My daughter MIllisent and I attended Sustainability Live 2022 for the first time at Tobacco Dock in London on day two of this two day event based upon sustainability and business.
We were fortunate to see a host of keynote speakers on the main stage with food for thought for all generations. Here we share our perspectives as mother and daughter and the need for sustainable choices as individuals, businesses and society as a whole.
The key message from this event for me was to stop taking and start acting, as together we must be the change that we wish to see. It’s about taking responsibility for our own actions as individuals and consumers alike and holding supply chains accountable for their level of sustainability.
In a world that is rife with price matching, cost-cutting and convenience we have become so accustomed to instant, immediate and disposable meaningless actions and materials which have contributed negatively to the environment and left our way of life as unsustainable, endangering our future and the future of our earth.
Something that was once celebrated, and is now impatiently expected, of all businesses is next-day or same-day delivery which has an untold impact on carbon emissions and the carbon footprint of our goods and services that we use on a daily basis; ultimately this is totally unnecessary and harmful to our planet which is purely a result of our own greed and needs to stop.
We must therefore look at the decisions that we control and learn from others who are paving the way for change in order to make an impact on decarbonising the environment and pausing, if not reversing, some of the damage caused by past poor decisions and an unhealthy lifestyle as consumers.
Boards have to be held responsible for the sustainability of each business with the use of more efficient and mature supply chains which are sustainable, rather than constantly chasing profit at the expense of our earth and selfish ways.
Politics, economics and climate are just a few factors which affect supply chains, but ultimately they must do the right thing for the environment in order to be worthy of supplying the masses. We must therefore look to reduce the number of suppliers that businesses work with and choose quality over quantity once again to steer ourselves towards a greener future.
SME’s have the ability to define what is needed from their suppliers and must get them to think and drive positive action to contribute to the bigger picture. It is evident that there needs to be a unified sustainability rating which can be used to identify suitable suppliers, with values ethics and focus driven by shareholders and stakeholders and not simply left to asset managers who are looking for a keyword or phrase to tick a sustainability box which can be used to greenwash sales.
Governance therefore needs to be a part of every business, however there is an obvious overlapping of frameworks which prevent the accurate measuring of results and outcomes around sustainability and many employers don’t want this added administrative burden which halts meaningful change and eats into their profit margin; the balance of red tape desperately needs to be addressed and set right in order to exchange talking for action at every level.
It was reassuring to hear that large and transformational trail blazers are helping other companies who don’t have the same infrastructure with the convergence of data, as individual companies often struggle and fail when trying to tackle it all by themselves. And engaging in investors allows businesses of all sizes to drive positive change and use voting rights as shareholders to uphold governance when faced with opportunity and risk when it comes to addressing sustainability as better data across the board creates meaningful change, better disclosure and more detailed vital reporting in this area.
The reality at present is that the supply chains of our businesses are based upon the trust and honesty around the sourcing and use of their materials, but are their answers credible? Who is holding them accountable to do what they say they are doing? And the majority of businesses who call themselves sustainable because of their suppliers simply greenwashing, or deliberately conveying a false impression / providing misleading information about their products being environmentally sound, in order to tick boxes and drive sales? It is an alarming thought, however all companies will have to eventually provide due diligence in their supply chains, as drones and satellite pictures are being used to assist in verification of these processes.
It is therefore necessary for businesses to combine their green efforts efforts and collaborate, but not every sector has this mindset and ability just yet. Starting with how SMEs can become more sustainable and greener, any risks and improvements can be identified through open communications and collaborations before providing recommendations from those who have; the dog-eat-dog competitive world of business that we are so accustomed to needs to change its mindset to a more peaceful collaborative approach for the greater good.
There is a vision for a plastic free ocean by 2030 as businesses across the world are collaborating to find longterm solutions, yet shockingly 4.9billion people still don’t have access to recycle their waste and we need to turn our efforts and attention towards circulating materials and regenerating nature by unlocking new collaborations in every sector.
