Yesterday we announced our new GeoVation Challenge ‘ How can we help British Business improve environmental performance?’ calling for your innovative ideas to help create a better place. Today we have a guest post from Anthony Parsons, Business Innovation Manager at Environment Agency which will help explain some of the problems and why we are running this challenge:
The Environment Agency works with businesses and others to protect the environment and create a better place. This is why I, and most people, work for the Environment Agency, have a passion for protecting people and the environment and doing the right thing.
Achieving both economic growth and protection of the natural environment is not always easy. And it will not happen without both effective regulation of the impact business has on the environment, and a commitment from businesses themselves to act as responsible neighbours and good corporate citizens.
Reassuringly, the performance record of businesses in England and Wales shows they increasingly recognise there is a value and opportunity in this broader sense of responsibility. Our Sustainable Business report 2011 shows that the vast majority of regulated businesses have a good record on environmental performance and take their environmental responsibilities seriously.
Some facts and figures;
- We permit about 14,000 sites across England and Wales, however most pollution incidents come from sites that don’t hold an environmental permit.
- Since 2000, serious pollution incidents have fallen by 52%
- In 2011, the industrial sites we permit reduced the waste they produce by over one million tonnes compared to 2010, from 15.4 million tonnes to 14.3 million tonnes.
Good news! But as we all know we live in a changing environment and the challenges facing us remain huge. I really like the way that The Mayday Network has described a key part of the challenge;
At current rates of consumption, if all 7 billion people currently on the planet were to have UK lifestyles, we would need 3 planet earths. With the global population set to increase by nearly 30% over the next 40 years, the challenge is: How do we deliver the UK contribution to 9 billion poverty free sustainable lifestyles in 2050?
When we think of companies leading the way in environmental performance we often think of Kingfisher or Marks & Spencer with their ‘Plan A’. They are setting a great example but there are plenty of others doing the right thing.
Take Henry Orchard & Sons of Cornwall, they are an independent scrap metal merchant doing some great work. They have taken a systematic approach to managing all their environmental impacts, including the selection of suppliers of goods and services – from heavy plant and lifting gear, down to the fairtrade coffee in the office. This company was the first in its sector in the UK to have an Environmental Management System accredited to ISO14001 (since 2007). They ensure their clients are fully aware of environmental issues – even to the extent of producing their own environmental newsletter; and have more recently carried out a greenhouse gas assessment of their operations. Watch a video on their work here.
Plenty more sustainable business case studies can be found on the Environment Agency website.
So what ideas do you have to help British businesses improve their environmental performance? Share them, develop them, Britain needs them!
Ant Parsons, Business Innovation Manager, Environment Agency