Sunday, 17 May 2009

SNP drive for opencast coal appals Greens


Published Date: 17 May 2009
By Tom Peterkin, Scottish Political Editor

SCOTLAND has seen a dramatic increase in its opencast mining industry with new research revealing that there are plans to extract at least 12 million tonnes of coal over the next few years.
Environmental campaigners have expressed concerns about the scale of Scotland's opencast mining industry, a technique that scars the landscape and pollutes the atmosphere.Scotland on Sunday can reveal that since the SNP government came into power in May 2007, nine major opencast mines have been approved – operations that will see the excavation of a total of 7.8m tonnes of coal during their lifespans.Another five major projects are awaiting planning approval. If they get the go-ahead, a further 4.6m tonnes of coal will be dug up over the next few years. The 14 new projects are in addition to the 20.8 million tonnes of opencast coal that was already licensed for extraction at December 2006 – before the SNP came to power.The extent of Scotland's opencast mining industry was revealed in a survey conducted by the Green Party.The number of projects approved by ministers has led to the Greens questioning the SNP's commitment to renewable energy sources.The Greens are also concerned about a watering down of planning rules that had once required ministers to be notified about opencast sites of more than 500 hectares. That requirement has now gone, and under rules introduced last month, ministers will not routinely consider any application for opencast applications further than 500 metres from an "existing community or sensitive establishment".The following projects have been approved since May 2007: Greenburn Extensions, East Ayrshire (293,922 tonnes); Muir Dean, Fife (2,275,192 tonnes); Auchencorth, Borders (450,000 tonnes); Samsiston, Dumfries and Galloway (395,480 tonnes); Rigg, Dumfries and Galloway (1,300,000 tonnes); Mossbank Farm Quarry, North Lanarkshire (102,000 tonnes); Blair House, Fife (620,068 tonnes); Mainshill, South Lanarkshire (1,700,000 tonnes) and Skares Rd Extension, East Ayrshire (600,000 tonnes).According to the Greens' research, the following projects are awaiting approval: Dunstonhill, East Ayrshire (1,200,000 tonnes); Headless Cross East, North Lanarkshire, (1,100,000 tonnes); Lanehead, East Ayrshire (400,000 tonnes); Nettly Burn, Fife (470,000 tonnes) and Rusha, West Lothian (1,500,000 tonnes).Patrick Harvie, the Green leader, said: "For the climate, for the landscape and for communities across southern and central Scotland, coal is now simply the problem, and opencast coal is the dirtiest way to get it out of the ground. Deep mines at least provided jobs in large numbers – opencast leaves only scars, landfill sites and pollution. "For communities in Lanarkshire, Midlothian, Fife and across the South of Scotland, the SNP's continued support for coal means ever more open-cast mining in their area, more pollution, more disruption, and more threats to their health." Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Open casting is the most environmentally damaging process conceivable. It creates a large amount of noise and dust and sees diesel emissions being poured into the atmosphere."Many of the mines face opposition locally. At Mainshill, South Lanarkshire, permission has been granted for a Scottish Coal run mine near the Lady Home Hospital near the village of Douglas."This must be the only place in the world where they are putting an opencast mine right next to a hospital," said Lindsay Addison, the vice-chairman of Douglas Community Council."This application is on an area of great landscape value and it will pollute and destroy our community and see the destruction of our landscape." Experts in the coal industry claim that the new mines are needed because a handful of very large mines in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Fife are coming to the end of their natural lives. Coal Authority data for Scotland suggests that current production levels are less than historic averages.Don Nicolson, the chief executive of Scottish Resources Group – the parent company of Scottish Coal – said: "Until renewables can provide a strong, reliable and plentiful volume of energy, then we need to continue to use more traditional sources such as coal."A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Planning policies are firmly in place to ensure opencast coal mining sites are only approved if they are environmentally acceptable or provide local benefits, such as jobs or land improvements. The Scottish Government also strongly supports the development of clean coal and carbon capture technology

