It is nearly ten years since my book The secret life of stuff was published. Those ten years have seen some big changes to the planetary agenda, and the book might have had an even warmer reception had it been published now. But there are aspects of what I was trying to illuminate a decade ago that are strangely still under the radar. Read more
This post is by Julie Hill, former Green Alliance director (1992-97), Green Alliance associate and chair of the resources organisation WRAP.
One of the early projects I led for Green Alliance, in 1990, was the book Ethics, environment and the company. Commissioned by the Institute for Business Ethics, it was written to provide a checklist of the practices that might be discerned in a company serious about its environmental performance. At a time when the environment was barely on businesses leaders’ radar, the most significant measures concerned awareness and process. So the recommendations included conducting “a comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts”, setting targets, ensuring management commitment through a designated board member, and regular auditing and reporting. The hope was that widespread adoption of these processes would bring about a sea change in environmental performance. Read more
Between 1990 and 2005 I was heavily embedded in the genetic modification (GM) debate, as a member of one of the key regulatory committees for ten years, and then as deputy chair of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC). AEBC recommended a public debate on GM crops, which reached 37,000 people through a variety of routes and excited a good deal of press attention. The result? Most people are uneasy, most scientists are not, and the economists thought there was little of consequence either way for the UK at that time. The effect on policy? Almost none.
Back in 2007, Green Alliance examined the challenges and opportunities for the more sustainable use of nutrients, chiefly nitrogen and phosphorus, in the UK. It recommended a suite of policy principles to make a more circular system a reality.
Little has happened since in the UK. But last month I was asked to present Green Alliance’s policy principles to a conference of Nordic countries in Malmo, and to discuss how to take the agenda forward. I discovered that the ideas remain relevant and useful. Read more
The first rule of politics is ‘be there’ and Nigel Haigh was there. In and out of Brussels for some 30 years, both influencing and observing the emergence of EU environment policy. Read more
Green Alliance was among the first organisations to recognise the potential of the financial sector to drive sustainability. In 1992, alongside the Rio environment summit, UNEP brokered a Statement by Banks on Environment and Sustainable Development, and Green Alliance encouraged UK institutions to get involved.
Four years later, Green Alliance assessed progress against the pledges: it was discernible, but slow. Twenty-odd years on, we see the seeds sown at Rio yielding results, as financial institutions start to act on the risks and opportunities presented by environmental challenges. Read more
That is in large part due to more than fifteen years of work by WRAP and Green Alliance, two organisations I have the privilege to work with, along with the Royal Society of Arts, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and a host of progressive business organisations.
But how to access the wealth of excellent material available on the subject? For key entry points, here are my top ten suggestions to help you get to grips with the circular economy: Read more
Our new report, Wasted opportunities, marks the end of the second year for the Circular Economy Task Force of leading businesses. It reveals that outdated recycling systems are losing the UK economy £1.7 billion in wasted plastics, electronics and food.
The report comes at a time of transition for the circular economy. Our work over the past year has uncovered positive signals. Alongside task force members, we’ve talked to businesses ever keener to take up the idea and make the circular economy part of their values and their business model. With them are policy makers in Brussels, Edinburgh and Cardiff, talking of ambitious targets and policy support. In Westminster, enlightened politicians from all parties are beginning to explore the concept and seeking to incorporate the ambition to be more circular into their manifestos. Read more
Brighton’s Eco Technology Show is fast rising up the list of ‘must go to’ events for anyone in the resource stewardship arena.
Aimed particularly at local authority thinkers, doers and buyers, it showcases green transport solutions, all the latest building technologies and renewable energy, from off-grid to big kit.
Material efficiency is a growing strand and, this Friday (27 June), Green Alliance is hosting a ‘Big Debate’ at the centre of the show on the circular economy. Read more
I have participated in many different types of event in my time, but none so intense as the Science Museum’s ‘speed geeking’. This involves gathering a dozen experts from fields as varied as cancer research, space mining, nuclear physics and materials science, and asking them to justify why their area will be ‘the next big thing’. Not to each other, but to groups of members of the public, who get four minutes with each expert before moving on to the next. The object is not to identify areas of mutual attraction, but to get scientists to explain their pet subject succinctly and passionately, and to convince their rapidly rotating audiences of its role in shaping their future.
What was I doing at such an event? Loosely representing environmental science, and trying to convince my listeners that the idea of the Circular Economy will be the next big thing. Having explained twelve times, very quickly, that businesses increasingly recognise that allowing most of our resources to escape the economy prematurely is not a good plan for the future, and that ‘circularity’ has clear benefits, including all the energy, water and pollution saved when products are reused and materials are recycled, I thought I was doing quite well. Until one audience member said ‘but where’s the science?’. Read more