Plastic taxes and the idea of a plastic treaty are coming to the UK and businesses are becoming more conscious of responsible design and production in order to contribute to a waste free future, with the focus being on plastics, packaging, textiles, food and batteries at present.
But there needs to also be more transparency around the social impact of business as we address what workers are truly being paid and how are they trained in order to ensure that every aspect of a business and its supply chain is indeed wholly ethical and sustainable.
I also found it fascinating to hear about the impact that Covid-19 has had on the sustainability of businesses, as at Fidelity 90% of their emissions were previously made up of offices and business travel which saw a 97% reduction in business travel since 2019 and they are keen not return to their old practices. They also managed to increased their renewable energy usage from 2% to 65% which is a beacon of hope for so many.
Where they once had 90% of their staff at the office five days per week pre-Covid, the past two years have been spent working from home and they are looking at how best to operate post-Covid with a consciousness of energy efficiency without waste from half empty offices for those who choose to continue working from home or using a desk booking system to allow for shared spaces.
It was insightful to hear how 60% of travel within their business was for internal meetings which are now held virtually and they provide employees with data based upon their travel choices in order to assist them in travelling more smartly and combining their trips where possible.
Home working emissions are also currently being analysed as this is an entirely new concept for most businesses, with power outputs of equipment and heating and lighting costs at home to be taken into consideration as reducing office emissions now becomes working from home emissions with the bonus of reducing the commute to the office. All food for thought when measuring the sustainability of a business.
Whilst carbon removal is still an unregulated market it’s apparent that businesses shouldn’t simply choose offsets as a way to reach net zero but instead tackle unhealthy behaviours towards the environment and prioritise the areas in which they can make an impact because it is possible to surpass net zero and achieve net positive, adding to the environment rather than just breaking even.
We must discourage this short term approach to favourable quarterly figures and quick returns in business, and instead encourage longterm investment and goals in line with the bigger picture for the environment and our earth.
The most fascinating presentation for me was about the European Space Ecosystem and their approach to dry growing crops in order to produce high protein food whilst reducing water usage by 99%, and using satellites for more accurate management of water resources without waste via their space application and innovation of services.
I particularly enjoyed their thoughts on connecting cars with technology in order to reduce accidents, saving an estimated 11,000 lives a year and reducing unnecessary wasted travel and emissions as well as the impact on the environment.
At present there are 80 satellites in orbit of the earth which are used to connect and share information across the globe and it shocked me to learn that the value of an asteroid in space is worth more than the entire earth because of the rarity of its mineral content. Yet space is not regulated, making it a dog eat dog arena for discovery, ownership and mining for monetary gain with millions of objects of all sizes cluttering the atmosphere and damaging satellites which they are looking to find a way to recycle and reuse.
This event was an eye-opening and uplifting experience to better understand the sustainability of our earth and beyond and an incredibly worthwhile way to spend an afternoon with my daughter, igniting her passion for contributing to a greener planet for us all.
Millisent says: “Attending Sustainability Live, I found it incredible that we could have such a lively event in the time of covid and the amount of information that I learned. I went into the event excited but also nervous because I was the youngest person there. I was amazed by how collaborative everything was and how everyone spoke at the same level.”
“Throughout the day we listened to five presentations and one panel conversation. We got to hear from a large amount of people including Raza Zaidai, Richard Bennett, Adrian Fleming, Assheton Stewart Carter , Philip Vernardis, Stephen Jamieson, Ben Clifford, Barry Hurst and Andrea Vena. All of who control some form of sustainability in their professions.”
“A surprising thing that I learnt was that we are hoping to achieve milestones by 2024 at the least and to think that we are able to do that if we put our minds to it. The part that spoke to me most was the origin of Stephen Jamieson’s inspiration to increase sustainability. His daughter was troubled by climate change and global warming resulting in her having insomnia and anxiety, this really inspired me because he started a new career to ease his daughters mind and to know that he was helping the cause. By the end of the day I had learnt and enjoyed more than I expected and that only makes my idea of sustainability stronger. I loved the event and would highly recommend to someone who wants to be taught what we are doing in order to be sustainable and what moves we can make to achieve that vital goal.”