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March 2009 - Terra Infirma


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31 March 2009

Low Carbon Innovation Network, 2 April, Newcastle

I'll be facilitating two sessions at the Low Carbon Innovation Network on Thursday 2 April at Gosforth Park, Newcastle.

The sessions are:

1. Long Term Environmental Strategy, 10:00am

2. Green Building and Renovation, 11:20am

These events are really good and I always learn loads during the sessions. Recommended.

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30 March 2009

The Green Business Bible is no more!

The ink has dried on the contract, the manuscript has been submitted and the (as yet un-re-named) Green Business Bible has been fed into the big book making machine of the guys at Earthscan. So I've had to keep my pledge and remove the GBB from sale as an eBook. As soon as it hits the shelves, I'll let you all know!

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25 March 2009

EEF Report Shows Manufacturing Still Not Proactive on the Environment

Interesting report on the manufacturing sector published by EEF and Envirowise last summer, but being publicised now. Some notable conclusions:

- 90% of respondents were doing something to improve their environmental performance;
- waste and energy are the key issues;
- key drivers are legislation and EMS requirements, rather than competitive advantage;
- preferred method of waste reduction is recycling (80% of respondents) rather than minimisation (18% of respondents);
- 70% of respondents felt Government should provide them more funds to tackle these problems.

Despite the fact that 90% of respondents were acting, the rest of this is rather disappointing. The respondents saw the green agenda as one to react to rather than get proactive on. The lack of interest in minimising waste reflects a lack of awareness of cost saving opportunities, and the expectation that this is the taxpayer's problem to sort out shows a lack of ownership.

The proactive business should acknowledge their environmental impacts and tackle them head-on to improve competitive advantage through reduced costs, better PR and happier staff (see 10 Reasons... for more on this). Looks like we still have a long way to go before a proactive attitude is prevalent.

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23 March 2009

Weekly Tip(s) #48: The last GBB tip...

This is the last of the weekly tips from the Green Business Bible:

A Green Business is not a charity.

A Green Business has to compete with and beat non-green businesses. No one will feel sorry for you or give you a handout when you need one. I have seen a recycling technology developer almost literally pull his hair out because a Local Authority wouldn’t buy his innovative but highly expensive product. He accused them of stupidity, but I couldn’t help thinking that this was a bit rich coming from a so-called businessman who couldn’t understand why his target customers weren’t buying.

I'm taking a long weekend and I'll have a think about whether to continue with general tips on a Monday. If you find them useful then please let me know.

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19 March 2009

Can you think of a better title than "The Green Business Bible"?

I've now signed a contract to publish The Green Business Bible as a book, but the publisher wants a new title as the religious reference may not play well in certain parts of the world. So I need a new title, preferably one with more zing than "The Green Business Guide". So I thought I'd ask for some advice.

For those of you who haven't read the book, the short blurb is that it "contains everything you need to know about making your business green while increasing profits".

Whoever suggests the best idea by 31 March (note I've posted this elsewhere) will get a free copy of the eBook and, if we use it and hadn't thought of it before, I'll send you a free copy of the book when it emerges at the end of the year. Put your entries in the comments.

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16 March 2009

Weekly Tip(s) #48: The waste hierarchy is not carved in stone

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

OK the waste hierarchy says minimisation is better than recycling, but minimising a large waste stream by a small amount is pointless if it makes recycling the rest uneconomic. The waste hierarchy is just a rule of thumb - apply common sense at all times.

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13 March 2009

Phew, what a week!

It is weeks like this that I sometimes wish Terra Infirma was being hit by "the current economic situation" - we are flat out delivering projects, responding to queries from potential clients (2 in different time zones), getting The Green Business Bible into the right format for 'proper' publication, and doing all the dull business stuff to keep the taxman happy.

