The essential common ground between ecology & economics

Whether you are the CEO, sustainability manager or CFO, cutting consumption is key to success

Ecology and economics share a common root – Eco, taken from the Greek work οἶκος meaning “home”. One means the science of our shared home, the other the management of it (although home has morphed from household management into organisational or country finances over the centuries). There’s a second clear link though; maintaining a viable ecology requires us to significantly reduce our consumption of non-renewable resources and this in turn will have a significant economic impact.

Why is Cutting Consumption Necessary

From an economic perspective an upwards spiral of consumption can be seen to be a good thing, particularly if you have control over a significant amount of a relatively scarce and diminishing resource. This has pretty much been the picture for the last 300 years as waves of technological advancement, automation and consumer demands have seen our demand for power grow rapidly, and are still growing now, year on year.

Fortunes continue to be made in fossil fuels, despite all of the media attention and growing public concern over climate change and global warming. There are strong economic reasons for some companies and individuals not to want reductions in consumption to happen

Unfortunately we simply cannot continue on our current trajectory. Even from an economic perspective, our reliance on exploiting fuel sources which destabilise our climate makes no sense. As we’ve seen with recent extreme weather around the world, the economic consequences from disruption and mitigation are huge. While the current Corona virus outbreak is undoubtedly serious, the likely long-term impact of continued global heating is much more extreme and longer lasting.

Our only option is to reduce our consumption of these resources and thereby at least halt the ongoing climactic change. The switch to truly renewable energy will help, but this is just one element in the overall mix of things that need to be improved. To have a beneficial effect in time we need real and significant reductions in fossil fuel consumption as quickly as possible.

Where to Focus?

Clearly we have a personal responsibility to each do as much as we can and potentially more than we are 100% comfortable with. That includes going meat free for a significant part of the week, eating local, organic food where possible, travelling less and switching to “green” energy suppliers. It means making sustainability a serious consideration for every purchase and every decision.

All of this has implications for the economy. As our attitudes and purchasing shift, so the supply chain and industry shift with them. We cannot underestimate the power we have through our spending.

At Px3, however, our focus is on the choices we have at work. Does our employer have sustainability as part of their mission and does that cascade down to us in terms of real, achievable objectives? Is there significant engagement with staff and stakeholders to identify and reduce areas of waste or unnecessary travel, printing and overall energy use.

The interesting thing from my perspective, seeking to drive change at a strategic level, is that the majority of the initiatives to reduce consumption will actually save rather than cost money.

Reducing premises footprint and encouraging flexible working, using virtual meetings to reduce work travel, switching to lower energy devices like tablets and “thin clients” all offer substantial savings in time, energy and carbon footprint, while also cutting costs and some potentially improve work-life balance.

If we can put together a plan that shows the CEO a way to meet sustainability targets, the HR Director a way to engage with staff and the Sustainability Manager a way to show actual reduction in Scope 2 and 3 emissions, that’s a pretty compelling proposition.

Coming up with an “Eco” Plan

Our starting point needs to be a recognition that change is required. That can be driven by compliance, by stakeholder pressure, economic factors or by an individual’s passion for sustainability.

From there we need to have a strategic plan with executive support. That plan must identify areas in which reductions can be achieved in a specific time period and because we’re linking up the “ecos” it needs to have a budget, or at least a way of monitoring the associated costs and savings.

Any plan must propose significant and measurable changes in order to be credible and avoid the perception of “green-wash”

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s particularly important that we avoid any suggestions of “green-wash” as this undermines the credibility of real initiatives. Any plan must therefore propose real, significant and measurable savings over a defined period.

From an economic perspective we also need to recognise that investment in new technology may be required. If we are expecting staff to work from home, from satellite offices of co-working facilities rather than travelling into work we must provide the user experience, collaboration tools and security to keep them at least as productive as they would have been before.

Fortunately there are now more choices than ever before in terms of effective workplace and workspace technologies, most with the option for a revenue rather than capital model to reduce up-front costs and provide flexibility.

Making a business case for such investments is easier when backed by cost reductions in energy use, by extensions to the working life of existing technology and by productivity improvements from “smarter working”.

Conclusion

There are many words jostling for attention as “key words of the 2020s” at the moment – but for me there is no more important one than “reduce”. From power consumption to waste, from car use to international travel and from single use plastics to junk food.

All are addressable in a combination of our work and personal lives and the good news is that we can reduce environmental impacts and save costs at the same time.

We urgently need to commit to look at every aspect of what we do in order to minimise the harm we leave behind for future generations and to taking action as soon as possible.

#px3 #sustainability #climate change #climateemergency #strategy #greenIT

About the author:

No alt text provided for this image

Ewen Anderson is CIO and co-founder of Px3, a company which provides consultancy and analytical services to help organisations measure and reduce the ecological impact of their workplaces. Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership. Over the last 25 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, SMBs, public sector and Not for Profit organisations. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.