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Is there a sustainable way of being sustainable?

08 April 2010 by
Is there a sustainable way of being sustainable?

Four-wheel drives kill polar bears. Hot baths are selfish. Recycling will save the world. These are the kind of assertions now gaining currency in boardrooms and committee rooms everywhere and the way we run our businesses is slowly but surely changing to reflect these concerns under the umbrella term "sustainability".

Of course it's right to manage waste responsibly and the sheer cost of energy makes any efficiency savings highly desirable. As an observer, I've been struck by the enthusiasm with which businesses have embraced the green agenda - sometimes on the insistence of their clients, who have their own corporate image to look after.

There is an unquestioned virtue in any product or service that can claim to be doing its bit. The time will come when I must don a balaclava before overtaking a Prius on the motorway, lest my evil features are captured on Facetube by the environmentally concerned child in the back!

But is all greenness good? This is a question I feel we should at least kick around while there is still time to oppose further tax hikes and emission limits, which could threaten the profitability of our hotels and restaurants.

Pity those operators who have already made large investments in new technology to get their gas and electricity consumption down, only to find their failure to achieve large reductions in subsequent years will attract financial penalties.

All the main UK political parties are committed to massive reductions in CO2 to stop the planet melting, despite the chaotic negotiations in icy Copenhagen a few months ago, and this will push manufacturing jobs out to countries that haven't signed up to anything of the kind. So what started as a gesture of goodwill, energised by individuals with a healthy concern for the environment, has now become a series of laws and targets that could place British companies at a competitive disadvantage.

If we really can stop climate change by doing these things, it's a no-brainer. While any doubt remains, however, let's make sure we don't give away too much to save that bear.

If massive CO2 reductions really will stop climate change, it's a no-brainer

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