In many instances, corporate business is driving the sustainability agenda forward, much more so than in the public sector. This is not just due to altruism, but rather hard economic returns.
Unilever have reported their fifth year of progress of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which continues to show superior performance, and in 2015 their Sustainable Living brands grew 30% faster than the rest of the business and accounted for nearly half of Unilever's growth.
Nike are also the sustainability agenda, especially the circular economy as they are announced as the newest Global Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. They have set an ambitious ‘moonshot’ goal to double their output and half their emissions.
In 2014/15 Nike increased their revenue by 52% whilst at the same time, reducing carbon emissions and improving water efficiency by 18%. They also subscribe to the material sustainability index (MSI) for sourcing and manufacturing products and in 2015, 98% of their new footwear scored silver or better on the product sustainability indices.
“At Nike, we believe it is not enough to adapt to what the future may bring – we’re creating the future we want to see through sustainable innovation,” Nike President and CEO Mark Parker said in a recent article featured on sustainablebrands.com
In sharp contrast to this innovative progression within the corporate market, we see a withdrawal of support for environmental issues and renewable energy within the public sector, particularly (I’m sad to say) within the UK.
Job cuts have been announced again this month in the UK Environment Agency, with 100 jobs due to go by the 30th September 2016. Larger solar installations (more than 1MW) on roofs and in solar parks have already had subsides cut by 85% and 71% respectively and the UK is the only G7 country to increase subsides on fossil fuels.
These are backwards steps for the public sector and they are potentially losing out on significant economic gains. The UK public sector is usually so keen to look to the private sector for guidance on management structures and privatisation strategies, so why is it so blind to sustainability issues?
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