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21 October 2014

Sunk Costs Sink Sustainability Ambitions

piggybanksTime and time again, clients tell me "if only we'd factored this in before we invested in that new boiler [or whatever] - bad timing!"

Sunk costs - those capital investments where the cash cannot easily be recovered - are a real headache for sustainability ambitions as no-one wants to be seen to 'waste' that money, even if ripping out a relatively new piece of kit and replacing it with a more sustainable one is the economically sensible thing to do.

The answer, of course, is to get in there before the investment is made and get the most sustainable bang for your buck. But this simple action is much more difficult in practice as the most restricting decisions are often made by default before any investment appraisal takes place.

The only answer is to have a clear sustainability strategy, with appropriate stretch targets, embedded into the structure of the organisation. Trying to waylay every investment reactively as it comes over the horizon is like trying to rugby tackle charging elephants - it's never going to end well.


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17 October 2014

The Answer My Friend, Is Blowing In the Wind...

turbineInteresting news recently:

  • Glasgow University ad committed “to fully disinvesting from fossil fuel industry companies”, subject to reassurance that the financial impact for the university would be “acceptable”. Full divestment will mean the reallocation of around £18 million of investments, which will take place over a 10-year period.
  • The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn (£31bn) in fossil fuel assets - and putting them into renewables instead.
  • Worldwide spending on renewable-energy projects reached $175 billion in the first three quarters of 2014, up 16 percent from the same period a year ago.
  • China could add 14 gigawatts of solar capacity this year alone - more than all the solar power installed in the United States.

Puts all that anti-renewables nonsense spouted by the likes of Owen Paterson into perspective doesn't it?


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15 October 2014

Horses for (Sustainability) Courses

Gareth KaneIn my executive coaching, I try to adhere to the Socratic/pull model where you guide the coachee along with a series of searching questions. The idea is they get to work through the problem themselves, getting a deeper understanding, and they're more likely to implement the resulting ideas - just in the same way I use workshops in place of traditional 'clipboard' consulting.

This patient approach is against my nature, which is to jump in with advice before the other person has stopped talking. It takes quite a bit of discipline not to butt in all the time.

But with one coaching client, I have to drop this approach and push advice. This particular business owner wants to bounce ideas off me, talk through what is and isn't working and ask me what I would do in certain circumstances. If I suggest something to him, he'll roll it around in his head and work out how to make it work for him in practice.

I'm the opposite - despite my enthusiasm for giving advice, I'm not that great at taking it. I had a consulting coach for a year and while I valued his advice, I always felt he was trying to corral me in particular direction rather than let me think things through. I spent most of my time telling him why his advice wouldn't work for me, which wasn't very productive.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter which approach is 'better' - or worse 'right' (although I find for most people the pull approach works best and so it's my default). What really matters is doing what is best for your audience - Green Jujitsu in other words. It takes humility to work to their preferred way of learning rather than your favoured methodology.

And that's my advice.



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13 October 2014

On Sustainability: Go Big or Go Home

Athlete compete in paul vault

The first four of my rules of pragmatic environmentalism were mainly aimed at the old-school green activism mindset which in my opinion holds us back from the rapid progress we need to make. But this last, fifth rule is aimed at us all.

For too long we have been told that we face existential threats, but are given '10 Top Tips' such as reusing plastic bags and not leaving the TV on standby. While there's nothing wrong with doing these, they won't deliver sustainability on their own and the cognitive dissonance between the threat and the action can switch people off as its like firing a pea shooter at an aircraft carrier.

We need to go big, or go home.

Two weeks ago today I submitted the manuscript for my next DoShort book, provisionally titled Accelerating Sustainability using the 80:20 Rule. The 80:20 rule says that, in many cases, 20% of actions/effort/input give us 80% of results and 80% of actions give us just 20%. This is a phenomenally powerful tool as it allows us to cut away all the extraneous activity - all those networks of green champions, endless supplier questionnaires and jute bags of green goodies - and focus on those things which will make a real difference - such as ditching a low sustainability supplier in favour of one with good sustainability credentials, or substituting secondary materials for virgin materials, or purchasing an electric vehicle fleet.

Along with the 80:20 Rule, a restless mindset of "good, we've done that, but it's not enough, how can we do it better?" will keep you out of your comfort zone and continually reaching for the next level.

And one of the most powerful moves is the stretch target - if you set your sights on cutting your carbon emissions by, say, 50% in 10 years, you will come up with much better projects than you will if your target is 5% by next year.

