Save the world or get rich trying...
Published 08:45, 21 September 07
I came across an excellent commentary from David Hall in the Guardian today, responding to an article by Mark Lynas, which sums up a lot of my thinking on environmental issues and how we're going to deal with them. Is the "greening" of Big Business a bad thing? Some people argue it is.
Arguing that we can't shop our way out of disaster makes obvious sense. Can Shopping Save The Planet? Of course not.
But then again- trying to somehow exclude Big Business as part of the solution is just facile. We need consumers to change their own behaviours sure, and a little less conspicuous consumption wouldn't go amiss (said the man who has flown to the US and back twice in the last two weeks, to work with IT suppliers). But if Tesco gets us all using long lasting light bulbs that is a good outcome.
By caricaturing this business response as "more shopping", however, much positive work is misrepresented. When it joined our campaign, Tesco made a commitment to sell 10 million energy-efficient lightbulbs this year (up from 2 million last year), and has slashed prices and transformed its range in order to do so. How can that be a bad thing when a single low-energy bulb saves on average 11kg of CO2 and £8 in energy bills per year?
Tesco has turned a green product from an expensive niche buy into a mainstream choice. And by incentivising other green behaviours such as insulating your loft (B&Q) or holding on to your mobile handset (O2), our other partners are promoting alternatives that actively reduce emissions.
This is not pure altruism; the desire for competitive PR advantage is certainly a factor. But, as recent Climate Group research shows, the most powerful impetus is coming from customers. People want companies to play a bigger role in tackling climate change and judge brands on how well they rise to this challenge - provoking some serious thinking within business.
IT may only account for 3% of the world's carbon emissions, but it can certainly help mitigate the other 97%. We need to pressure our suppliers to do better, not just dismiss them for trying to attract the green pound. I have absolutely no problem with someone that wants to Save the World or Get Rich Trying.
Economics may be the least scientific of "sciences" but it provides the only arguments that matter when trying to persuade business to change. And business has to change.
Or as Hall puts it:
We cannot afford to stick to old divides. If defeating global warming requires us to defeat global capital too, I would suggest we all give up now and start building our arks. But if we can harness the power of a Tesco or an M&S to our cause, we may just have a chance of keeping our heads above water
I for one am really glad to see our industry gearing up to take on some really important challenges. IT vendors love hyperbole (Windows as a moonshot), but this really is the big one. If we don't reboot the system it will crash.
photo courtesy of Breibeest