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Sustainability in business thinking is still rare

I have been invited in my capacity as an Advisor at Ditto Sustainability to talk in their sponsored session at Edie Live on May 22nd 2019 about sustainability in business.  This has led me to refresh myself on how businesses are facing the challenges we know we have globally; climate change, plastics pollution, biodiversity loss, deforestation, and so on While we are all now starting to understand that these are huge challenges, I remain optimistic. Mankind has the technologies, the money and the political frameworks to make those changes happen. That being said, can we turn the ship fast enough?

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The consultations on resource and waste policy - May 2019

The consultations published last December by DEFRA and the Treasury have a deadline for submissions of May 12th and 13th.  They concern how England should manage its waste collections and treatment; how the UK should manage its packaging waste; and how the UK should tax plastics.  Within the scope of the consultations on packaging waste, the Government is consulting on two questions- how to make the producers pay for all the costs of managing the waste they create (known as Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR).  In the UK our EPR system only covers approximately 10% of the cost of managing the waste of items put on the market, leaving the other 90% of the costs falling on our Local Authorities.  This is very different from the ‘Green Dot’ system adopted across Europe that covers full costs. The other question being asked is whether and how to introduce a deposit-return scheme (DRS) for drink containers (bottles and cans) to reduce littering and increase recycling.

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What is sustainability?

Sustainability: 'the quality of causing little or no damage and therefore able to continue for a long time.'

When I was growing up, beyond the year 2000 was the realm of flying cars and imagination stretching technology. As a child, our future eclipsed the past as the greatest time to date. Yet as science progressed and developed a data-driven prediction of the future, we came to realise that our generation’s direction came at a cost. Slowly, that cost amplified on our radar, we noticed interconnections and knock-on effects. Animals that had been in existence for millions of years became extinct, rainforests were levelled and chlorine releasing CFCs literally digested our atmosphere. The next generations reality is very different. When looking forward to 2100 and beyond the very real, data derived prediction is that Earth may not be habitable at all.

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What changed my behaviour?

Landing with a bump into the Heathrow and the cold, damp funk of Brexit Britain, I cast my mind over the week’s events, to the people I have met and the brief glimpse I had into their lives. Whilst writing this, I was compelled to think back to 100 days prior, the same amount of time that past from when Habyarimana's plane was shot down to when the RPF declared victory. The 19th of October. It was my brother’s birthday. A lump appears in my throat, and my tear ducts fill. I have just spent three days in Rwanda with men and women who over the same 100-day period lost their brothers, their sisters, their mums, dads, aunties and cousins. People who will never share the joy of a birthday celebration with these loved ones again.

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Have we become desensitised to the danger of plastic pollution?

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I was sickened to read this week that a whale was beached dead with 40 kilos of plastic waste in its stomach. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47608949 Another piece of evidence that demonstrates how plastic waste is destroying the natural (and human) environments. What more do we need to know before something changes?

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Think Differently. Ditto Sustainability launch the Fire and Rescue e-learning module.

Think differently, the now infamous advertising campaign produced by Apple between 1997 and 2002 highlighted that people who see things differently change things:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

*Steve Jobs, Apple 1997. 

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Five things you need to know about the Resources and Waste Strategy Consultations

On the 18th February the Government published a series of documents asking for the public views on key areas of waste management. Resident expert David Newman has compiled the top five things you need to know from the consultations. You can find out more and have your say by visiting the Gov.uk 

*As many powers are already devolved to Scotland and Wales, these consultations mainly concern England.

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Smoke and Mirrors

I was recently asked to present at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (formerly BIFM) AGM about the plastic’s ‘crisis’.  A subject that I had written about for World Environment day last year. In the article, I called on organisations to really think about, and investigate what happens to their wastes, rather than implementing a ‘quick fix’ solution that could do more harm than good. 

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Drowning in Plastic

On November 29th I was invited to join Liz Bonnin, BBC environmental documentarist, to talk at the Royal Geographic Society on how we as a Planet are ‘drowning in plastics’ a documentary originally produced by the BBC in September. The panel discussion included Richard Thompson, Marine Biologist, Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of A Plastics Planet and Research, Stephanie Wright from Kings College London.

Liz opened the event illustrating how plastics have entered every part of our lives, from oceans to small villages in Indonesia.

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My time at CivTech®

Where in Scotland does the public sector, private sector, community, investors and third sector come together to build innovative, industry defining ideas? The answer is CivTech®.

A unique accelerator programme run by the Scottish Government that empowers public sector organisations to lay out specific challenges for private sector companies to solve. 

My name is Jack and I’m developing our answer to Challenge 6, set by National Services Scotland, “How can we transform the re-use of products for NHS Scotland?”. It was a pleasure to talk with Derek Mackay MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy & Fair Work) about Scotland's growing circular economy...but I wish I had worn a smarter jumper(!)

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