So set the bar high, clear it, then push it higher. You may just surprise yourself!


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10 October 2014

Will we get political leadership on sustainability in 2015?

political leaders2
The UK political conference season has come to an end, the last before the General Election scheduled for May 2015. So, with manifestos starting to take shape, and given that leadership on green issues is the difference between leaps forward and incremental improvements in sustainability, how much leadership did the main party leaders show? Here's my summary (with the usual disclosure that I'm a member of the Liberal Democrats, but I'll try to be objective!):

First up was Ed Miliband, Labour leader. His speech was wildly derided for flogging to death the already knackered 'I met a normal person recently who thinks just like me' trope and for forgetting to mention the yawning economic deficit. But he did remember to cover green issues (he forgot them in 2012), and it was good, clear stuff, making green jobs one of his 6 goals for the next parliament if he takes the keys to No 10 next year:

So our third national goal is for Britain to be truly a world leader in Green technology by 2025, creating one million new jobs as we do.

Under this government, Britain is behind Germany, Japan, the United States and even India and China for low-carbon, green technologies and services. So many of our brilliant businesses are desperate to play their part in creating their jobs of the future but they just can’t do it unless government does its bit. With our plan, we will.

Making a clear commitment to take the carbon out of our electricity by 2030. A Green Investment Bank with real powers to borrow and attract investment. And as Caroline Flint announced yesterday, devolving power to our communities so that we can insulate 5 million homes. The environment may not be fashionable as a political issue any more. But I believe it is incredibly important to our economy today. And it is the most important thing I can do in politics for the future of my kids and their generation.

The second leader to speak was Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, back from the UN where he gave the first speech on climate change by a British PM since Margaret Thatcher in 1990. He said some very interesting things then, but I said the litmus test would be how much of a priority he gave it when addressing the party faithful. He flunked it. To say green issues got a token mention is stretching the meaning of 'token', with Cameron merely mentioning 'Britain leading the battle against climate change' in passing. His green/blue 'green growth, not green tape' message at the UN could have, and should have, been a compelling pitch to bring round the anti-green forces in his party, but given he has just lost a couple of his MPs to the maverick, climate change-denying UKIP, one can only assume that he decided not to rock the boat.

Lastly, Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister took to the podium. His party may be languishing in the polls and his personal ratings at rock bottom, but with another tight election in prospect, it is very possible that he will find himself in negotiation to form another coalition Government next year. Clegg made several references to environmental issues throughout his speech, but two passages were important, the first being to claim credit for progress under the current Government:

And just as we are refusing to saddle our children with mountains of debt, we are determined to hand them on a clean planet too. Both parties in this Government promised we would stick to our green commitments, but it has taken constant pressure from the Liberal Democrats – not least Ed Davey – to hold the Tories to their word. And I can tell you now that a sustainable environment will remain at the heart of our vision for Britain’s future – it’s not green crap to us.

That last line was a potshot at what Cameron is alleged to have said about green taxes on electricity production. Clegg later returned to the theme to set out five green laws:

...if you want to spread opportunity you can’t just stop at today. You have to think about tomorrow too. And for that same reason, our next manifesto will contain something I can guarantee you none of the others will: A commitment to five green laws. Laws that will commit British governments to reducing carbon from our electricity sector…Create new, legal targets for clean air and water…Give everyone access to green space… Massively boost energy efficiency and renewable energy… Prioritise the shift to green cars…Bring an end to dirty coal… Because Liberal Democrats understand that opportunity for everyone means thinking not just of this generation, but of future generations too.

So, in summary, Miliband and Clegg not only made clear commitments on sustainability, but sketched in some of the important detail behind that - as much as you can be expected to in a wide-ranging speech. Cameron flattered to deceive - if he means what he said at the UN, then we have something of a political consensus, but any personal commitment won't count unless steps up and shows leadership - to the public, to industry and to his party faithful.


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8 October 2014

The Littlest (Sustainability) Hobo

I've got a really random and retro ear worm. I can't get the theme from 'The Littlest Hobo' out of my mind. You know the one:

"Maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, I'll just keep moving on."

By coincidence I have been finishing off the manuscript of my latest (fifth) book where I identified this kind of restlessness as a key attribute of the best in sustainability - "OK, we've done good, but it's not enough, how can we do better?"

