How can we help British business improve environmental performance?
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A summary of the Environment Problem Pow Wow output
22nd November 2012, Bristol
10 people engaged in total. 51 ‘raw’ problems. 8 themes. 43 insights.
We asked.“What are the barriers to businesses easily improving their environmental performance?”
We asked.“What are the barriers to environmental performance easily improving businesses bank balances?”
1. From duty to opportunity
2. Good process management
4. Awareness, knowledge & communication
5. Return on investment
6. Business priorities
7. Working with others
8. Organisational behaviour and culture
1. From duty to opportunity: Key problems associated with businesses seeing good environmental performance as an enabler of better business performance.
1. Waste is an ugly industry. How do we make environmental performance a more attractive proposition for investment and innovation? The industry has no compelling figurehead to help make the case between the environment and the bottom line. How might Virgin reinvent the industry for example?
2. New competitive advantage. How do we encourage businesses to see engaging with environmental performance as a market differentiator? In the future positive environmental credentials may be a deciding factor for winning business, retaining customers and market growth.
3. Protectable investments. How do we best protect investments made by businesses to improve their environmental performance? If a company has more pressing financial concerns,they can’t leverage the investment and if energy prices drop they won’t get the maximum return on that investment; they may even lose money.
2. Good process management Key problems associated with making process management an enabler and not a barrier.
1. Right first time How can we make it easy, without being time consuming, to manage waste in a way that does not result in contamination of recycled materials?Failure to separate materials properly, often due to a lack of space and / or time, results in increased risk of contaminating whole loads and making the entire effort worthless.
2. One process can fit all? How do we improve environmental process management in a way that’s accessible and valuable to businesses of all sizes and types.Poor process management results in cost savings being lost and the inherent value in waste not being realised.
3. Compliance Key problems associated with perceptions around the complexities of regulatory compliance.
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel. How can different governments maintain and build on what is working while introducing their own new thinking around policy and programmes? A change in government can set back an existing bank of knowledge and put the relationship between businesses and environmental performance at risk.
2. ISO can be onerous. How can the requirements set out by ISO 14000 for example be more easily implemented by businesses whilst fulfilling their duty of care obligations? Compliance with any standard, particularly for the first time, requires an substantial investment in support and resource.
3. Government is the barrier? How could environmental regulation become less of a burden to businesses and remove ‘them and us’ attitudes?Many businesses perceive government policies in general, as a barrier to, not an enabler of, better performance.
4. Penalties vs. incentives. How can incentives for better environmental performance become a no-brainer for businesses? In some cases it may be cheaper for a business to pay a penalty than to comply with regulations in the first place.
5. Staying below the radar. How can we encourage businesses who might otherwise grow, not be put off by environmental regulations?Many businesses stay ‘below the radar’ because complying with regulations is seen as costly and complex, when actually their business may benefit.
4. Awareness, knowledge and communication. Key problems associated with improving understanding of, and transparency throughout, environmental processes and systems
1. Celebrating success How do we collect and share success stories / case studies to demonstrate how businesses can easily save money through better environmental performance?Businesses often perceive improving their environmental performance as expensive and resource heavy, when actually many other businesses have had success.
2. Best practice secrets. How can businesses that are sensitive to confidentiality be encouraged to share good practice and ideas with the wider industry?Some businesses may be reluctant to share their know-how on ways to achieve competitive advantage through improved environmental performance.
3. Making the invisible, visible. How can energy usage be made visible so businesses understand their current consumption and what influences it? Unless businesses are clear on their usage, the motivation to improve is undermined.
4. Connecting communities. How can it be made easier for communities to identify and report local environmental problems to the environment agency? Members of the community can play an important part in ensuring businesses are fulfilling their environmental performance obligations.
5. Visualising waste. How can information data about waste produced,and processed, be visualised for individual and collective businesses? By exploiting existing environmental performance behaviours through visualisation of ‘waste activity’,awareness can be raised.
6. Waste accountability. How do we ensure businesses that are dutifully complying with their environmental performance remain motivated whilst others that are not complying, and are seen to be getting away with it? Businesses that are “signed-up” and monitored run the risk of becoming demotivated when they see other businesses avoiding compliance to save money.
5. Return on investment. Key problems associated with committing financially to improving environmental performance.
1. Up front investment. How do we help businesses commit to investing time and money in improving environmental performance when payback is over a long time?Obtaining loans from banks is not easy for businesses in current climate and they may also need help to convince investors to make environmental investments.
2. Profit margins are tight. How can we help businesses find money to support environmental ambitions when there is little spare cash in a business?For many businesses their cash flow situation and underlying business model means they’ll only be able to switch to more environmental approaches with external funding of some sort.
3. Valuing good performanceHow can we make the economic case for changingto better environmental performance easier to assess? If businesses can’t easily see the financial value in better environmental performance (saving money,improving profits), they aren’t able to make informed choices and so don’t change.
4. Baselining to improve. How can we create more and better baseline information for specific companies so that they are motivated to save money and create value?If there is no easy way for businesses to baseline:their current costs; the potential consequences; and alternative courses of action, then there is no motivation to address them.
