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6 July 2018

In Sustainability, there's always an excuse to do nothing...

Terra Infirma's most powerful competitor is almost certainly "do nothing". Given where we work – near the cutting edge, we like to think – we provide our clients with a choice: spend some money and get some great benefits, or, spend nothing and trundle along as usual with your fingers crossed. Unfortunately in these days of economic uncertainty, clinging to business as usual is often more tempting than taking a small risk to make the organisation sustainable in both senses of the word.

So I read with a wry smile that Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden saying that the company wasn't going to set carbon reduction targets because it could lead to litigation from shareholders. “This is not a practical way to run the company.”  he added.

Where to start?

First up: a stretch carbon target sets the direction and ambition of the company. Set a bold target and every stakeholder from NGOs through shareholders to the receptionist at head office knows the company is serious about where it is going and how quickly. In a fossil fuel company, the energy transition is going to require a huge number of people making different decisions to those they would make otherwise. No target = drift at best.

Second: I thought the whole purpose of a publicly trading corporation was to meet the needs of its shareholders, not hide from them?

Third: what better driver for progress than the 'threat' that the people who actually own the company will hold the executive to account on the biggest issue of our time?

Sorry, Mr van Beurden, your logic is risible.


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23 June 2017

Science-based Targets: Hope or Hype?

carbon footprintThe latest thing in Sustainability is 'Science-based Targets'. The basic idea is to use the carbon emissions trajectory that the IPCC says is required to stick to 2°C of warming and apportion that reduction to your organisation's carbon footprint either in absolute terms, via a sector-based target, or based on your turnover. I always think it is worth questioning whether the 'latest thing' stands up to the hype or not, so here is my take.

The advantages I see of the science-based approach are:

  • You can be reasonably sure that you are committing to your 'fair share' of emissions cuts;
  • It will communicate the scale of the challenge to stakeholders and decision makers;
  • You can point to other organisations (preferably competitors) who are using science-based targets;
  • Many, but by no means all, will see 'science based' as a seal of approval for the target.

The disadvantages are: Read the rest of this entry »

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3 February 2011

Green Business Webinar #2: Making It Happen

The second of our Green Business Webinars will be held on 2 March at 14:00 GMT. The hour long session will cover the Sustainability Maturity Model, strategies, management systems, target setting and action planning. It aims to give you the tools you need to create a compelling green vision for your business and put the systems in place to deliver that vision. Importantly, we'll cover the pitfalls you will want to avoid along the way.

The webinar costs £45.00 + VAT per person - use the button below to pay by card or Paypal. Contact us to make a BACS payment.

This is just one in our series of 10 webinars - you can see the full list and terms and conditions here. All ten cost £330 + VAT - reserve your seat using the button below:

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23 November 2007

Brown admits 60% carbon cut may be inadequate

With all the furore over Northern Rock and the loss of 25m people's personal data, you may have missed a significant speech on climate change by the Prime Minister this week.

Like Tony Blair before him, Gordon Brown has never been accused of being particularly green. But, for the first time, he acknowledges that current targets may not be enough and says he will take soundings on a 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. He also affirmed a commitment to Europe's target for 20% of energy to come from renewables - a pledge the Government had been trying to wriggle out of just a few months ago.

Apart from this, there was little to chew on - more carbon trading, more offshore wind, a home information service and various vague references to technology. In other words, plenty of commitment to action, without really saying what that action will be.

Oh, yes, for the headlines, he pledged to phase out single use plastic bags - well that will deliver 0.1% cut all on its own...

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12 November 2007

UK Commits To Legally Binding Carbon Reductions

In last week's Queen's Speech, Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a commitment to legally binding carbon emissions targets for the UK - a 60% cut by 2050. Leaving aside the arguments over whether 60% is 'enough' or what "legally binding" actually means in practice, getting anywhere close to this target will require a huge shift in policy - particularly given the lack of action to date.

Up until now the Government has relied on providing support to businesses and consumers to reduce their carbon emissions through quangos such as The Carbon Trust, Envirowise, The Energy Savings Trust and WRAP. However the type of support provided by these organisations, while worthwhile, is unlikely to deliver 60% reductions in any one company. Therefore, if the Government is serious about this target, we can expect more and bigger sticks to back up these carrots, for example:

- The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) is coming in 2009.

- We can expect tougher Building Regulations to push new houses up the levels set out by the Code for Sustainable Homes.

- I wouldn't be surprised if the Climate Change Levy is replaced by a tougher Carbon Tax and that obligations are made on waste heat to encourage its use in district heating.

To avoid being clobbered by such sticks, industry and businesses need to start planning a low carbon future now. Reducing energy expenditure is never a bad idea.

Measuring the carbon footprint of a business is an essential first step before reduction plans can be developed. At Terra Infirma we follow footprinting with the backcasting approach to develop low carbon future scenarios before tracing reduction pathways for a business to follow. This gives more radical solutions cutting right across the business, rather than simple quick fixes.

But, whichever way a company wishes to address the problem, it will pay to have a headstart.

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