It’s no longer business as usual – that’s the stark message that is being promoted by a conference addressing issues on the low carbon agenda to be held at The Eden Project on October 11.
But the Government’s ‘Green Deal’ throws up as many questions as it does answers, and many in the business community will no doubt be left scratching their heads as to how it affects them.
But affect them it will, and businesses will need to engage in the carbon reduction process if they want to compete. The free-to-attend Carbon Matters conference at the Eden Project on October 11 will address these issues and explain how new Government policies will affect the way you run your business in Cornwall.
Event organiser Paul Holmes from the Eden Project explains: “For businesses, reducing carbon will become a massive imperative.
“Despite the current economic climate and squeeze on public spending, the public sector is already beginning to drive the low carbon agenda through its procurement practices – if businesses can’t talk this language and respond positively, they’ll miss out.
“If today a business didn’t have a health and safety policy or an equality and diversity policy, for example, they wouldn’t get a look in with the public sector. The same is becoming true with low carbon strategies.”
Holmes says that the recently launched Clear About Carbon partnership has already begun working closely with public sector procurement officers on how they are use carbon as a metric to evaluate contracts and bids.
“Carbon isn’t a deal maker/breaker just yet,” he says, “but increasingly it will be.” The half-day conference will examine these issues and more, equipping the Cornish business community with vital information on the opportunities and commercial benefits of low carbon engagement.
A number of high profile speakers have already confirmed their attendance at the conference – including Shaun McCarthy, director of social enterprise Action Sustainability and chair of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012; and Mike Berners-Lee, author of the celebrated book How Bad Are Bananas? – The Carbon Footprint of Everything.
Dr Fernando Correia from the University of Exeter Business School will also be presenting. He says that the low carbon train has already left the station, and that we had all better catch up. “Big businesses are not looking at just their own emissions,” he states, “but expecting reciprocity from their suppliers.
“I’m afraid the following verses of the old Curtis’ song only got it half right – ‘you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board…’. The ripples of the change being produced in the public and private sectors are bound to touch everyone so we are all on board, whether we like it or not.
“Sooner or later someone will ask you a carbon question, if not a regulator, then a business client or individual customer. When that happens you will need your baggage and in it the knowledge, skills and capacity to demonstrate that you can engage in the dialogue and address the challenges expected from you.”
In truth, the shift to a low carbon economy has been building for many years now, but perhaps it is only now that true reality is beginning to dawn.
Holmes draws an analogy to what is happening now to the rise of personal computers and the internet in the 1990s. He says: “Most people are now computer literate. They can use a keyboard and mouse, for example – they can even tell you what they do and how to use them, even if they know nothing about the technical workings of a computer.
“In future, people will be just as comfortable with carbon issues, using them in their day to day lives at work and at home. They will be carbon literate.
“It’s where our future economic growth will come from, where a million new ‘green jobs’ will come from.”
But the challenges shouldn’t be seen as a threat.
“This will provide tremendous opportunities for those firms that can engage and respond,” he says. “I can remember business people telling me back in the 1980s that they could never see the need to have a computer in their business. A decade later many businesses told me that the internet was good, but it would never drive sales! Now look at Google, Amazon, EBay and many others – the business landscape has changed dramatically.
“Carbon reduction will have the same impact.”
To book your place, go to carbonmatters.eventbrite.com
This article first appeared in the August/September 2011 issue of Business Cornwall magazine