Change often comes from an unexpected direction. Greta Thunberg does not fit the mould of your conventional ‘eco-warrior’ and yet she has made politicians sit up and take notice in ways that previous activists have been unable to do.
A TV programme narrated by a softly-spoken 92-year-old bringing the natural wonder of our seas, lakes and oceans into our living rooms has provoked one of the biggest shifts in public attitudes since researchers started taking an interest in what ordinary people think.
More than eight out ten people in the UK believe that reducing plastic, waste and air pollution is a core concern, according to a recent independent poll carried out by Abundance Investment. If 8/10 is not the “will of the people”, what is?
Businesses who ignore UK society reaching the tipping point on environmental issues do so at their peril. Concerns about the environment even outweigh those about Brexit, which scored 73 percent in our survey.
We care more about the long-term damage our consumption is doing to the world than stockpiling toilet roll and lorries backed up from the Kent Coast to Kentish Town, never mind our long-term domestic economy.
For businesses the signal is clear. Over 70 percent of your customers are already making choices to avoid products which generate excessive waste and don’t mitigate the damage that disposing of waste causes.
We’re now seeing the ranks of green consumers, who seek ideal solutions to their personal impact on climate change, being swelled by what we are calling the ‘ecopragmatist’. Ecopragmatists recognise that the transition to a more sustainable world is not easy and requires some common-sense choices.
Our latest project, which funds new energy recovery developments, seeks to tackle this head on. Our investors know that this issue is only going to get more attention in the UK as we stop being able to bury our problems and have to face up to what we do with a predicted four million tonnes of additional waste by 2025.
Using waste to produce energy is one pragmatic solution, albeit requiring careful regulation and controls so that it doesn’t itself create more problems.
Leaders in all business sectors now need to recognise that the employees in their sustainability functions are core to their strategy as a business.
A decade ago your average CEO would have seen sustainability as a cost, maybe a PR exercise. Now, when customers stop buying your product or service because of its impact on the environment it becomes an issue that costs your ‘average’ CEO their job.
Economists since Schumpeter have trumpeted the power of capitalism to deliver progress through ‘creative destruction’.
Those forces of innovation are increasingly driven not by the desire for profit at any cost (or without accounting for their total cost), but by the desire for progress in the present that doesn’t impoverish our collective futures.
Expect to see the will of the people expressed in perfectly preserved and displayed products left sitting on shelves whilst consumers seek better ways to consume their everyday stuff.
Goods will be stop being judged on how they look inside the cellophane and more on how they taste on the table – without the nasty taint of wasteful, unnecessary extras.
Bruce Davis is managing director of Abundance Investment, which advertises with The Ecologist.