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May 2008 - Terra Infirma


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29 May 2008

Carbon Trust 'could do better', but can they?

The UK's Committee of Public Accounts has criticised the Carbon Trust's ability to cut emissions as 'pretty small beer'. The committee has listed a number of reasons why the Trust can't be more effective (reluctance of senior executives, EU rules), but, in my opinion, they miss the big one.

The Carbon Trust, along with Envirowise and other similar business support organisations, works on the model of an 'expert' walking into a business, spotting a number of potential improvements, writing them up with some signposting to other help and sending the business the results. This is bound to fail for the following reasons:

1. The 'expert' spends most of the visit trying to understand the operations and has limited time to get under the skin of the business. As a result, savings opportunities tend to be drawn from a generic list.

2. The 'expert' is given no opportunity for trial and error, pilot projects or doing anything particularly innovative.

3. The business has little or no ownership of the solutions and is unlikely to implement them.

This doesn't just go for Government backed schemes, but much traditional consultancy. So what can be done differently?

OK, how about:

1. The 'expert' carries out a baseline assessment of the business's operations.

2. The 'expert' and the client put together an team drawn from the client's staff.

3. The 'expert' briefs the team on the baseline and trains them on what a low carbon business would look like (check out this month's Low Carbon Agenda for a generic model).

4. The team meets over an extended period of time to develop solutions, piloting them and monitoring their implementation.

5. The 'expert' gradually hands over the process to the team so it becomes self sustaining.

Trust me, that would beat the old model hands down. If you want to try it, give me a shout on 0191 265 9850.

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28 May 2008

The Times Top 50 Businesses

The Times has published a list of the 50 greenest businesses. Top of the List is JC Atkinson - a coffin manufacturer - I wouldn't have had these guys down as a 'dead cert' (badum tish).

Good to see Terra Infirma client Gentoo getting on the bottom of the table - hopefully we can help them climb it in the next 12 months.

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27 May 2008

Weekly Tip #15: Cold Comfort

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

If you have cold rooms/refrigerators, make sure doors are alarmed so staff are alerted if they are left open. You can also improve the efficiency of refrigeration compressors and get free hot water with a simple heat exchanger.

Another tip next Monday!

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17 May 2008

A short intermission...

... while I spend a week in Scotland recharging my own batteries. Hints, tips and news will return when I do!

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15 May 2008

Why environmental performance matters more, not less, in an economic downturn

Two things happened to me yesterday that made me think about this:

1. someone asked me if they thought the environmental sector would be hit by the so-called 'credit crunch' and associated economic downturn.

2. I filled up my diesel car's tank with fuel for the first time in two months and nearly passed on on the forecourt when I saw the cost.

It is fairly obvious that a good response to an economic downturn is to cut costs. If you have a 25% profit margin, then every £1 you save in your operations is worth £4 of sales.

The biggest cost in most businesses is staff. But if you cut staff you have to pay redundancies, you lose the investment you have made in training and development, and you hit the morale of those you retain. Plus, when things improve, you will have to rush around recruiting and training new staff which is both an additional cost and a delay which could cost you market share.

On the other hand, there are only ever benefits from reducing waste, energy costs, water costs, transport costs, raw material costs etc, etc. So if things are getting tight, why not divert some of that 'redundant' staff time into identifying and eradicating environmental costs? If you do it right, they should more than pay for themselves - and you will continue to see the benefits when sales pick up with the increased margin.

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13 May 2008

Update: Low Carbon Business Seminar - 26 June 2008

Just a quick update on the low carbon business seminar I posted about last week:

1. I have secured the early bird discount in perpetuity (hurrah!);

2. You can see full details and register directly here - much more easily than the link last week;

3. It will be brilliant - learn everything you need to know about developing, marketing and selling low carbon products and services in one morning, then structured networking and roundtable discussions all afternoon. What more could you want?

Here's feedback from previous workshops:

"The workshops were punchy, provocative and held the audience rapt."
Nick Devitt, Programme Director, Dott07

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12 May 2008

Weekly Tip #14: Down the drain...

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

To avoid the risk of pollution incidences, map and understand your on-site drainage. Make sure all drains are colour coded: blue for surface water and red for the sewer is a standard approach;

Another tip next Monday!

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8 May 2008

Grey and Green

I gave a presentation on climate change to the Ponteland chapter of the University of the Third Age (U3A) yesterday. A very interesting and interested audience of more than 100 active older people. It was probably the only audience with whom you can't try and be provocative by suggesting they would struggle with voluntary simplicity - they can remember wartime rationing.

It was also the first time I trialled my half-baked, half pinched "pyschology of climate change" model with a live audience. This attempts to explain the different mindsets of the deep green (George Monbiot) and climate sceptic (Nigel Lawson) sides of the argument and why they both think the Government is mad. It stood up to explanation, so I'm going to keep it!

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Low Carbon Business Seminar - 26 June 2008

I'm giving a seminar on developing, marketing and selling low carbon products and services in London next month. The seminar is part of the Low Carbon Innovation Exchange which is a fantastic forum for sharing knowledge with the low carbon business community.

If you register for my seminar in the morning, you will:

- discover the business case for going beyond compliance.

- learn what makes a product or service a low carbon product or service.

- discover which markets are booming and why.

- learn how to market and sell your low carbon products & services.

- find out what the risks are, and how to avoid them.

Plus you will benefit from one-to-one meetings and round table discussions all afternoon in the Exchange.

There's a 25% early bird discount, so click here now for more details and to register on-line.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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6 May 2008

Weekly Tip #13: In the bathroom

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

Toilets/washrooms are a big contributors to your environmental footprint. Lights get left on, taps drip and urinals flush through the night. Install efficient lighting with timer controls, low flow toilets, waterfree or 'intelligent' urinals, and put push taps on your sinks.

Another tip next Monday!

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