Recently in Sustainable Industries Category
Having lived here for 18 years I have heard quite a few lectures. But Professor Kathryn Moore, speaking on 'Transport and Living Futures' delivered one during the Birmingham Made Me Design Expo, which was, for me, in a different league.
It was visually inspirational showing Birmingham in a new light as an ecologically friendly city - 'open, green and connected to the outlying areas through its unique and beautiful natural features'.
"Beauty and Birmingham are two words which don't go together too well in popular perception," said Professor Kathryn Moore, Past President of the Landscape Institute as well as lecturer and researcher at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BIAD, at Birmingham City University.
Much has been made of our position as the world's sixth largest producer and provider of low-carbon goods and services. But there are signs we are faltering. Manufacturing, the largest slice of activity in the sector, contracted in 2010/11 while China, the US and others are experiencing rapid growth in this sector.
Ahead of the publication of the Energy Bill next month, an increasingly heated and polarised debate is playing out about whether or not the UK should adopt a 2030 decarbonisation target as part of ongoing electricity market reforms.
What will a future economy constrained by access to raw materials that we now take for granted look like ? Accessing and securing raw materials has risen quickly up the manufacturing agenda. Earlier this year EEF surveyed executives across Industry to find out what they perceived as the biggest threats to growth. The Eurozone crisis? Access to finance? Accessing the right skills? Surprisingly 80 per cent of respondents said access to raw materials was a risk to growth. One in three said it was their top risk.
Meeting the duel objectives of a green economy as well as a growing one continues to hit the headlines. Following our report, published six months ago, CBI published its own take on the matter. It concurred with our analysis - there need not be a choice between green and growth - but having the right policy framework in place matters.
I'm just back from Beijing. Aside from the huge amount of traffic and how many premium cars there were on the roads (Audis everywhere but Jaguars and Range Rovers popping up more and more often), what struck me was the number of small electric cars and bikes that that were quietly zipping around the city.
China leads the world on small electric cars or buggies, and on electric bicycles or e-bikes. Nearly 30 million such bikes will be sold there this year - accounting for most of the global market, with the total e-bike 'pool' in China estimated as high as 120 million. They are cheap and easy to use and make for a good alternative to motorbikes or scooters especially when some 90 Chinese cities have banned the latter over of local pollution fears.
In a period of difficult economic recovery what the UK needs most is sustainable growth. However if this is to be truly sustainable, we need to both rebalance and decarbonise our economy. The problem is that policies in these two areas are often pulling in different directions:
On Friday, it still looked like there would be little breakthrough at the Durban Climate Talks. However, Connie Hedegaard, the Commission Climate Minister and previously one of the youngest politicians to enter parliament in Denmark, has secured a landmark victory at the 11th hour.
This was the message from both the Prime Minister and the Trade Minister Lord Green at a major Summit on exporting held in London last week.
Launching 'Exporting for Growth' in the UK, PM David Cameron, HSBC Chief Executive Brian Robertson and PWC Chair Ian Powell all spoke extremely supportively of boosting the UK's export platform. Nick Baird, UK Trade & Investment's Chief Executive launched some new initiatives including teaming up with founding Dragons' Den panellist Doug Richard and Yell to get 3,500 businesses into workshops all over the country to ensure they are able to exploit the global opportunities offered by the internet.
The PM's message was clear - we need to excel in trade if we are to grow the UK economy at a time when global economies are under huge pressures. The challenge is to get more SME's exporting and to do so, there needs to be greater engagement between the public and private sectors in supporting and developing our exporters.
Here in the West Midlands we have a proud history of international trade. Many of our companies are already doing well in international markets with innovative, cutting edge products - but we need our existing exporters to export more; and more companies to start exporting.
At the Summit there were over 400 representatives from intermediary organisations - banks, lawyers, accountants, consultants, trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, etc discussing how we can do this.
Nationally a number of promising initiatives are already underway such as:
- HSBC has introduced a Business Thinking programme including support for Trade Missions and Mentoring for SME exporters working with UK Trade & Investment.
- Barclays is working with UK Trade & Investment, utilising their customer base and expertise in Sub Saharan Africa to promote exports.
- Lloyds is launching a programme of Export Mentors working with the Manufacturing Technologies Association and UK Trade & Investment.
But this sort of cooperation should not be limited to the "big boys" in London. There is much we can do at the local level. Here in the West Midlands we will be holding our own Exporting for Growth Summit on 28th February for regional SMEs and intermediaries.
In the meantime if anybody has any thoughts or ideas on how UK Trade & Investment in the West Midlands might work more with local partners to help exporters I would be delighted to hear from them!
If you'd like more details of the announcements made at the Exporting for Growth Summit last week, have a look at the website: http://www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/uktihome/media/item/217400.html
A Chief Executive once told me: "We have a sustainability programme in place, but getting all the employees engaged remains difficult. You have commitment at the top and middle levels of the company, but below that people don't care. The bricklayer does not think about waste and landfill when he works. He just wants to lay bricks and go home."
This comment confirms the untold truth that when it comes to sustainability, the only measure of success is behavioural change, not the number of glossy Sustainability / Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reports published.