Last night around 100 business people (and one spy) met for the first Green Monday event to be held in the North west. Held at Old Trafford Football ground, the event succeeded in providing food for thought (three short speeches and Q and A), space for info exchange (themed discussion tables) and scope for networking (wine, beer and the usual flurry of business cards being exchanged). Putting aside the (inevitable) failure to deal with the scale of the challenge facing this species, it was… a pretty good event, and hopefully the first of a regular series.
After brief comments intros, Paul Turner, Head of Sustainable Development at Lloyds Banking Group kicked things off with a succinct talk that pointed out that the Environmental Sustainability agenda covered many bases- pricing power, access to markets, access to capital, risk management, employee retention – but was still seen as an item only in the ‘cost’ column of the ledger by some. He added that only 30% of business schools have environmental issues in their core curriculum, and worried publicly about the risk of ‘environmental sustainability’ being seen as something to be cut during a recession.
He seeded an image that was then picked up by other speakers and questioners, when he cited Wayne Gretzky (Canadian ice hockey legend) opining that the reason for his success was that he “skated to where the puck is going to be”
He was followed by Chris Matthews, Head of Environment and Sustainability atUnited Utilities, who looked at the most important current issue facing his business (water scarcity), the most innovative project UU have on the go at the moment – gas-to-grid (energy from your sewage) and the “emerging trend”, which he felt was the focus on biodiversity. The final speaker was Chris Lewis, Head of Environment at AstraZeneca. He covered a lot of ground, including the observation that AZ, while externalising their supply chain, were retaining ‘ownership’ of the carbon footprint that the supply chain created.
Questions from the floor covered biomimicry, the moment when the speakers realised how serious the situation was, what they want from the Coalition Government, the impact that the lack of a ‘global deal’ would have on their future plans and the possibility of growth on a finite planet.
On the global deal question- both the Chrises felt that the lack of a deal meant little to them- their businesses were forging ahead because it was the right thing to do, it saved them money and it was a key feature for their ability to attract and retain talent. Paul Turner of Lloyds demurred slightly, saying the lack of a deal (at Copenhagen, Cancun etc etc) mattered insofar as it provides non-progressive countries and companies with an excuse to do nothing, putting first movers at a disadvantage. He pointed out that South Korea had used its stimulus package from early 2009 to ‘go green’, with 81% of its government pump-priming in clean tech.
On the possibility of growth, Turner was also interesting. MCFly was expecting the usual ducking and weaving. Instead Turner quoted John F Kennedy (“GDP measures everything but that what matters”) and gave a shout out to the New Economics Foundation and Nicholas Sarkozy’s calls for environmental/social sustainability to be included in measures of economic well-being. He made a useful distinction between progress and grwoth.
This Q and A was then followed by roughly an hour sat in tables on various themes (decarbonising supply chains, employee engagement etc), and followed in turn by complementary wine and beer (which had nothing to do with MCFly’s willingness to schlepp out to Old Trafford).
“Green Mondays” have been running in the Big Smoke for sometime now. With Greater Manchester hoping to be a hub for environmental business, then these sorts of events will be happening more frequently.
Verdict: Within the logic of “industrial ecology/ecological modernisation” Media4change have put on a thought-provoking and interesting event. If MCFly gets along to another, it’ll be in suit and tie to blend in better.
Footnote to the Man United guy who refused to even give MCFly so much a business card- I said Manchester CLIMATE Fortnightly, not Manchester CITY Fortnightly. Assuming that was what was hacking you off?