The Big Picture (and the one bigger than that…)
I’ve been writing up my interview with Nick Coad, Environmental Director of National Express, for my next book The Green Executive. He gave a wonderful example of how you need to look at the big picture. National Express started on their sustainability journey by looking internally – risk reduction, eco-efficiency and their branding and reputation management. However it became clear to them that they were part of the solution rather than part of the problem. A shift to public transport use could actually increase the company’s carbon emissions, but the net effect would be a substantial cut when you look at the bigger transport picture.
So they started engaging with policy makers, other businesses and customers. But they found that the UK Government was more interested in improving the efficiency of each transport mode rather than modal shift – getting people out of high carbon transport modes and into low carbon modes. National Express’s paper “More is Less” was proclaimed as visionary in the trade press and shifted the debate several steps forward to look at modal shift.
There is of course an even bigger picture to this. Why do we travel? The broadest definition of the reason is I can come up with is “to experience something that is geographically distant”. But technology allows us to experience some distant things (conversations, sights, sounds, data etc) without moving. So the ultimate modal shift in this sector is towards teleconferencing and telecommuting.
And before anyone says it, I know there’s yet another, quite enormous picture which is why do we want/have to do these things, but that’s going a little too far into the realms of philosophy on a cold Friday morning in January!