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April 16, 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: The fight against green fatigue

The breaking up of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the Australian drought, fierce forest fires hitting countries from Greece to California, Britain’s wettest summer on record and the resulting floods – the signs of global warming are all around us.

Then there’s expert confirmation of where the problem lies. Take last year’s report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which presented evidence that it was more than 90% likely that climate change was being triggered by human activity.

The combination of the physical and the scientific has led to most people now being convinced of the dangers of global warming, according to a recent study by Ipsos MORI. The report revealed that nine out of 10 UK citizens believe climate change is taking place and that it is driven by humans – especially through increases in the industrial emission of carbon dioxide.

Worth the effort
This is certainly great news for those of you who have taken steps to make your businesses sustainable and for the industry associations that have actively encouraged carbon neutrality. It seems not only will you be helping to curb climate change, but also that customers and potential customers, as well as business partners, stakeholders and shareholders, will be appreciating your efforts.

Companies across the live marketing and meetings industry are now blazing an environmental trail, where previously events was seen as one of the most wasteful sectors of the economy. These efforts culminated late last year in the launch of the BS8901 sustainable events standard, providing guidelines for all organisations to work towards – and it is the only such sector-specific green standard.

Beware the backlash

Unfortunately, the Ipsos MORI findings are not all good news. Although 90% of people now recognise there’s a problem and where the cause lies, the report also revealed a lack of understanding about what should be done to counteract it.

In fact, Phil Downing, head of environmental research for the agency believes public confusion over climate change could actually lead to a backlash. Talking to The Observer at the end of December last year, he said: “There’s cynicism because on the one hand we’re being told [the problem] is very serious and on the other hand we’re building runways and mining Alaskan oil – there’s a lot going on that appears to be heading in the opposite direction.”

Downing cited public resistance to green taxes as further proof of disillusionment over conflicting green messages. “There’s a cynicism that the Government is using the green agenda as an excuse for hitting motorists and people who want to fly,” he continued.

Tackling green fatigue
This is where businesses tackling their own carbon emissions, of which there are many examples across the events industry, can lead from the front, to help get over the importance of going green and the benefits, to hit this green fatigue head on.

For example, many companies find that by implementing environmentally friendly strategies, they are saving money through using less power and operating more efficiently. Companies also understand the long-term threat of disruption to their operations that the symptoms of global warming can cause.

As the CBI’s director general Richard Lambert commented recently: “Businesses are ahead of the consumer. They may not understand climatology, but they do understand risk.”

Pass it on…
We are all consumers, from board directors to new recruits, and setting an example at corporate level filters down the organisation encouraging people to be greener in their own lives, and engendering loyalty to the companies that are setting the environmental agenda.

The tide is turning, but it appears we have reached a crucial point. Pressure from sectors like the events industry can help reinforce people’s experience of climate change, scientific evidence and government policy through practical examples of what can be done to reduce environmental impact. Let’s make 2008 the year where we not only get greener, but also spread the word.

Click Add your comment or Email the editors at the top of this article to tell us your green experiences and any initiatives you are implementing or planning for 2008.

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