundai, Ford and Mercedes are all launching electric models, and VW following ‘dieselgate’ has pledged a €20bn investment in 80 electric models across its group by 2025. Good old General Motors will also produce 20 all-electric models by 2023. This is to name but a few.

Even Dyson, yes, as in the vacuum cleaners, is getting in the game with a ‘radically different’ electric car to be unveiled in 2020. Will it be based around a rollerball? Who knows.

Private cars are inefficient regardless of fuel type, always coming second on efficiency and impact to shared mobility services, which should be prioritised in planning and policy . However increasing electrification of cars is good news for the environment, at least reducing the damage they do.

All this increased competition from these big players may also be good news for Tesla...

While it certainly has ‘first mover advantage’ in brand awareness, there isn’t a true mass-market yet for electric cars. All of these new models will popularise the tech, drive down costs and increase  charging networks. Hey presto a big market to win a share of before the ‘first mover’ window closes.

I certainly hope Tesla succeeds in ironing out its teething problems, but not just because they make cool products that will help reduce the impacts of highly damaging private vehicles.

I think the world needs more companies on a mission to overcome environmental and social challenges, and in a way which doesn’t make consumers choose between a ‘cool’ product OR a ‘green’ one. We haven’t got time to play at the margins.

Thanks, but I’ve got enough digital platforms to share a picture of what I’m having for lunch. Lets focus on some real problems!


This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.