Government's biomass cash bonanza brings in waste from around the world

The Sunday Times

May 17, 2009

THE government’s crusade against climate change could turn Britain into the biggest dump for environmental flotsam in Europe. Last month the energy department imposed a new regime that awards generous subsidies to companies that produce power using biomass — plant and organic waste — instead of coal or gas, leading to a rush of proposed new biomass plants across the country.
Every megawatt produced at a biomass station will get 1.5 renewable obligation certificates (ROCs), which can be sold to other producers who exceed their pollution limits. Based on current market value, that adds another £80 on top of the wholesale electricity price of about £45 per MWh. Stations that also use the heat from the power-generation process, known as “combined heat and power”, will get 2 ROCs, representing a 220% mark-up on the normal power price.
Biomass power plants will need far more fuel such as straw, waste wood and elephant grass than can be provided in Britain today. To fill the gap, energy experts predict a surge in exports of everything from Canadian wood chips to palm-oil residue from Indonesia and olive stones from Greece.
In theory, the plant-based fuels are carbon neutral because the pollutants they release are only those they have spent their life absorbing. Yet shipping them across the globe and the heavy use of fertilisers to grow some of them could cancel out the benefits. A recent report for the Environment Agency found that shipping could cut biomass carbon-dioxide reductions by up to 50%.
Today the handful of biomass plants operating in the UK burn mainly wood and animal waste and generate less than 1% of power needs, about 250MW. According to Ernst & Young (E&Y), the consultant, companies have in the past few months received planning consent for, or proposed, facilities that would generate another 2.5GW — a tenfold increase in capacity.
Ben Warren at E&Y estimates that the UK would need to produce about 25m tonnes of biomass to fuel the plants already in the pipeline, but industry insiders estimate that only a few hundred thousand tonnes came from within UK borders last year.
The independent energy group Prenergy plans to build a 300MW plant at Port Talbot in South Wales that will be fed by wood chips from America and Canada. It will need 2m tonnes of wood a year, and this means one ship a week will be unloading at the dock.
Matthew Carse, managing director at Prenergy, claims that it is still “without question far better than burning coal. The carbon you produce shipping it over from America or Canada is approximately 2% of the carbon in the load you are carrying”.
However, Richard Templer, director of the Porter Institute for Sustainable Bioenergy Research at Imperial College, said: “With importing, you don’t know if the trees are being logged sustainably, if they are being replanted.”
Drax, the operator of Europe’s biggest coal-fired station in Selby, North Yorkshire, has plans for three Prenergy-sized plants in Britain. It already uses biomass for a small percentage of the power it produces, using peanut husks, wood chips, straw pellets, willow and palm-oil waste, mostly imported.
To feed its new plants, Drax hopes to convince farmers to grow energy crops — it claims to have identified more than 60 types, but won’t release further “commercially sensitive” details.
Creating a large-scale biomass supply chain within Britain will require an overhaul of the agricultural landscape. The map above shows the areas that energy crops such as wood and elephant grass could cover.

Drax chief executive Dorothy Thompson has also begun negotiations with foreign suppliers.
Alternatives
Wind
This has received the most investment and government backing, but irregularity and high cost are big drawbacks.
Tidal
Energy companies are bidding for seabed sites to start testing turbines, but a full-scale roll out is many years off.
Solar
The price is falling rapidly but it can still be years before the energy savings make up for the cost of installation.
Microgeneration
Rooftop wind turbines and the like are largely impractical.
Energy efficiency
The area with the biggest potential. Simple things such as insulation and energy-saving light bulbs can slash energy bills by a third or more.

