Globalisation & Localisation
With politics and economics being the biggest challenges to UK PLC through 2020 and beyond, negotiating new industrial, technological and trading agreements internationally requires strong leadership to drive growth across key areas (such as manufacturing, energy and construction). With a year to renegotiate EU laws and enact change, the UK is in a position to deliver positive sustainability-centric legislation. One active example is the Government’s 25 Year plan, loosely reflecting the UN SDGs, this however requires a national, regional and local approach to implement however, collaborating to engage and empower everyone to embrace sustainability in every aspect of their lives.
The growing disparity of wealth between the North and South and an ageing population will make this difficult to achieve (9 of the 10 poorest regions in Western Europe are in the UK, IPPR 2016), however a radical approach is needed if the UK is to evolve. By introducing progressive plans, laws and regulations, the UK can position itself to centralise human, social and environmental requirements and incentivise industries, organisations and individuals to develop a new, collective economic model that focuses on working to deliver a better future society. Given the unique regional variations across our country, perhaps a return to localisation can help drive this agenda – recognising and building upon regional diversity and delivering local benefits for local people, as opposed to benefitting those living outside the region. This regional diversity can help foster innovation, cultivate human and social capital and enables regions to learn to live within their means.
Business Sustainability Leadership
Businesses have a responsibility to implement sustainability also, in driving purposeful change via believable corporate visions for the future, in similar ways to Government. According to the latest Edellman Trust Barometer, communities are perceived as being more trustworthy than CEO’s, with this trust based upon competency and ethics. As no institution is recognised as being both competent and trustworthy, there is clearly some way to go to balance the needs of communities with the goals of business leaders. To foster stakeholder engagement, Leadership must take action to drive change and fairly represent their stakeholders.
In attempting to do this, many organisations have principals or slogans depicting how they ‘do the right’ thing in conducting their business. Given the above, this can often be seen as little more than corporate greenwashing and does not necessarily mean things are done right. Fortunately, organisations are beginning to take sustainability seriously and are being held to account by shareholders and regulators with the addition of annual sustainability reports and legislative oversight to ensure this is not the case. Though not new concepts, with increased consumer awareness, these will both help improve the perception of trust and competence at organisational level.
Globally, technology and industrialisation is uniting the world and putting everything at the touch of a button, but in contrast continues to drive status competition, increasing debt and consumerism and increases inequality (Pickett, 2015). The antithesis to this is that by having the world at your fingertips, you’re increasing your energy consumption, data footprint and environmental impact. With the advent of smartphone ownership and consumer trends, instant gratification is more commonplace and is putting a greater strain on natural resources and raw materials. Consider this, even in saving this post, I have the choice of saving locally to my hard drive or in the cloud. Having had a constructive LinkedIn discussion recently, it surprised me this week to find out the approximate level of energy required to simply save a document.
It takes roughly 3.1kWh per gigabyte to save to the world vs 0.000005 gigabytes to save locally – to put that in perspective, if you saved and stored 100 gigabytes of data to the cloud per year, your carbon footprint would be 0.2 tonnes of CO2. Given the average person’s carbon footprint in the UK is 10 tonnes per year, this is an eye-opening number.
Imagine how much energy is consumed from clicking ‘buy now’ to receiving your purchase 24 hours later?
We’ve been in Cornwall again to see the strides friends are making with sustainability. From beach cleans to becoming a plastic free county, they’re impressively proactive in driving the sustainability agenda. Being able to generate ideas within our community, across a diverse network of businesses is something I’m proud to have been welcomed into and share these ideas back across the border! Aside from wanting to protect the stunning coast and countryside, the way in which people collaborate for the good of their region should be an example to the rest of the country in how to embed green business.
It also helped that it’s been national pasty week :)