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Organisations need to ‘get it’ on energy and climate change

15 July 2010

The BSA’s Outsourcing and the Environment seminar this week examined the business and tax implications of the ‘carrots and sticks’ designed to change business behaviour on energy consumption and waste management

The Coalition Government announced that it wants to be the ‘greenest’ Government ever, and immediately required that at least 10 percent less energy should be consumed in the properties it occupies in its first 12 months. Therefore the BSA’s Outsourcing  and the Environment seminar held yesterday at the offices of new BSA member, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLB at Tower Bridge, London was a timely examination of the challenges facing businesses in the future – to 2050. 
Peter Ainsworth, former Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee and Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the last government  claimed that it was not possible for politicians to define what society would look like but it was vital to understand the challenges faced now that will shape 2050 – namely climate change, energy security and  population growth. For those businesses that ‘get it’ and understand energy and resource efficiency and what it can do for value, there is a massive opportunity he said. They ‘get’ the fact that we must develop alternatives to fossil fuels, and that this needs  “massive investment when there is not a lot of money around.”  He continued: “The economy is a wholey owned subsidiary of the environment and nature does not do bail outs once the environment goes bust.”
By contrast, Steve Wood, President of Strategy for IBM in the UK and Ireland, had a very clear picture of life in 2050 ruled by the technologies under development now in IBM’s R&D labs.  He claimed that on the application of technology, the UK is ‘ahead of the curve’ and can take the lead but needs to develop the ‘political will’ for necessary radical  change.  He said society needs to think not about how to solve  climate change but how to prevent it. Generating capacity will not be needed, he said,  if technology is used effectively to reduce energy use – such as limiting the amount of energy used in households and businesses by automatically controlling consumption.  However at the moment, he explained, we lack the policital will to limit individual freedoms.  He postulated if  unplanned ‘volcanic ash’ can ground planes with comparitively little inconvenience to business and individuals, ‘planned’ transport stoppages could  be a benefit to the environment and boost technologies such as teleconferencing and ‘holographic’  meetings.
Both Mark Lavers, a property lawyer with RPC and Helen Devenney, a Deloitte Partner called for greater transparency in green taxes. This they said would allow  business see clearly the elements in energy bills that are ‘green taxes’ such as the Climate Change Levy,  and not regard them as ‘stealth taxes”.
Jim Harbidge, Sustainability Manager at Carillion described some lessons learned by the company taking part in a trial of trading carbon permits with 50 other FTSE 250 companies over 12 months. This trial found that nearly a quarter of the companies taking part in the trial failed to have adequate systems and data to produce a ‘base line’, and most over estimated their carbon budgets by 10 percent, with two overstating it by 50 percent. As a result, there were so many carbon credits on sale the price was low.  He said that understanding underlying business drivers meant more co-                                                                                                                                           ordination with HR and CRE to understand the strategies that impact on property occupation.
Steve Rick of Network2Supplies urged a focus on reviewing and removing redundant ICT systems and equipment to reduce energy use and floor space, and to ensure that all items are properly recycled. Of some 650 tonnes of ICT equipment for recycling from one client  managed by his company – within the EU and mostly in the UK -  only 0.53 percent was sent to landfill.
Other contributors to this highly informative seminar were Rob Dustan, Head of Business Development – Waste at VT Group; Mike Sewell, CarbonCare Director at MITIE, Keith Peddar, Sustainability Director, Carillion and Neil Truphet, Operations Director, Ownergy

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