Highlight of the week was the Middlesbrough Climate Change conference where I was organising the workshops to make sure they did what the organisers wanted them to. During the workshops I was hopping from room to room, but I was able to sit in on the plenary sessions. Jeff Ridley from the Hadley Centre gave us the latest data on climate predictions, George Marshall of COIN gave a fantastic talk on communicating climate change, Joan Ruddock MP gave one of the better environmental speeches I have heard from a Government minister and there was an interesting session by video from Australia on what local Government can do. The whole thing was very well (and firmly) compered by Sara Parkin of Forum for the Future. There will be a report on the whole event, and, when I've finished compiling it, I'll post the link.

What I love about this job is there's always more to learn - I've been to hundreds of events like this and there is always a couple of gems you can take away with you. This time it was definitely George Marshall who castigated the standard 'pronouncement from above' approach to climate change communications and proposed three effective strategies:

1. Respect and reflect: make it directly relevant to core values of the audience (polar bears live far away so are useless as a symbol)
2. Peer to peer: use social norms and networks to engage people directly
3. Make action worthwhile: reward desired behaviour with money, status and/or fun

All food for thought!

Next week's schedule is looking a bit clearer, thank goodness, as there's quite a lot to get finished by the end of the month.

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11 March 2009

Car manufacturers go green for survival

Of all the industries in trouble, the car industry seems closer to the edge of the cliff than any other. Yet the Geneva Car Show had almost every major motor manufacturer showing off their latest green options. From the new Prius hybrid to Peugeot's diesel hybrid to GM's new electric vehicle (oh, the irony) to VW's Eco-motion options, it is very clear that they see green as a route to survival.

There are a number of image benefits for the car companies:

- to be seen to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem
- to be seen to be part of the future rather than a relic of the past
- to try and corner new and future markets however small they are at present
- to tap into the 'new frugality' public feeling that has come with the recession
- to sweeten the pill of Government intervention by demonstrating 'societal' benefits

But whatever the motives, there is a clear message that 'green' won't only survive the economic crisis, but it may even be a lifeboat for this and, by extension, many other business sectors.

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9 March 2009

Weekly Tip(s) #47: Design it out

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

Design out environmental problems - McDonough and Braungart have a neat little saying:
“Take the filters out of the pipes and put them where they belong - in the designers’ heads.”

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6 March 2009

Get it while you can...

If you want a copy of The Green Business Bible, you'd better be quick. I'm about to sign a contract to publish it as a 'proper' book, but it will be six months before it hits the book shelves. Once I sign the contract, I'm going to have to remove the eBook from sale for copyright reasons.

Note that the new book will have a different title as the publishers think the religious nature of the word 'Bible' may play poorly in parts of the US and the Middle East.

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4 March 2009

Back to basics?

Looking back at the two seminars I gave at the North East Regional Business Fair last week, they went quite well. We had about 15-20 delegates at each with most of them attending both seminars. But I have niggling doubts about their effectiveness.

On the first, Building A Low Carbon Business, I went through my five point model for transforming any organisation into a low carbon equivalent, ranging from better carbon management through to developing innovative products and services to help others slash their carbon footprint. I then discussed markets and marketing of low carbon products and services and the golden rule of green business.

Any questions?

"Should I switch my computer off at night?"

"Is recycled paper really better for the environment than ordinary paper?"

There wasn't one question about what I would call "Low Carbon Business".

Sometimes I think I pitch my seminars at too ambitious a target. There is still so much confusion over some of the very simple, everyday stuff, that there is probably a lot of scope for "20 Top Tips for Your Office" or something similar. On the other hand, how are we ever going to break past the 'rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic' level of understanding if people like me don't stretch the understanding and bring in the rest of the agenda?

Mmmmmmmmm.

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2 March 2009

Weekly Tip(s) #46: Biofuel Rule of Thumb

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

There is much debate at present over the sustainability of biofuels, but a simple rule of thumb is:

• Biofuels from crops are currently considered unsustainable;

• Biofuels from waste products (eg used cooking oil, agricultural waste) are considered sustainable.

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