My 5-key take-aways from the frontline of sustainability

May 24, 2017

 

edie Live is an event and conference for sustainable business which attracts thousands of energy, sustainability and resource efficiency professionals. Based on my observations, the presentations I attended and conversations I had, I thought I’d share with you my 5-key take-aways from this frontline of sustainability;

 

 

1. Engage outside traditional leadership

To run successful collaborations, it is essential to engage with all people, of all backgrounds and from all communities. Remember the women, the aging population, the younger generation and the less advantaged. This is true in emerging markets and also, I would argue, in the industrialised world.

 

As an example a new study shows that a large majority of women surveyed feel that we urgently need to act in order to build a better world for our children. And a whopping 69 per cent of women feel it is important that their investment and savings decisions reflect their personal values and philosophies.

 

2. The best kilowatt hour is the kilowatt hour never used

Energy efficiency is big business. The number of exhibiting companies showing off their energy efficiency devices and solutions to save energy is telling in itself, and shows that businesses large and small can still do much more to reduce their energy consumption – a fact which I often refer to as the low hanging fruit in terms of sustainability, clearly showing that cost savings and sustainability goes hand in hand.

 

Having said this, we all need to get smarter to enable effective management of energy usage. A personal experience springs to mind, where me and my family have been declined an energy smart meter in our home- because we have solar panels on the roof?! How smart is this??

 

 

3. The circular economy is moving from thought leadership to main business activities

 

Globally 45.6 million tonnes of electronics fail to get recycled and a this represents a value of USD $197 million being lost due to poor practices.

 

In the UK, 1 tonne of gold at a value of £24 million is sent to landfill every year.

 

There are many challenges in closing the loop which mainly relate to issues of logistics and quality or form and function, but also customer preferences. The real business opportunities though are even bigger (in Europe only there are circular economy opportunities of EUR320 billion according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation) and this is going beyond recycling. As prices of raw materials are increasing and supply chain risks are becoming more apparent, approaching the circular economy makes business sense. In the electronics industry today, leading suppliers are putting an increasing proportion of recycled plastic into their new products.

 

 

4. Collaboration drives change

If anyone ever doubted it, collaboration drives change and it is collaboration with competitors, between different industry sectors as well as collaboration between businesses and NGOs.

 

There are so many fantastic examples and two that struck a chord with me on this occasion is collaboration between businesses and schools through , enabling students to come up with new solutions to today’s small and big problems. As all of you know who have children in school, there is very limited space for creative thinking in today’s curriculum.

 

WWF and Sodexo working together to provide lean and green meals is another great example.

 

5. Innovation sums it up

The whole exhibition breathes innovation. When faced with the emerging futures and associated challenges of automation, water scarcity, growth of the middle class, food security and the biggest of them all – climate change, it is apparent that everything is interconnected, we need systemic change.

 

Sustainability is innovation; to think of new solutions to existing and future issues. Sustainability is the key. Through a fully inclusive approach, where the parties work collaboratively, focusing on closing the loop, we can reach the more sustainable and responsible future we want of for our children and future generations. And we can do it now.

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