It’s 10 years this weekend since the UN’s former chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern published his monumental treatise on climate change.
In 2006 Stern concluded that the UK needed to put a price on carbon emissions, develop the technologies needed to cut emissions and crank up the energy efficiency drive. Ten years on and after nearly a year of prevarication, the UK has finally signed the Paris Climate Agreement.
The agreement sets out the ambition of all signatory countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep temperatures below 2C above pre-industrial levels. Two degrees is viewed by the world consensus of climate scientists in the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change as the threshold above which we would struggle to avoid exposing communities across the globe to increasingly dangerous climate impacts such as forest fires, extreme weather and drought.
Before Stern, climate change was communicated in the language of the boffin and the sandle-wearing environmental activist. Post-Stern, climate economics was established with climate science finally explained in the language of business.
To discuss climate change with business people these days I talk carbon emissions almost as a post-script to paybacks, investment returns and on or off balance sheet options.
But, sometimes I am heartened when I find business leaders who see the ‘Whole of the Moon’. Recently, I was lucky to take a tour around Precision Marketing with its managing director, Matthew Caldwell-Nichols. His direct mail marketing operations in Bury St Edmunds reflect his personal manifesto to marry together excellent customer service, great employees and meaningful environmental responsibility.
Matthew has taken a long-term business position to become carbon neutral and is well on the way to succeeding.
This is partly down to the nature of his business sector, with its links to the printing industry which was one of the first to have to take account of its environmental performance. Yet, that alone would not have taken Precision Marketing to where it is now with investments in energy efficiency and renewables (amongst other things).
Matthew sees these delivering value back into the business through financial savings and generating more sales with customers demanding services that are competitively priced whilst meeting their own environmental standards.
As Matthew explained to me, it’s worth the investment even if on occasions you might fail.
Matthew and his team continue to face the same trading challenges as any other local business. I hope that Matthew will agree with me, what Precision Marketing is doing is something special but in a sense it makes perfect sense for any business.
He is showing everyone else that this is how you can do it. No fuss, maybe a few spreadsheets but certainly a passion for a better way of doing business. It’s what normal businesses and great business leaders do.
-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils