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Climate change and business: how companies can put sustainability at the heart of their strategy

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Partner John Higginson sat down with MushroomBiz to discuss how businesses can put sustainability at the heart of their strategy and why this is essential.

What are the big environmental challenges ahead of us?

We split the major environmental challenges into four different buckets. The biggest is climate change and the earths rising temperatures. The second is biodiversity and species loss. Thirdly pollution; plastic pollution, air pollution, water pollution. And lastly mass consumption and over population.

Businesses need to have these four crises on their radar and be thinking about what they can do to help.

There are plenty of threats and risks to businesses from climate change, but what are the opportuities and where should businesses look to find them?

Firstly, businesses that produce goods need to be looking at potential legislation coming down the line. The government has committed to reaching net zero by 2050 and will be looking for the major polluters.

The biggest sector in our economy is the service sector. For those companies there are great opportunities in consumers. People are seeing what’s going on around the world – wildfires in America and the Arctic – and they’re going to be making demands of businesses asking, ‘what is it you’re doing to help’.

Alongside increasing environmental obligations, are there financial rewards and brand benefits for businesses too?

Putting yourself as a business in a position where you’re confident that you’ve got people, planet as well as profit – the three p’s – boxed off is critical. To be a good business leader you can’t just be looking at the bottom line, especially as your competitors start to see the bigger picture. Not thinking about the environment will be a big threat to profits.

Do consumers really care about the environment enough to make a commercial difference?

You don’t need every single one of your customers to care about the environment, all you need is five percent of them to care enough about the environment to go with your product over something else.

Brewdog for instance. It’s a great product. It’s not competing on the lowest quality; it costs more to buy Brewdog beer compared to lots the big rivals. But once you start looking behind the scenes, they are completely offset and they’re doing huge amounts for the environment. The customers really bought into that.

Those are the kind of businesses that we’re wanting to work with.

How do businesses make sure they avoid ‘greenwashing’?

When we think about ‘greenwashing’ the biggest examples are the BPs and Shells of the world that would pin their whole advertising campaign around the two percent of their business that was invested in wind, when 98 percent of their business was still invested in fossil fuels.

The way around it is to just not pretend. If you don’t care about the environment, go find something else to care about and talk about that.

You can watch the full interview here:

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