US faces a future of big tax rises and smaller cars

The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009
Irwin Stelzer

In the days when it was still necessary to explain just what an economist does, my first job was to crank out a forecast of economic activity in the coming quarter. Get it wrong often enough, and you were gone. Senior employees assigned themselves the longer-term outlooks: their forecasts would be long forgotten by the time the actual data became available.
That was then and this is now. So I will exercise the prerogative of seniority and shorten my comments on the economic outlook to make room for a longer-range look at the post-Obama world in which we Americans will live.
Green shoots continue to sprout. The supply of homes for sale has dropped; banks have survived the stress tests in better shape than many feared and are going about the process of raising capital; the cautious European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet thinks the global economy is starting to recover; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says several of the world’s leading economies are turning up; Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, said demand for computer chips has bottomed out; and spending on technology has stabilised.
However, as usual, there are counter-signals: continued falls in house prices, weakness in the labour market, an impending wave of defaults on commercial-property loans, and heaven only knows what Congress will concoct.
Longer term, there is little doubt that we will be paying more for energy, either directly or indirectly by paying higher taxes to cover the costs of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and of the subsidies being lavished on solar, wind, ethanol and other parts of the green economy by environmentalists. Or, in the case of ethanol, by politicians who equate ethanol with corn, corn with Iowa, and Iowa with the first presidential primary in 2012. Throw in the costs of a “smart grid” and all of us will pay more, especially those who have been stockpiling incandescent electric bulbs so as not to be dependent on the dangerous, malfunctioning and costly energy-saving fluorescents when America follows your country and outlaws incandescents in 2014.
Last week Democrats in the House of Representatives reached an agreement on a cap-and-trade system for carbon-dioxide emission permits by bribing recalcitrant congressmen with free pollution permits for important constituents in the utility, oil and other industries. Which is too bad: cap-and-trade is a woefully inefficient way of imposing emissions costs on polluters. Experience in Europe shows that the price of permits fluctuates so wildly that potential producers of renewable energy don’t have a target against which to compete. Green power might make economic sense when users of coal have to pay $40 a tonne for a permit but is uncompetitive when the price drops to $10, as it has done.
We will also end up paying more to borrow than we would have paid before the government decided that contracts can be broken. The Obama administration demonstrated in the Chrysler bankruptcy that it has no regard for the contracts that have in the past protected lenders who made their money available on the assumption that they would have a preferential claim on the borrowers’ assets. Nor does it believe that contractual pay deals should withstand a raised voiced in Congress. This weakening of the sanctity of contracts increases lenders’ risk, which leads to a demand for an offsetting higher interest rate.
There will also be a big change in the structure of the financial-services sector. New regulations will have a greater effect on institutions that create systemic risk than on smaller, below-the-radar enterprises. So the best and brightest will leave the job of second-vice-presidential-assistant-to-the deputy-risk-manager to the more bureaucratically inclined, and set up shop on their own, or seek other outlets for their entrepreneurial urgings – one of the few pleasant unintended consequences of new regulations.
We are also certain to see take-home pay decline significantly. The debt that Obama is running up will have to be repaid. Already, there are grumblings in the market about the future of the dollar, with the Chinese not the only one of our creditors worrying that we will inflate our way out of our obligations. Run the presses, make dollars cheaper, and use the debased currency to repay debts. But that is not the only possibility. Instead, politicians, remembering the fate of Jimmy Carter when he allowed inflation to climb towards 20%, will try to restore fiscal sanity by raising taxes.
Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who supported the president’s stimulus package, puts the needed tax increase at $1.1 trillion over the next decade; the International Monetary Fund puts the figure at $1.9 trillion, the magnitude of which can be better understood when written as $1,900,000,000,000.
After all, Congress won’t be able to cut spending. Obama’s drive towards a $1 trillion healthcare tax-funded system seems irresistible. Drug companies will go along so they will be relieved of the cost of subsidising lower-income patients’ drug needs. Insurers will go along because the law will require everyone to take some sort of coverage. Employers will go along so they can shift the cost of employee-benefit plans to taxpayers.
So higher taxes are in our future, as is the inevitable queuing with which patients in Canada and Britain are familiar, examples being cited by Obama’s critics in television ads aimed at rousing voter opposition to his programme. Polls show that most Americans are satisfied with the quality of their healthcare. But like so much of what Obama is pushing through, this “reform” will prove irreversible.
Finally, there are the cars we will be driving. It is difficult to predict whether the government can prevent carmakers from producing the big, comfortable, safe cars we prefer, and shoe-horn people into smaller European-style vehicles. But the greens will give it a good try.
Where is the outrage? Perhaps among the mass of voters worried about the rising debt burden faced by their children. We won’t know until next year’s congressional elections.
Irwin Stelzer is a business adviser and director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute
stelzer@aol.com

