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March 2008 - Terra Infirma


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31 March 2008

Tip of the Week #8: Staff Committees

This is the eighth in a new series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

It is well understood that cultural change is vital to any sort of business improvement. Why not go beyond the usual training/awareness sessions and set up a staff committee to scrutinise every element of your business for environmental improvements?

Another tip next Monday!

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27 March 2008

Carbon Trust Label Revisited

I saw a presentation by the Carbon Trust yesterday on Teesside. It was excellent and the presenter was full of enthusiasm - helped no doubt by the fact the Trust was the only such organisation to get an increase in funding in the Budget.

Well I was a little disparaging last year about the Trust's carbon labelling of Walkers' Crisps. What I didn't fully realise is that the label is given on a 'reduce it or lose it' basis - so the main purpose is to cajole the manufacturer to reduce the footprint, not just label proclaim it.

Currently the label is only found on crisps, Boots' shampoo and Innocent smoothies. The Trust is working with a huge raft of new companies in 2 tranches, covering everything from strawberries to paving slabs. It looks as if this one could run and run.

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25 March 2008

Weekly Tip #7: Keep it short, stupid

This is the seventh in a new series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Save paper by discouraging epic reports. You don’t need a War and Peace-sized document to organise the coffee rota. There may be other benefits to your business too - Proctor & Gamble have famously used a one page memo format for decades and see it as a key factor in their business success.

Another tip next Monday!

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19 March 2008

Changes!

Out With The Old...

Unfortunately, due to the budget settlement, Envirowise has withdrawn their free 'FastTrack' and 'DesignTrack' visits, so we will no longer be able to offer these services to our customer base.

The eagle-eyed may also have noticed that references to the North Tyneside Resource Efficiency Club have been removed from this website. We had been waiting for a year to launch the Club, but circumstances outside our control have led to funding cancellation.

In With The New!

However, we are pleased to announce our own new services:

1. The Low Carbon Business Programme

2. Lean, Mean & Green

These are similar, but with the first focusing more on the carbon agenda, while the second is more general, covering energy, waste, raw materials and toxics. They will engage your staff to develop solutions embedded into your processes and will build capacity for you to make improvements into the future. This is a world away from the usual 'write a fat report, submit the invoice and walk away' approach to consultancy. Prices are on a sliding scale depending on the number of employees in the organisation. please Contact us for more details.

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17 March 2008

Weekly Tip #6: Don't flush money away

This is the sixth in a new series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Fitting simple water conservation devices in your washrooms can slash your water bills and can have a payback of less than 8 months.

Another tip next Monday!

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14 March 2008

CRC Details Published

The UK government has published more information on the carbon reduction commitment (CRC) - a proposed mandatory emissions trading scheme for large organisations like supermarkets, hotels, water companies, government departments and local authorities.

The scheme is due to begin in 2010, and will apply to around 5,000 large, non-energy intensive organisations that have half-hourly electricity meters and use more than 6,000 kWhr of electricity per year. Roughly speaking if you have a bill over £500k you'll be hit.

If so you will have to buy allowances from the government to cover all of their emissions - not just electricity. They are expected to cost around £12/tCO2. For the first 3 years there will be no restriction on the number of allowances, then a new Committee on Climate Change will set caps for 5 year phases. Organisations will then have to trade between themselves.

All the more reason to start cutting those carbon emissions back now. You may be able to profit from your tardy peers.

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12 March 2008

Know thine enemy...

"Know thine enemy and victory will be forthcoming" said Sun Tzu about 2000 years ago*. So who are the enemies of your green business?

There are many people out there who love to see ‘green’ businesses ‘exposed’ as ungreen. I call them Hyenas as they are ready to pounce on any weakness:

- Fundamentalist greens who believe that business is intrinsically ‘bad’ environmentally and sees any attempt to build a green business as ‘greenwash’;

- The sensationalist press who know that a story entitled, say, ‘Organic Food Exposed!’ will sell newspapers and magazines;

- Reactionary smart-alecs who just want to be cleverer than everyone else (Jezza Clarkson et al);

- Unscrupulous business rivals who see green companies starting to eat into their market share. Note that in extreme cases front organisations are sometimes used to do the dirty work in these cases.

In my experience, none of these types are particularly bothered about the accuracy of their claims. But remember, Hyenas exist to fill a very important role in their eco-system - they keep the savannah clean and healthy. I recommend you use them as a spur to make sure that your green offering is as robust as possible and rebut any unfounded allegations in a sober manner, using third party assessments/accreditations wherever possible.

But for most green businesses, the most dangerous enemy is much closer to home. I have seen far too many green business managers believe their own hype, delude themselves and even blame their customers for not buying. This is commercial suicide and their business will never succeed with this attitude, nor does it deserve to. Don't fall into that trap.

* Actually, when I googled the first three words of this quote to check it, all the resulting versions were different. So I assume there's been quite a bit of paraphrasing over the millennia... did the ancient Chinese use the word 'thine'?

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10 March 2008

Weekly Tip #5: Walk the talk

This is the fifth in a new series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

The environmental agenda is no different to any other leadership challenge - if you're the boss you must do as you say, walk the talk, and be consistent. Nothing will kill your staff morale or your public image more than hypocrisy. It doesn't matter if the right thing to do is difficult or inconvenient...

Another tip next Monday!

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7 March 2008

A WEEE thing to be aware of...

This week I've dealt with my second large company, another major household name, who hasn't fully understood their responsibilities under the Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. The Directive has been developed to ensure that those who produce or sell electronic and electrical equipment make a financial contribution to its recycling.

But the Directive also requires all businesses to ensure that their own WEEE (ie computers, fluorescent tubes) is collected and disposed of properly. The two companies have been so focussed on getting the producer responsibility side of their commitment right, they haven't realised this further requirement applies to their own waste.

Be warned...

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5 March 2008

Greenwash Abounds!

I finally got around to reading the February edition of the ENDS report yesterday and was disappointed, but not surprised, to find four major stories on Greenwashing.

- Two of these (mastic asphalt companies and British Gas) were claiming that their products had no carbon footprint as they were offsetting their carbon emissions. While I (somewhat controversially) believe in offsetting as a CSR strategy, it is very unwise to use it as a claim in this way. In my book, you can say "we offset our carbon emissions", but not "our products have a zero carbon footprint". Obviously the Advertising Standards Authority agrees with me.

- Another is a compost company, William Sinclair, putting a 'cradle to gate' carbon label on their peat products. This is a bit naughty as peat is a fossil fuel and will decompose in use to produce 5 times as much carbon dioxide as the figure on the label. A bit like saying petrol has a carbon footprint of X as long as you don't actually use it.

- The last story is about 'ethical' investment funds. These have been found to be sort-of ethical in that they avoid certain industries (such as the arms industry) but some only have 1% of their stocks in 'green' industries, despite the image they portray.

All of these examples show that green claims are a minefield and that you're better not doing it at all if you're not going to do it properly. As my primary school teacher used to say, you're only cheating yourself, you know...

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3 March 2008

Weekly Tip #4: Reposition Your Bins

This is the fourth in a new series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

It's always intrigued me that in offices we have a general waste bin by our desks and a recycling bin typically at the end of the corridor. Why not put a paper recycling bin by each desk and a general waste bin further away? Your used paper collection will soar as a result.

Another tip next Monday!

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