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Yorkshire North East

All eyes are on what businesses are now doing to help protect the planet

19 Jun 2019

Change is in the air

Should business take a lead on addressing climate change, or is this a problem best left to government?  We all know my thoughts on business taking much more of a lead on many fronts.

Up until recently, many companies would have argued for the latter while they concentrate on the challenges of maximising revenues and profits. Environmental issues were on the agenda but not considered business critical.  But then even business critical matters are often overlooked by the eyes of Westminster. 

Times are changing. We are seeing that in a refreshed interest in our Policy Voice round tables, hosted by the brilliant Rashmi Dube. Business wants to be heard and we have a role to play in conveying that message firmly to Westminster. 

Back to climate change, not just the political. An increased focus on the environmental impact of plastic packaging, meat manufacturing, fashion and aviation means that your customers want to see that you are doing the right thing.

There is growing scrutiny of businesses and business leaders, who must now consider how their processes and behaviours might be viewed in the public sphere and the shaming eye of traditional and social media.

The protests by Extinction Rebellion may have divided opinion in terms of the disruption caused but you cannot deny these activists succeeded in pushing climate change up the news agenda.

Even President Donald Trump, who has rolled back many US climate laws, conceded – in his own, unique fashion – that climate change "goes both ways" and he wanted “good climate” following his recent meeting with Prince Charles. Read into that statement what you will.

So, as we move towards a greener economy and away from old technologies and fuels, what should you be doing as a business owner?  Believe it or not, our Geneartion XYZs will look closely at what you do as a business to preserve our planet. 

Now is the time to embed environmental impact into your company’s business strategy. Even if you don’t feel it is relevant to what you do, it is vital to stay ahead of the game.

As IoD chair Charlotte Valeur blogged earlier this year “the business leader that is in touch with the company’s social and environmental impact over and beyond the bottom line is also likely to be the leader that is one step ahead when it comes to other things, like changing consumer awareness and demand, and recruitment strategies.”

She went on to outline how a strong focus on environmental and social impact can help organisations engage, build stronger relationships with stakeholders and create values that make it easier to attract and retain staff.

The IoD is implementing ways to measure our social impact. These include hours of professional development delivered to an increasing number of leaders, money raised for charities, better corporate governance and events held to help leaders run businesses better.

Indeed, for some companies, climate change presents an opportunity to make money. My IoD colleague Jonathan Oxley wrote in this column in May that businesses have a chance to create the right infrastructure and innovative, environmentally friendly products to meet consumer demands in a more sustainable, greener future.

That sounds like a win-win to me.

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Natalie Sykes, Regional Director, Yorkshire & North East

Contact IoD Yorkshire

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0113 539 8781

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