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Carbon-free: more value for smart businesses

Do you think that global climate change is happening?
If you think it is happening, do you think that people are causing it?
Do you follow the news on climate change or emissions controls such as cap and trade or carbon tax schemes?
Do you think your answers matter? Because I don’t.

Why? There’s no point squabbling about it – BECAUSE – carbon emissions are what we call a ‘proxy indicator’ of waste: they are one measurement that indirectly measures lots of other things. So if your vehicle fleet is poorly maintained, you’ll be wasting fuel and oil – that is, carbon – and a good fleet maintenance program will save you not only fuel but also wear and tear on your vehicles. Yes, that’s right – it will save you MONEY.
It’s the same for any other form of waste. Everything we do or use has a carbon cost.
Those offcuts in your factory come from goods or materials that were grown, mined or caught, transported, processed, transported again, processed by you – then transported to the landfill. Reduce that waste, and you reduce the amount of carbon you emit whenever you waste goods or materials that you bought from your suppliers. What do you save? MONEY.
Work in an office? Good insulation, more efficient lighting and heating, more energy-efficient equipment and a host of other straightforward measures will reduce the carbon emissions from running the building and providing your services. What do you save? MONEY.
It works for everything from farming cows to cloud computing.
See? Climate change is not the enemy – and carbon is your friend!

It shows you where your use of resources of all kinds is needlessly costly, and how you can run a smarter, more cost-effective organization.
It also means we can leave the science of the debate to the scientists. So, if climate change is happened and we are causing it, reducing our carbon emissions means we’ll have taken some big steps to slowing it down – thereby reducing some very serious (and expensive) risks to people and economies all round the world. If it isn’t happening or we aren’t causing it, our businesses will be more intelligent, efficient and profitable. Either way, we win – IF we take action.

But too many businesses in the developing world are still sitting on their hands. Sure, it’s hard to plan when governments are failing to send consistent (or indeed any) signals to the business world. But this raises the risk that our economies will continue to stagnate and will be overtaken by those of the developing world who are already experiencing shocking environmental conditions.

As they strive to bring prosperity to their people, emerging nations have given up hope of getting support from the wealthy West for reducing their carbon emissions. They know they need to mitigate climate change effects such as food shortages caused by more frequent floods and droughts from which they are likely to suffer the most.

Emerging nations now see environmentally responsible technologies as a driver of innovation and social as well as economic development, and will start to outcompete those in the West still wedded to ‘business as usual’ (see reference (1) below). Emerging nations can now afford to do this: 2010 was the year that China overtook Japan as the World’s second largest economy and Brazil, Russia and India are hot on its heels (2). Innovative businesses will focus on meeting the sustainable development needs of emerging economies, from which they will be able to leverage back into their own.

Some of the content of this blog is adapted from some thoughts I put together for the wonderful Ann Andrews of The Corporate Toolbox for her free ebook, “What’s next? 29 Entrepreneurs share Predictions for 2011/12”. Many thanks to Ann for allowing me to reproduce some of that material here.

See me speaking to the “Carbon Quiz” here.

(1) Lord Nicholas Stern of Brentford in the three Sir Douglas Robb Lectures 2010. Find out more at the foot of the page here.
(2) Gwynne Dyer, The Revolution has already arrived. An article in the New Zealand Herald of 3 January 2011.