The best quick wins in Sustainability…
For years, I’ve been calling for a massive hike in public investment in upgrading the UK’s electricity grid rather than the usual investment in traditional instructor such as roads. Roads are roads, they’ve pretty much hit the top of the S-curve of innovation (and simply generate more traffic), whereas upgrading the grid would not only create jobs, but it would trigger innovation and unlock new renewable energy and storage opportunities. Our current grid is designed for centralised electricity generation, not for the new Energy 2.0 distributed generation, so it is clearly a brake on the march of renewable energy. A new report by Policy Exchange has added some stats to this qualitative argument and it looks compelling.
Much of the friction in any change process comes not from the change itself, but because the existing supporting infrastructure and systems has been designed to support the status quo. In Sustainability, I often find that the best way to make the biggest impact with limited resources is to hunt down these pinch points and eliminate them with extreme prejudice. While sometimes this requires significant investment in new physical infrastructure, as with the grid, changing systems to remove barriers can often be done at negligible cost.
At one client we found that removing the bureaucracy around its teleconferencing system, which had been sat gathering dust, led to it being overloaded almost overnight. The client had to double its capacity to keep up. These kind of ‘making sustainability the easier option’ solutions can get momentum going very quickly indeed.
With another client, we found that the full cost of carbon to the business was not being factored into investment decisions. Tweaking the system to “reflect the true cost of each option more accurately” is a relatively easy argument to make and yet it will have massive impact into the future without further intervention.
So if you’re going to start anywhere, start targeting barriers and pinch points. You’ll find you can turn relatively small efforts into significant results – not to be sniffed at!