If you want to install such a restlessness, some or all of the following will help:

  • Learn by doing - keep trying new things and keep what works;
  • Allow people to fail - a blame culture stifles innovation;
  • Celebrate success - show everyone what people like them can achieve;
  • Ask for solutions from everyone involved - inside and outside the organisation;
  • Creative destruction - keep pushing the company forwards by calling time on unsustainable practice/products/systems.

And going back to everybody's favourite canine good Samaritan:

Down this road that never seems to end,
Where new adventure lies just around the bend.

Let's make it an epic adventure of discovery, not a dull march of green tape!


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6 October 2014

If this is war, we must use all the weapons at our disposal


Every Monday for the last couple of weeks, I've been mulling on one of my proposed Rules of the Pragmatic Environmentalist. This week, it is Rule 4: "Technology and markets mechanisms are powerful tools: we must use them to our advantage."

One of my favourite sustainability reads has been The God Species by Mark Lynas- mainly because it is so joyfully contrarian, kicking tired old green tropes and making a daring proposition (I paraphrase):

If we are wreaking biblical levels of destruction on the planet, we'd better use our 'god-like' technologies to stop the damage before it is too late.

Like Lynas, one of my great frustrations with the activist end of the environmental movement is their near-religious belief that the most powerful weapons in our armoury - capitalism, GM technology, market-based solutions, nuclear energy to name a few - are evil. Every time something is proposed it gets knocked down as, at best, not good enough, at worst, the works of the devil. Biodiesel = bad. Carbon offsetting = immoral. Feed-In Tariffs = enrich the rich etc, etc.

Fortunately none of the people peddling these dictates actually has to propose something that works. If you do get a solution, it's something vaguely along the lines of reorganising society into modern villages, going back to the land, growing nuts and whittling sticks.

Now I love a bit of whittling, but let's get real - if we want change and we want change fast, then we've got to harness the powerful tools that we have at our disposal, not shy away from them. Let's get our hands dirty!


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3 October 2014

How Is ISO14001 Changing? Interview with Marek Bidwell

In this very special edition of Ask Gareth, I get to ask the questions! I have been asked about the forthcoming changes to ISO14001, and to cover up my ignorance, I invited my friend, colleague and ISO-geek Marek Bidwell to outline what will happen and when.

You can see all editions of Ask Gareth by clicking here.

If you'd like to send a question to Ask Gareth fire away!


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1 October 2014

California is banning plastic bags. Big Deal.

shopping plastic bag

Have you read the headlines in the press that the State of California is going to ban single use plastic bags in large supermarkets?

Well, sound the trumpets.

Why my cynicism? Well, taking the average UK citizen  - plastic bags represent about 0.1% of our individual carbon footprint, whereas, by comparison, heating our homes represents 10% (I don't have the equivalent Californian data to hand, but I suspect it is similar but with cooling rather than heating). You don't have to a mathematical genius to realise that a very modest improvement in home insulation regulations would easily outstrip a complete removal of single use plastic bags from the economy.

Let's focus on what matters, shall we?


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29 September 2014

Let's banish the inner priesthood of sustainability


Like it or not, the human race has a tendency towards tribalism - we can see that in a long history of brutal ethnic wars around the world. But the tendency also rears its heads in supposedly virtuous pursuits where those who see themselves as the inner priesthood raise barriers - using linguistics, dogma or people's background.

The environmental movement is as guilty of raising those barriers as anybody else. We read about 'endosymbiotic thrivability'. 'mindfulness' and 'eco-centric world views', we are told we must be against fracking, GM, nuclear - and capitalism in general, and I spent my early days in the movement dodging the question of where I did my degree (Cambridge) or where I worked previously (the Ministry of Defence) - as those answers dropped me a couple of places down the rankings of the self-righteous.

None of this snobbery is helpful in any way. We can sit on our self-built pedestals, sneering at those who 'don't get it' or we can get down amongst ordinary (and I mean that as a compliment) people going about their daily routine and help them 'get it'. Only one of those strategies will deliver sustainability - and it isn't the one occupied by those who think they are morally superior.

So my third rule of pragmatic environmentalism is:

No inner priesthood: we have to make sustainability relevant to others, not bend them to our will.

In other words, if people want to find out about environmental issues and what they can do to help, they should be welcomed with open arms - not subjected to some kind of initiation test. If they don't 'get it', then it is our fault for not making it understandable, not theirs.


