Mixed news for carbon enthusiasts
The Environment Bill has been delayed yet again – this time by Covid-19. But all is not lost. Many SMEs can differentiate themselves ready for an upturn in 2021 with B-Corp certification. Meanwhile, HS2 moves a step closer to the North West.
It is difficult to blame recent bad weather on the health crisis. However, the pandemic is responsible for a disappointing six-month delay in the UK’s urgently needed post-Brexit Environment Bill.
Fortunately, the high-speed rail project designed to cut inter-regional travel times, increase freight capacity and connect Lancashire’s green recovery to world markets is on time! In a moment, Chamber CEO Miranda Barker considers why HS2 is crucial to a green regional recovery.
Also below, see viewing details for the key February presentation by award-winning PR expert Tony Garner on ‘how to build influence, tell an effective story, and stand out from the crowd’.
With a warm June not far away – hopefully – it is also time to make a diary date for Chamber Low Carbon Virtual Expo 2021. Watch this space for updates in the weeks and months to come!
Our two-day online support and advice event themed around Energy, Environment and Innovation on 2 & 3 June 2021 (10am – 4pm) will include many breaks and networking opportunities.
Finally, you are also invited on 4 March to our Lunch & Learn webinar “What is Carbon Net-Zero and why should you care” (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-what-is-carbon-net-zero-tickets-137288376229).
But first the Environment Bill.
Sustainable guiding star
Defra has confirmed that the legislation described by the Prime Minister as the “lodestar by which we will lead our country towards a clean green future” is delayed again, this time by the pandemic.
The bill, which business and environmental groups want enacted to help create a low-carbon economy, will go to the next Parliamentary session in May with royal assent anticipated by autumn.
The same again please … and more
After postponements caused by Brexit and a general election, the act designed as a clean break from the EU has been praised for new environmental protection powers added at the second reading stage.
Defra is now being urged to ramp up environmental measures that are essential for key policy packages such as the 25 Year Environment Plan and low-carbon-orientated Agriculture Act 2020.
However, there are other ways to maximise corporate, environmental and social benefits as 2021 opens up.
SMEs posed to benefit from B-Corp
Visitors to our first 2021 Lunch & Learn webinar on 4 February heard David Connor, founder of 2030 Hub, introduce B-Corp – the sustainable certification tool that adds “purpose to people, planet and profits”.
If you couldn’t join us, we strongly recommend that you see his presentation again at https://youtu.be/iWfQM_4JOgc.
B-Corp – short for Benefit-Corp – is a free advanced social and environmental performance and learning tool for for-profit companies.
It is gaining popularity rapidly with entrepreneurs who want to succeed commercially but also use their businesses to tackle much wider community and environmental problems/issues.
Bringing all the good bits together
Specifically, B-Corp helps companies to integrate all the positive parts of their commercial work and core beliefs. The aim is to ‘engage, connect and support other similarly-minded organisations’.
The underlying principle is that the most challenging problems of today’s modern complex and interlinked world cannot be resolved by government – plus the public and third-sectors – alone.
However, private businesses can provide vital innovative answers.
Why B-Corp in 2021?
This will be particularly important in 2021 because B-Corp Certification can build credibility and trust at a point when many small businesses are bracing themselves for unfamiliar trading conditions.
The methodology measures the full positive impact of companies the five key areas: – governance, workers, community, the environment and customers.
Its aim in bringing together human, company and personal strengths is to help SMEs, firstly, sharpen their missions, and secondly, differentiate themselves clearly in highly-competitive markets.
There are other benefits. These include better access to capital and making companies more attractive to talented staff who want to join forward-thinking organisations.
In short, certification doesn’t just evaluate products and services, it also assesses and projects the powerful factors – such as good employee relationships – that stand behind them.
And with its focus on benchmarking and performance, B-Corp also encourages collaboration and amplifies strengths that might otherwise remain hidden. What’s not to like?
And it is good to be early
The B-Corp global community of leaders now includes 3,790 companies across 150 industries in 74 countries with one unified goal.
“B-Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee,” explains David. “But we are still in early adoption territory, which is a great opportunity.
“With £billions and £trillions of investment money now moving towards low-carbon, the climate agenda is rising up the priority ladder with the Biden presidency and this year’s COP26 summit.
“B-Corp can be your business radar on the environment, the next hard-to-predict crisis and a window on markets where consumers are looking for companies that focus on society and the environment,” he adds.
If it was easy everyone would do it!
Anyone can join, although companies must have a trading record of at least one year with 50% of their revenue derived from trade.
But B-Tech certification isn’t necessarily easy. Expect a demanding self-improvement journey of up to a year, David warns. A minimum score of 80 points out of 200 are needed and that can mean a lot of work.
But you will be joining brands that include Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Innocent and Danone – and Crystal Doors of Rochdale (https://crystaldoors.co.uk/) which is now on the certification trail!
Two other sources of information are ‘The B-Corp Handbook’ (https://bcorporation.net/news/b-corp-handbook) and ‘How the B-Corp Business is Remaking Capitalism’ (www.amazon.co.uk/Better-Business-Movement-Remaking-Capitalism/dp/030024715X).
