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October 2009 - Terra Infirma


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29 October 2009

We're almost there...

...apologies if your access to this blog has been disrupted. We were trying to sort out a couple of techie things which had knock on effects and so on - but we should be about there now. This has also delayed this month's edition of The Low Carbon Agenda which should be out later today or early tomorrow.

I'm also on semi-paternity leave as we thought new child was on his way yesterday, but it looks as if he's taking his time. It's given me a good chance to catch up on some admin, answer the final proofreading queries on The 3 Secrets of Green Business and keep our projects tapping along. My plan to spring clean the office hasn't really materialised - I could ask imminent mum-to-be to help, but she's upstairs, hanging precariously off a step ladder with a power drill in her hand. I know better than to interfere!

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26 October 2009

WRI's plot of global greenhouse gas emissions

The World Resource's Institute (WRI) has released this wonderful graphic of where the world's greenhouse gases came from in 2005 (in terms of human activity rather than by geography). Click here for the large version. Note that the gases are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent rather than by weight, so they can be directly interpreted as contribution to climate change.

I could pore over this for hours!

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23 October 2009

The risk of oil price rises

Very interesting speech this week by John B Hess of oil exploration company Hess Corporation at the somewhat unsubtly titled "Oil and Money" conference in London. He caught the attention of the audience by declaring "The price of $140 per barrel oil was not an aberration; it was a warning." He went on to say that demand was outstripping supply and while production had either peaked or plateau'd ouside OPEC, it was still unlikely that we would hit a target of keeping global warming below 2°C while oil prices soar. Bleak indeed.

The oil price risk is one I communicate to my clients - if if you can handle current energy prices - what happens if they soar? Oil going above $100 a barrel was unthinkable a few years ago, but it went way over in the spring of 2008 and appears to be on its way back. This is a serious risk for many businesses and organisations - are you ready for it? Resilience is a term I'm pinching from the Transition movement - is your organisation resilient to the risks ahead?

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21 October 2009

Welcome to the new Terra Infirma website!

I'm very pleased with the new site - it should make finding information much easier than the old one. Please let me know if you find any problems so we can add them to the de-snagging list.

A quick plug for the Komodo Design guys.

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20 October 2009

Tweak to Sustainability Maturity Model

Thanks for everyone who fed back on the Terra Infirma Sustainability Maturity Model. All of it was positive and one view I've taken on board was that the 'No Activity' level was a bit pointless, so I've changed this to 'Compliance' which effectively means "no proactive activity". This was tested during a CSR workshop last week and worked well. Good stuff.

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19 October 2009

Telling Tales

Story-telling is a powerful way of creating a compelling vision for the future. When doing backcasting exercises in strategy workshops, I used to get participants to draw their vision of their organisation in 20-whatever, but I've recently found it much more effective if I get them to tell a story about it. Not a sitting-round-the-campfire story, but something like "write the CEO's foreword to your 2020 CSR report summarising the six headline achievements you would like to have made by then". This keeps the vision on the right side of science fiction and, it appears, is an easier ask of participants.

You read it here first!

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16 October 2009

BTW...

I've let the techies loose on the workings behind this blog to link it to the new website so if it suddenly sto

😉

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Business Opportunities in Climate Change Adaptation

I was running a CSR workshop with a major international engineering firm yesterday. Given the traditional engineers' reactive (and sometimes reactionary) approach to such 'soft issues' (I'm an engineer - I can say this!), their proactive, progressive attitude was a breath of fresh air. Interestingly enough, as well as the business opportunities we identified in climate change mitigation (cutting emissions), we discovered they were well placed to exploit opportunities in climate change adaptation - adapting to the inevitable changes that are already in the system.

Adaptation is going to become more and more important. If someone has cooling or refrigeration plant, it is going to have to work harder and become more expensive unless you can develop innovative new solutions. Resilience to rising sea levels, floods and extreme weather events will require new engineering solutions (or relocation). Heathcare services will have to adapt to new patterns in the spread of diseases. All these changes are business opportunities for someone.

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14 October 2009

A Bumpy Road to Copenhagen... does it matter?

There's an awful lot of expectation on the COP15 climate change talks at Copenhagen in December. The big carbon emitters have been circling each other like suspicious dogs, sniffing the air and waiting for who is going to move first.

Yet, when it comes to national action, China, India, France, the UK and President Obama (if not the US Senate) have all declared they are ready to act. Germany and the Nordic countries are well ahead of the game. So, going back to the views of Hermann Scheer, do we really need an international agreement? Or should we not just get on with it.

Well, yes it would help, but it wouldn't be a disaster if it failed or was only half successful. So maybe we should lower our expectations and the hype. There is a Plan B.

I preach to my clients. "Don't procrastinate, act!" You can do all the baseline and strategy work in parallel, but what is important is that you get moving, start building momentum and demonstrating results. We could do the same at a national level - individual action in parallel with international negotiation. It doesn't need to be an 'or', it can be an 'and'.

