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1 September 2017

Sustainability is becoming 'The New Normal'

rusty car

Last week I chuckled at a typical silly season column in the i newspaper about Ford offering a scrappage scheme for older models of their cars. The author, Esther Walker, was justifying holding on to her old Fiesta on the (evidence-free) grounds that keeping it is greener than replacing it with a new model. She also quoted her other environmental efforts in her 'defence':

And – worse – I consider myself to be on the vanguard of modern environmental responsibility! You can hardly move in our kitchen for different recycling bins, colour-coded and stacked neatly. We break down our boxes tidily and use compost bags in our food waste caddy so’s not to traumatise the bin men with our grotesque food leftovers.

Sorry, to break it to Ms Walker, but this is not 'the vanguard of environmental responsibility'. With 43% of the UK's household waste recycled or composted (bearing in mind at least a third of household waste cannot easily be recycled at present), this is simply normal behaviour, replicated in kitchens across the country and across all demographics. My Dad recycles and he's no eco-warrior, it's just what people do now.

I remembered this week when I visited the factory of a potential client. What really impressed me was the way this pretty normal, well established engineering company had identified an important link in the low carbon economy to which they could apply their technology. They had built working demonstration models and were seeking investment to develop a fully commercialised version. They didn't see themselves as Elon Musk-style green evangelists, they were just identifying future market developments and working out how to exploit them. Normal entrepreneurial business behaviour, in other words.

Sustainability won't come from mindfulness, hugging trees or green evangelists. It will come when normal people, normal organisations and normal Governments see a sustainable economy as our normal way of life. And it appears to be happening.

 

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7 December 2016

Rules of Survival for Sustainability Start Ups


The latest edition of Ask Gareth considers the challenges facing start ups in the sustainable space. His blunt assessment of the difference between success and failure may surprise you.

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions here.

 

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13 June 2011

The Rules of Green Business Start-ups

On Friday I was interviewed for a PhD project as an 'ecopreneur' and it got me mulling and chin scratching. If you are thinking of starting a green business, here's some key principles you should never forget:

1. Don't forget you are running a business: It is so easy some times to get evangelical about green business, but the underlying business model must be robust, or you will sink like a stone. No-one owes you a living just because you are green.

2. Hire good business people: It is much easier to teach sustainability principles to a good engineer, designer, salesperson or marketeer than it is to teach engineering, design, sales or marketing to a keen environmentalist.

3. Don't greenwash: As John Grant, author of the Green Marketing Manifesto, said "Green Marketing is about making green look normal, not about making normal look green."

4. Understand your market: many consumers still equate 'green' with poor performance and high price. You have to sell the 'sizzle' of green products eg the big benefit to consumers of water-based wall paint is not the fact it isn't as polluting as solvent-based paints, but that it is quick drying and doesn't stink your house out for weeks. You've got to compete on price, performance and planet.

5. Don't give up easily: it's a tough business to be in and resilience is the key to success. On the other hand, if you realise your great idea really is a turkey, you may have to 'pivot' the business around to another exploit a more profitable opportunity.

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