Ocado opens online B-Corp aisle
As a footnote, online supermarket Ocado launched a dedicated virtual ‘aisle’ of B-Corp certified brand products in February to help customers looking increasingly for more sustainable groceries.
The aisle offers some 1,100 products from circa 35 brands. They include Ella’s Kitchen, Innocent, Method, Charlie Bigham’s, Pip & Nut, Teapigs, PROPER, Alpro, Ben & Jerry’s and Cheeky Panda.
Generating good media coverage
One further B-Corp advantage is being able to create positive press coverage.
And this leads on to our second Lunch & Learn event of the year – “Effectively Telling Your Story Minus the Greenwash” presented by winning public relations expert Tony Garner of VivaPR (www.vivapr.co.uk/).
For a PDF of his key presentation points on 18 February, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VskQdYpW3U
Tony says traditional media coverage and social media engagement for products or services are business fuel. Most successful low-carbon entrepreneurs know how to build influence, tell an effective story, and stand out from the crowd, he adds.
However, the media landscape is changing and companies must adjust to new ways of communicating. He discusses tools the professionals use … and avoiding pitfalls when making claims.
Avoid being obsessed with your own world and concentrate on describing complex ideas simply so “your Mother” can understand, he says. Drop the engineering jargon!
It is also important to drill down and find the right journalists or editors to build relationships with. Their time is tight. Good headlines help. Don’t use a scattergun approach. Give them plenty of notice of any events. Avoid Mondays and Fridays where possible. And get to the point quickly.
It is also important to remember that television, radio, print media and social media have different requirements. Journalists today also want proof of any low-carbon claims – don’t overegg it!
Above all, create content that delivers massive value, says Tony.
He founded VivaPR in 2002, working closely with global defence businesses, BAE Systems and Eurofighter. Tony was also Bobby Moore’s ghost writer for Italia 90 World Cup.
“Y” is a good answer to why HS2?
Royal assent – the last step that turns legislation into law – was granted in February for construction of HS2 Phase 2a to go ahead from the West Midlands to Crewe.
The Government is now being pressed to confirm the whole project – including “Y-shaped” HS2-North with a western leg from Birmingham via Crewe to Manchester and an eastern leg to Leeds.
“Royal assent for Phase 2a is excellent news because even reaching Crewe will take one million lorry movements off the road and reduce their CO2 impact by 76%,” says Miranda Barker.
“But we are looking forward to Phase 2b which will lead on from Crewe to Manchester, the West Midlands and Leeds, and also to Northern Powerhouse rail being progressed,” she adds.
“With associated investments, our regional manufacturers are eager to be part of the supply chain that builds our new national infrastructure.”
“Our region needs high capacity modern transport connections more than ever now for the good of both the UK and the rest of the world,” Miranda explains.
“It is important to remember that we make essential “big kit” in the Northwest and that Lancashire with British Aerospace to Rolls Royce is the world’s fourth largest aerospace cluster.
“In addition to aerospace, we have an automotive sector with an employment base that rivals the West Midlands led by companies such as BCW which produces 70% of Aston Martin’s chassis”. The region is a modern centre for low-carbon and advanced manufacturing.”
Bringing the world closer to Lancashire
A sustainable post-pandemic green recovery makes this even more important.
As well as helping to “level up the regions”, and being essential for importing, exporting and moving freight around the UK, HS2 will deliver economic and environmental benefits for the next 200 years.
The ultimate aim is have up to 14 400m-long trains travelling in each direction every hour carrying some 1,100 passengers at speeds reaching 250mph. Phase one from London to Birmingham is due to open between 2028 and 2031. Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds will follow in 2032-33.
Difficult calls are inevitable however. “Yes, we do understand the environmental concerns and threats to livelihoods which are extremely emotive, hugely disruptive and very upsetting,” Miranda adds.
“But we must invest in our economic future, welfare, people and country, plus clients and global markets, while meeting our local responsibilities,” she says.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps commented recently, “Whatever your view of this project, HS2 is now a reality – heading north, creating jobs and building a brighter future for our country.
Good news extra
The Circle Economy think-tank’s new ‘Circularity Gap Report 2021’ says 39% of our annual emissions can be avoided if we change our use of natural raw materials (https://www.circle-economy.com).
It underscores the link between net-zero and climate change. Some 22.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases come from new materials and products every year – more than double China’s emissions.
The built environment sector represents the largest opportunity for cuts; it accounts for more than one-third of world energy demand. More energy-efficient structures are needed.
Transport systems and land use also offer opportunities. Better road, flight and aviation technologies could mitigate some 5.6 billion tonnes of CO2e; 25% of emissions currently come from land.
Many nations are not factoring circular economy benefits into their green recovery plans, Circle Economy warns, and not doing enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.
The finding were timed to coincide with the original dates for the World Economic Forum in Davos which has been another victim of Covid-19.
If you would like to know more about joining the circular economy, please talk to Debbie Treadwell of the Chamber Low Carbon team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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