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26 September 2014

Sustainability: It's not us against them


I've been blogging a lot about the politics of sustainability recently. As a part-time politician myself, I know that politics should be a battle of ideas, but all too often boils over into naked tribalism. And while I've been perusing the responses to many current political events - Naomi Klein's new book, David Cameron's speech at the UN, the green elements of Ed Miliband's conference speech - to name but a few - the prejudices of many commentators reminded me that I've seen the US - who get it - against THEM - who don't - mentality outside politics, in organisations, protests and even communities.

Green Jujtisu is an attempt to make sustainability appeal to all sides. If you are speaking to a right-leaning audience then you talk economic solutions, if they're left leaning, then regulation or grass-roots action will probably appeal more. In some ways it doesn't matter which route we pick - and 'The Answer' is probably a blend of the best of both.

As I said last week, everybody is an environmentalist - and we must look at sustainability through the eyes of all tribes - pitched battles will do more harm than good.


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24 September 2014

David Cameron shows some leg on climate change (at long last)

CameronHuskiesUK Prime Minister David Cameron finally gave a speech on climate change yesterday at the UN's Climate Summit in New York. We've been waiting a long time for it - arguably the 24 years since Margaret Thatcher urged the UN to take action in 1990. We haven't heard a squeak from those who served in between - Messers Major, Blair and Brown - so for that, at least, we should be grateful to the current PM.

Before I read the transcript, I was expecting the usual blandishments and weasel words - and there were some - but a couple of passages caught my eye:

As political leaders we have a duty to think long-term. When offered clear scientific advice, we should listen to it. When faced with risks, we should insure against them. And when presented with an opportunity to safeguard the long-term future of our planet and our people, we should seize it.

This is a strong signal to those climate sceptics in Cameron's party that he's not going to listen to their insidious whispers.

Another passage reframed climate action for a right-leaning thinkers:

We need to give business the certainty it needs to invest in low carbon. That means fighting against the economically and environmentally perverse fossil fuel subsidies which distort free markets and rip off taxpayers. It means championing green free trade, slashing tariffs on things like solar panels. And it means giving business the flexibility to pick the right technologies for their needs.

In short we need a framework built on green growth not green tape.

I particularly like the line on removing fossil fuel subsidies and hope that Cameron is true to his word on this. The recent New Climate Economy report estimated that these were six times that of clean energy subsidies - a level playing field could accelerate the world towards a low carbon economy very quickly indeed.

And there was a line about developing countries which sets out a realistic approach to developing economies and makes a case for richer nations to invest in their green development for the benefit of all:

We must provide support to those who need it, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. It is completely unrealistic to expect developing countries to forgo the high carbon route to growth that so many Western countries enjoyed, unless we support them to achieve green growth. Now, if we get this right there need not be a trade-off between economic growth and reducing carbon emissions.

So nothing groundbreaking, but I do like Cameron's pitch for a right-of-centre case for tackling climate change. If the  debate continues to descend into a left vs right battle then we will get nowhere (I'm looking at you, Ms Klein). If both left and right can agree to act in their own way, then we can get moving.

However, the litmus test will be whether Cameron runs the same arguments in his forthcoming party conference speech. Labour leader Ed Miliband remembered to talk about climate change in his conference speech yesterday and I'll be comparing and contrasting the three major party leaders' speeches when they've all been given.






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22 September 2014

Evidence Rules!

frackingA few days ago I postulated 5 rules of the new vein of pragmatic environmentalist. Number 2 was "Evidence Rules".

Like many, I have spent far too much time patiently (most of the time) demolishing the zombie arguments of climate change denialists - using evidence to put cherry-picked 'sceptic' claims into context. Then, a couple of years ago I read The God Species by Mark Lynas which challenged the green movement to apply the same trust in scientific evidence that we take in climate science to contentious issues such as nuclear energy and GM. It was one of those reads that rocks you back on your heels - and I swore I would attempt to be as objective as I could in all environmental issues.

It was this maxim which gets me in trouble over fracking. I'm not a cheerleader for fracking, but my gut instinct against it is tempered by the review of its implications by the The Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering which concluded the technology is safe as long as it is done properly. Without some pretty robust arguments you can't use the Royal Society as a bulwark against climate change scepticism but ignore it when it tells you something you don't want to hear.

That doesn't mean that science doesn't make mistakes, but to move forward to sustainability at pace, we've got to work on the basis of our best current understanding, tempered by the precautionary principle. Yes, some people in the US claim that fracking makes them ill, and we must investigate such claims, but others have claimed wind turbines make them ill and the green movement didn't give that too much thought (rightly, it turned out, but for the wrong reasons).

We've got to be rational about sustainability - a little more head, a little less heart.