Tax rise angers energy groups

The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009
Danny Fortson

THE wind industry has accused the government of “sabotage” over a proposed fourfold tax increase that could lead to the scrapping of up to half Britain’s 150 onshore projects.
The hike has infuriated energy groups, which are warning of a wholesale retreat from the struggling sector just weeks after the government unveiled a package of aid measures designed to support it.
In a letter seen by The Sunday Times, Eon accused the government of “giving with one hand and taking with the other”. Infinis, the renewable-energy group owned by Guy Hands’s Terra Firma, said the changes would “amount to between 40% and 50% of [its] portfolio not proceeding past the consent stage”.
Every five years the Treasury’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) resets business rates. Its latest proposal would raise rates from next April from £5,000 per megawatt to £20,000 per megawatt.

Business rates make up about 5% of an onshore wind farm’s running costs, which under the proposal would increase to about 20%, rendering many of the 150 projects planned in Britain unviable. Offshore farms are exempt.
The dramatic difference in rates is due to the inclusion by the VOA of the per-megawatt subsidies that the government has introduced to encourage investment. A spokesman for the BWEA, the industry lobby group, said: “We won’t be able to deliver on the government’s targets if schemes are no longer profitable.”

Testing environmental pollution liability rules take effect

New environmental liability rules could catch you out. Steve Coates from Allianz advises

By DoctorBiz Last Updated: 7:36PM GMT 16 Mar 2009

Q: I run a small waste management company in Yorkshire and I've heard that a new environmental liability directive came into force on 1 March. What are the implications for me and what precautions should I take?
A: The Environmental Liability Directive sets out requirements that member states must enact to prevent and remedy environmental damage, specifically damage to habitats and species protected by EC law. It aims to hold companies, whose activities have caused environmental damage, financially liable for remedying the damage.

The existing UK pollution liability regime, which includes the Environmental Protection Act 1990, already imposes significant responsibilities on polluters. The directive extends the liability of polluters beyond property damage and into areas of environmental damage and un-owned property such as rivers, countryside and wildlife.
If you or your workforce causes any environmental damage, the new directive imposes a wide range of responsibilities and will cost your company money if you are responsible for a pollution incident. Alarmingly, research commissioned by Allianz has shown that 77 per cent of businesses are unaware of the new law and its implications. It is therefore crucial that businesses talk to their brokers to fully understand the insurance cover that is required and make sure suitable cover is in place.
A proposal to make it compulsory for operators to take out insurance was not included in the final version of the directive. Instead, it suggests that member states encourage the use and development of insurance products or other forms of financial security. The implications are that traditional liability policies are ill-equipped to meet the challenges posed by the new legislation because of the different nature of directive's liability. Therefore, those companies in the UK who rely on existing public liability may find their policy does not provide the protection they require.
A standard public liability policy, for instance, will cover an insured party's legal liability to pay damages to a third party for accidental injury, damage to property, nuisance or interference with some other right. Although statutory clean costs and remediation are likely to be the most costly aspect of many pollution incidents, a standard public liability policy will not normally cover these costs.
Provision of cover via traditional third party liability insurance is difficult; some liability insurers might be willing to extend policies to cover certain directive liabilities, although a proper environmental liability policy will usually provide a more cost-effective solution.
Businesses need to take relevant steps to understand how their activities might expose them to the risk of pollution. Risks must be assessed and understood from which risk management techniques can be deployed to remove or reduce the risk. Insurance arrangements should be re-evaluated in the light of the more onerous responsibilities placed on businesses to ensure cover remains appropriate. Your insurance broker/adviser should be able to provide advice on cover available.
Steve Coates, head of Property & Casualty, Allianz

Supermarkets battle to be the greenest of all

The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009

Smart initiatives win over customers and help to cut costs too, writes Jenny Davey
Nick Rodrigues