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12 October 2009

Forthcoming new arrivals...

I'm taking break from doing the final proof edits on The Three Secrets of Green Business. This is extraordinarily tedious, but I have found one big clanger so it is necessary. Despite the tedium, I'm getting really excited. I'm organising a launch event in January - more details when I have them. In the meantime, the Green Executive is really starting to shape up and I hope to get the first draft to the publisher early in the new year.

Also coming soon is the new branding, website and Low Carbon Agenda. Just the final tweaks to go, but looking very good indeed.

Part of me worries that all this excitement is displacement activity to distract me from yet another impending new arrival. My second child is due on 1 November, although his mother's maternal vibe is that this one could be early. So if this blog suddenly goes quiet, it probably means I'm up to my elbows in nappies again and/or taking no 1 son to the park. I intend to take two weeks semi-paternity leave - keeping things tapping along but not running any workshops or intensive pieces of work.

It's all so exciting!

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8 October 2009

How mature is your sustainability programme?


I've developed this model for the maturity of sustainability programmes from nada to a fully integrated programme. You can download a bigger version from the resources page.

Where do you sit?

Where would you like to be?

From experience, the only way to do sustainability properly is to move to the full integration stage. Only then do you open up the business opportunities and the big economic benefits. In the earlier stages you will at best save a bit of cash on waste and utilities and at worst find yourself shelling out just to keep one step ahead of the law.

I'll be doing an explanation of the model in the November edition of the Low Carbon Agenda.

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6 October 2009

Personal Journeys

I'm writing this on the train back to Newcastle, having left a rather unseasonally sticky London behind me. I'm smiling to myself at one of those fantastically tautological announcements only train companies can make:

"I'm afraid we can't serve hot drinks from the trolley tonight. This is due to a malfunction on the trolley."
Glad they pointed that last bit out, cause it might have been, er, well... There was another classic on the tube yesterday.
"I'd like to apologise for the slight delay to your journey. The reason for this is we haven't been given a signal to proceed."
Again I felt much better informed for knowing that the driver hadn't just forgotten how to drive the train...
...anyway, speaking of journeys, I've been doing quite a few sustainability and related workshops recently. The gist of the sessions is always the same:
"to do sustainability properly you have to integrate it into all your business processes"
It has been fascinating watching delegates struggle with the fact that they might actually have to do something. They oscillate back and forth between the extremes of "this is not my problem" and "I'm up for the challenge". This is a personal journey they have to make and I (and you) can only gently help them on their way.
Some of their pronouncements sound like the train announcers above:
"Personally I'm not interested in sustainability. Because it's not something I think about."
Barracking them or patronising them would just send them back into their happy state of ignorance. You've just got to help them along the path - as always, questions are more useful than arguments. And as Confucious (or Lao-tzu) is said to have said - the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, so don't rush'em.

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5 October 2009

On the road rails again...

On another train down to London this morning, this time to interview another high profile Green Executive for my eponymous next book and, tomorrow, attend a CPD session (anybody who claims they know it all in this game is a fool and a liar). As I type, we're trundling across the Tyne, with a lovely view of its splendid bridges as the sun breaks through the cloud above the iconic, but doomed, 'Get Carter' carpark. Inspiring!

Talking of inspiration, one of the downsides of writing a blog like this, is even though I know from the stats that it is well read, I don't know who you, the readers, are. So here's a few ways we can interact:

1. Please post comments! The only comments I refuse to publish are those which are offensive in a racist, sexist or homophobic way, are excessively sweary (f & c words unwelcome unless essential to the meaning) or are blatant spam. I want to hear from you, even particularly if you disagree with what I say.

2. Join my network on LinkedIn. Just mention you've read the blog as I try to avoid the spammers.

3. E-mail or ring me on 0191 265 7899. But, please, if you are thinking of trying to sell me something, I have never bought from a cold caller and don't intend to start!

As I finish writing this, the stunning cathedral at Durham is hoving into view standing on its rock high over a loop in the Wear. The landscape gets a bit dull from now on in to the big smoke, so it is head down and work!

But, seriously, get in touch.

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1 October 2009

Green jobs in a green economy?

There's an interesting article on Fast Company giving three estimations of the potential for new green jobs by 2020:

  • 2.7m in the EU according to Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC)
  • 10m globally according to the Climate Group
  • 30m globally according to the Global Climate Network (actually 40m new jobs but 10m lost 'brown' jobs)

So plenty of jobs, even if the estimations vary widely. The latter two depend on China going green big time, which it claims it will do but there is a lack of clarity over how this will happen in practice.

There has always been a lot of confusion and blether about how to create green jobs. People build centres of excellence (can you create a centre of excellence?) and green business parks (most of which fail, but that's another story), but there is only one thing which will make a difference.

Demand.

Renewable energy capacity in the UK surged 19% in 2008 and global renewables investment exceeded that in fossil fuels for the first time ever. Create that sort of demand and the supply and the jobs will follow. The rest, at best, will just facilitate change, not drive it.

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