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19 September 2014

Can you generate Scottish Referendum levels of enthusiasm for sustainability?

Union Jack of the United KingdomSo it's the morning after the night before and, as broadly expected, Scotland voted to stay in the UK with the rest of us. But what really stood out is how, in this age of extreme political cynicism, the people of Scotland got really fired up about the issue. It became a topic of daily debate with friends, family and neighbours for months and the turnout of 84% speaks for itself - by comparison, the UK 2010 general election turnout was 65%.

Those of us in the sustainability profession looked on in green-faced amazement. How on earth can we generate this level or intensity of engagement in, say, climate change? Or a fraction of it, for that matter?

Well, it seems to me that what fired up the independence debate is that it was an issue that really mattered to the population of Scotland - and they had a chance to decide the outcome. And that's what we must do with sustainability, either with groups of people or with individuals - frame it so it matters to the audience and get them involved in the decision of what to do to address those issues.

Classic Green Jujitsu, in other words!


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17 September 2014

The old sustainability vs growth chestnut gets another roasting

go green

Two interesting interventions caught my eye this week:

  • First of all we had Naomi Klein, of No Logo fame, wading into the climate change debate by declaring that the problem wasn't carbon but capitalism - and that all of us working with big business to facilitate change were as deluded as climate change deniers.
  • Secondly, a report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate concluded that there was no fundamental conflict between economic growth and tackling climate change.

The two viewpoints couldn't be more different. In my view Ms Klein is on the wrong side of this argument for the following reasons:

  • Finger pointing is easy; facilitating real change is the real challenge;
  • Big business is not just going to disappear overnight because of the righteous indignation of the activist;
  • She admits she does not have an alternative practical solution to climate change (so why bother entering the debate?);
  • I was inspired to embrace sustainability by witnessing the ecological legacy of the Soviet regime in Russia - it doesn't matter whether carbon is emitted under socialism or capitalism, carbon is carbon.

But it still leads us to a fundamental question: is economic growth compatible with sustainability? And the answer from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate is that it is. They set out a series of practical measures to harness capitalism to tackle climate change rather than trying to destroy it wholesale - for example removing the subsidies propping up the fossil fuel industry (which are estimated in the report as being six times that of the subsidy to the renewable sector).

I would go further. We must MAKE growth compatible with sustainability. A vibrant global economy is the only way we will continue to bring down the costs of, say, renewable energy technology. In conjunction with appropriate Government action on taxation, subsidies and investment, I do believe we can create a prosperous and sustainable society.

Naomi Klein's vision would take us back to mid-90s noisy inaction on the climate while the global juggernaut judders on regardless.

Which would you choose?


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15 September 2014

Everybody is an Environmentalist


Last week, I posited five rules for Pragmatic Environmentalism. Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to expand on/refine this a little to explain my thinking, so, first up is:

Rule 1: Everybody is an Environmentalist

Yup, everyone. We pay good money to holiday in beautiful places, we pay a premium for houses with a view of nature or near a park, we get very excited at the sight of a whale or a bird of prey. Mainstream environmental NGOs have a massive membership - 4.5 million in the UK,  1 in 10 of British adults, or an order of magnitude more than the political parties can muster.

Even those hate figures of the green movement have a sliver of environmentalism - the Daily Mail has campaigned against single use plastic bags, climate troll James Delingpole has been known to fret about fish stocks, and Margaret Thatcher remains the only prime minister to make a major speech on the environment.

However, this does not mean we are a nation of goateed, yurt-dwelling tree huggers. There is a strong suspicion that the more vociferous elements of the green movement are 'watermelons' - green on the outside, socialists/reds on the inside - trying to use the environmental agenda to deliver wider political ends. I don't think there is a great conspiracy, just that many in the movement can't divide the two in their own minds - or acknowledge that people who disagree with them politically are allowed their own view.

I'm proud to be a 'mango' - green on the outside, orange (liberal) on the inside. I like to think that liberalism sees the plurality of environmentalism and that we have to form a broad coalition to tackle global environmental challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss or resource depletion. And key to that is to tap the inner environmentalist in everybody.


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12 September 2014

The (Draft) Rules of Pragmatic Environmentalism

business angel

I was called a hypocrite last week.

Not to my face, the individual is too cowardly to look me in the eye. No, he took to Twitter and attacked me for not being 100% against fracking - merely 80%. My arguments for leaving the door slightly ajar were a. while shale gas is a fossil fuel, shale gas is almost certainly much better than coal, b. we could find ourselves in an energy security crisis before too long, and c. the sensible end of the environmental movement has left such black and white dogma behind them and is making swift progress without that baggage weighing them down.