5. Valuing outcomes financially How can we identify and present financial incentives that encourage changes in behaviour that reduce energy use or material consumption?Unless people running businesses can see a financial benefit, they won’t change behaviour.
6. Costs of green tariffs & Materials Recycling Facilities (MRF)s. How can we combat green tariffs and use of a MRF being seen as more expensive than conventional approaches? Anything seen as an additional expense, and contributing to bank balances negatively, presents an immediate barrier to engagement and subsequent behaviour change.
7. Unseen value in waste How can we help businesses see the value that various wastes have and be more proactive in caring for that waste? Waste perceived to have no value can lead to pollution, fire, nuisance but when its value is understood, it is cherished and managed well.
8. High opportunity costs. How can we help small companies compete with big businesses in the environmental performance arena?The costs of getting in the environmental performance ‘game’ prevents a wider adoption of good environmental behaviours.
9. Limited cost savings for SMEs. How can we maximise the savings to be gained by SMEs embracing environmental performance? Savings, estimated by some at 10%, are perceived to be ‘not a lot of fat’ to take out. This results in a lack of incentive to put in the effort and get ‘match fit’ for environmental performance.
10. Costing to save. How can we help businesses see past the up front costs of technologies such as photo-voltaics,anaerobic digestion and solar tubes?While the return on investment case may exist, many businesses simply see the initial costs as a barrier.
11. Growth through diversification. How could it be made easier for businesses to enable growth through development of new services and business activities for both existing and new customers?Often businesses don’t have the time and resources to think strategically and therefore opportunities with environmental benefits are missed.
6. Business priorities. Key problems associated with prioritising environmental performance against other business activities
1. Lifecycle of business. How can environmental performance remain a priority for a business irrespective of the stage it is at e.g. readying for sale?Businesses may not be inclined to invest before sale as ROI period will be too short and the potential buyer may be unlikely to pay extra for the business.
2. Carrot vs. stick. How can businesses prioritise environmental performance proactively rather than something they do because they might be fined?Businesses are unlikely to put the environment to the top of their agenda unless there is a clear and positive call to action.
3. Positive green. How might businesses see ‘being green’ as something that can be exploited to grow their business / save cost?Many businesses see environmental performance as something they have to do rather than something that is positive and core to business as usual.
4. Low (or no) social conscience. How could businesses match their focus on profit with the potential impact of poor environmental performance and the wider human and social cost?The environment is a valuable resource and the cost of fixing it is much higher than maintaining it.
5. Lack of regulatory enforcement. How could we get businesses to treat environmental regulation in the same way as they have treat the ‘VAT man’?With the lack of resource available to police environmental performance and cuts hitting hard in the public sector, there needs to be smarter ways to improve regulatory compliance.
6. Not enough time. How could smaller businesses access useful information in smarter, time effective ways?SMEs often enjoy operating reactively, at fast pace, solving problems leaving little or no time for strategy. In some cases the businesses have low literacy and IT skills. This can all lead to business opportunities with environmental benefits being missed.
7. Operators actively avoid improving. How can business operators change their perception that the cost and the importance of improving environment performance is a deterrent?Often operators use neighbour comparisons to avoid having to improve which makes it harder to shift mindsets from‘strongly against’ to ‘for’.
7. Working with others. Key problems associated with working smartly with customers, businesses and stakeholders.
1. Voice of the community. How can communities voice their concerns irrespective of where they live and their social demographic?‘Problem’ businesses are often in ‘problem’ areas where the communities may not have the same voice of more affluent areas.
2. Utilities as active agents. How can utility companies becomes incentivised to reduce the demand businesses have for energy?There is no motivation for utilities to support their business customers to reduce their energy consumption.
3. Collective improvements. How can businesses be supported to work together to learn about improving environmental performance, and implement as a result?A collective effort to improve performance presents the potential to achieve economies of scale through group buying and activities.
4. Aggregating waste. How can SME’s better aggregate their waste(potentially with other SMEs) to create volume for efficient management?Cost and volumes can be too high and low,respectively, negating the possibility of achieving any level of economies of scale.
8. Organisational behaviour and culture. Key problems associated with driving environmental performance throughout an organisation and it’s people
1. Savings forever?How do businesses sustain savings beyond ‘quick wins’ when they first improve their environmental performance?Motivation is likely to drop if saving cannot be sustained over time.
2. Storytelling. How can the behaviour of staff be influenced if the savings for improving environmental performance are small?For staff to change to their behaviour they need to understand what they need to do differently, why they need to do it, what’s in it for them and what support they will receive.
3. Avoidable waste contamination. How can businesses ensure they avoid contaminating other recycled waste through human error?If waste becomes contaminated, the value of it is reduced and the cost to resolve it is increased.
4. Contamination impact. How can businesses and their staff be better educated to understand why they should segregate different types of waste?People are often unaware of the direct consequences of their actions e.g. a whole batch of one stream of waste must be scrapped, which in turn costs money.
5. Leadership doesn’t value good performance and empower staff. How can business leads, that are focused on making money and don’t see the economic value in good environmental performance, be encouraged to empower staff that have ideas to improve it?Businesses can’t afford to waste but do because they can’t always see a way to make money from good performance. If improvements don’t happen businesses can be disrupted by incidents or legal action leading to new savings or profits being missed.