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Ignoring climate change will hurt businesses, conference hears

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Tim Burghes of Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub at the conferenceTim Burghes of Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub at the conferenceThe overwhelming take home from the first North Wiltshire Sustainable Business Conference on Friday (October 19) was how much damage will be done to businesses by ignoring climate change and sustainability.

As event chairman and independent sustainable business consultant This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. told delegates: 

“We will all need to take action to prevent dangerous climate change, as well as adapt to the inevitable physical and economic consequences of a changing climate.”

“Businesses have an essential role to play in overcoming these challenges, not only because they’re good at delivering the things society needs, but also because they’re key stakeholders in ensuring we succeed.”

“The severe social and economic disruption that will result from inaction will impact businesses, their customers and the people that work for them. ‘Business as usual’ is simply no longer an option.”

Have you heard of the UN Sustainable Development Goals? asked Colin Curtis, strategy director of TBL Services, which helps build sustainability into global businesses.

If you haven't, you are not alone. Film director Richard Curtis was so frustrated with the lack of awareness he founded Project Everyone to raise recognition around the planet.

There’s more on how individuals and businesses can achieve sustainability at www.supportthegoals.org

“Embracing global goals could generate 12 trillion dollars of new business value a year,” said Colin. He urged the assembled business leaders and not-for-profits to decide which of the goals were most important to their business, then ‘commit, measure, share’.

Businesses can share their sustainability stories and claim a free certificate at www.tbl-services.com

Using some big companies, such as Siemens and HP, as examples of how businesses are responding to environmental pressures and societal demands, Dr Dominic Tantram of Terrafiniti told the conference about how businesses of any size can reduce costs and risks, and improve profits and reputation by taking action on social and environmental issues.

James Beard is the economic and social development specialist at Mott McDonald, an employee-owned global engineering and development consultancy based in the UK.

“We face a massive recruitment deficit in engineering unless we widen the recruitment pool,” said Dr Beard, focusing on diversity and engagement.

Instead of a bottom line of ‘how much’, he spoke of a triple bottom line of business accounting which encompassed economic, social and environmental.

Energy writer and researcher Nikki Jones gave a grim picture of life beyond two degrees of climate change. "We could be extinct in 100 years," she said.

She urged implementation of initiatives such as Demand Side Response (DSR) where businesses would avoid energy-intensive production or use at peak domestic use of electricity. This would take off the heat from the national grid and reduce the number of power plants required by the UK.

Along with Chippenham-based supplier Good Energy, she asked the conference to look at their energy supplier and switch to a robust renewable energy tariff.

Paddy Bradley, director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: "We are about growth and productivity. As an LEP we are committed to clean growth."

Within Swindon and Wiltshire businesses, he explained, was the means to recapture oil from plastics, the Hydrogen Hub and ‘every single research council’.

One of their aims is for any vehicular power train (ie the engine) to have the means to refuel along the M4 corridor. Forget electric cars in the long term, was the message. The future - according to three quarters of the automotive industry - is hydrogen.

The conference, which took place at Chippenham Town Hall, was organised by CAVE (Chippenham and Villages Environmentalists). 

A North Wiltshire Sustainable Business Network is being established to enable businesses to share experience and information in advancing their sustainability objectives. Anyone interested in joining should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Article by Louisa Davison, environment correspondent at Business Biscuit and a national steering committee member at Citizens Climate Lobby UK which advocates for a carbon fee and dividend as a solution to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.