I resisted the temptation to hit reply and leave either a pithy one-liner or fire a torrent of scorn in his direction (it never works out the way you would like, anyway - I just end up waking up in the middle of the night 'cos I've though of a REALLY good put-down).

But it got me thinking about the difference between the new breed of pragmatic environmentalist and the old style ideologues. What about these rules of pragmatic environmentalism as a starter for ten:

  1. Everybody is an environmentalist - you just have to find what is important to them.
  2. Evidence rules: you can't cherry-pick the data that suits you.
  3. No inner priesthood: we have to make sustainability relevant to others, not bend them to our will.
  4. Technology and markets mechanisms are powerful tools: we must use them to our advantage.
  5. Think big or go home.

Comments? Thoughts?

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10 September 2014

What if employees won't engage in sustainability?

In this edition of Ask Gareth, I tackle the nightmare scenario when employees refuse to engage in sustainability. The answer, naturally, is Green Jujitsu!

You can see all editions of Ask Gareth by clicking here.

If you'd like to send a question to Ask Gareth fire away!.


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8 September 2014

Fashion kills sustainability

tombstoneFor a newspaper from the Guardian stable that prides itself on its approach to sustainability, I winced when I read this in a Observer article on fashion yesterday:

The ability to recycle favourite dresses is being curtailed by sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

When the journalist said 'recycling', she didn't mean passing it on to a mate, selling it second hand or using the fabric for something else. No, she meant "wearing the same dress twice" - claiming women are afraid to do so as their friends will see this cardinal sin on social media. To a man who still wears dozens of garments over a decade old, this is an alien concept.

But it illustrates a much bigger point. Our modern design and manufacturing supply chains are capable of delivering us very high quality, low price products exceptionally quickly. But it is not quality or design that consigns those products to the bin - it's fashion. And by fashion I don't just mean clothes - Douglas Coupland nailed the phenomenon in his 1991 novel 'Generation X' when he referred to 'semi-disposable Swedish furniture'. Even a ship will be scrapped when the value of its steel is thought to be higher than keeping the ship in use, rather than when it 'wears out'.

Our problem is that the 'make do and mend' concept is unlikely to storm mainstream consumer culture. There are other models which can help:

  • The service economy: despite the slip on 'recycling', the Observer article did reference services where you can rent high fashion items for one night only, so each dress will be worn dozens of times. You can do this with everything from a luxury yacht to industrial solvents.
  • The circular economy: designing products to be recycled continuously means short product lives doesn't have to be dependent on extracting more raw materials and creating more waste.
  • The sharing economy: purchasing a product and then sharing it with others. When my parents moved into their house 40 years ago, they found it came with half a hedge trimmer!
  • The retro economy: many well designed products have as much value when they are old as when they are brand-spanking new.

In the meantime, I will be recycling - in the true sense of the word - my favourite pair of cords as I have worn them threadbare. Don't think I'll be gracing the fashion pages of the newspapers anytime soon!



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5 September 2014

Why you need to be a pain in the ass to deliver sustainability

rantAn offhand tweet yesterday got me embroiled in a debate about the efficacy of environmental awareness weeks. This spilled onto the ZeroWasteWeek Facebook page where most participants politely tried to argue for awareness weeks (largely that this one had worked for them), but there were a couple of more tetchy contributions:

"Some people will do anything to try and create an argument."

"If he doesnt doesn't care for it, why bother tweeting?!"

Maybe I am just a bit of a pain in the backside, but, on the other hand, as the legendary software pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is quoted as saying:

The most dangerous phrase in the language is: "We've always done it this way."

When we are trying to facilitate massive change, we need to challenge everything - both in the system we are trying to change and the methods we use to change it. Circling the wagons around our comfort zone stifles progress.

My Green Jujitsu technique was a reaction against standard practice in employee engagement for sustainability - and the wider approach to change management. I could see that standard practice - all those drippy posters and jute bags - wasn't working. So, I stopped and thought it through. I came up with an idea that made sense, tried it, refined it, tried it again, refined it some more et voilà!

Same with organisational systems - the most powerful weapon in your armoury is the Toddler Test - keep asking 'why?' until the person can't answer.

So don't be afraid to be a pain in the ass - a nice, polite one, but a pain in the ass nonetheless.


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