Wm Morrison is launching a new scheme to help slash the 12m tonnes of food waste created in Britain each year.
The initiative from the Bradford-based supermarket giant — called Great Taste, Less Waste — is designed to tackle the 6.7m tonnes of food that ends up in customers’ rubbish bins. The supermarket group plans to put up signs in its stores and post tips and advice on its website — such as putting apples in the fridge to make them last 14 days longer.
The project is the latest salvo from the big grocery chains in what has become the equivalent of an environmental arms race.
Supermarkets have competed for a place on The Sunday Times Green List for the first time this year. Tesco and Asda blazed
a trail for other high-street retailers and have been rewarded for their efforts with rankings among the 60 Best Green Companies in Britain.
The big four — Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Wm Morrison — are competing to be seen as the greenest, attempting to measure up to the environmental aspirations of some of their customers while seeking to inspire others to go green.
It is two years since Tesco pledged to put carbon labels on all its products, while Marks & Spencer launched Plan A — a 100-point programme to improve its environmental credentials. The two high-street giants started a race to become the greenest retailer in Britain.
Back then, the City largely dismissed the initiatives and questioned whether they were simply marketing gimmicks. But it has since become clear that, for supermarkets, going green is not about pure altruism or even good PR — it is also about the bottom line.
Retailers have discovered that the eco-agenda saves them money and brings in customers. That drive is likely to accelerate during the next five years as the British and American governments examine a range of green taxes that could hit companies that don’t embrace change..
It all means that, far from slipping down the agenda during the recession, green issues are more important than ever.
Alison Austin, environment manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “We haven’t dropped anything during the recession. Everything we do is either really good for the commercial bottom line or it is something that customers care about.”
This was borne out in the company’s latest results, published last week, which showed annual profits up 11% to £543m. Though the supermarket credited the increase in profits largely to its Switch and Save campaign, which promotes lower-priced Sainsbury’s-labelled products, supply-chain efficiency programmes helped to offset some 75% of the total cost inflation from wages, property and energy costs.

As the green agenda has become more competitive and focused, all the supermarkets have recognised that a big part of their carbon-dioxide emissions come from their supply chain — particularly in shipping goods to and from stores. Supply-chain emissions are thought to account for as much as 80% of a retailer’s carbon footprint.
Sainsbury’s now has a target to reduce its emissions per case of products by 15% by 2012. One of the initiatives is the introduction of an integrated transport management system, which calculates the most efficient timings and routes for deliveries, while minimising the number of empty vehicles on the road.
The group has also ruthlessly cut costs in all its stores. Its Reset programme has involved getting engineers to check every boiler, radiator, refrigerator and light in its stores to make sure they are working perfectly or at the optimum temperature. During the past two years the supermarket estimates the Reset initiative has cut its carbon-dioxide emissions by 53,000 tonnes a year.
The supermarkets are also responding to pressure from customers. Sainsbury’s responded to demand on green issues and stopped selling eggs from battery hens and introduced fish fingers in its own-label basics range which are cooked in certified sustainable palm oil. It found that by, boasting about the switch to palm oil on its packaging, sales of the fish fingers doubled.
David North, community and government director at Tesco, acknowledged the role customers are playing in pushing green initiatives. “The role of the consumer in terms of climate change is not properly understood. Every great change in society and the economy is achieved by the public. Therefore, as a consumer-facing business we can play a great role in achieving a green revolution.”
Tesco has continued to put green issues at the centre of its business strategy. It has an ambitious global target for every new store to have 50% less carbon-dioxide emissions than its existing shops. Like its rivals, it is focusing on ways to cut down on truck mileage in its supply chain, partly by increasing sales of local produce.
In-store, it has tried to make it easier for customers to be green by cutting the cost of low-energy lightbulbs.
North said: “When we reduced the price of energy-saving light bulbs it revealed a pent-up demand. Customers want to be green and are looking at businesses to set the example.
“We have to get back to being a low-carbon economy and it is in the best interests of Tesco to be green because we believe all successful businesses will be green.”
Julian Walker-Palin, head of corporate policy for sustainability and ethics at Asda, said that a desire to be green cuts across all geographies and customer income brackets. When Asda first tried to reduce carrier-bag usage by putting them under the checkout rather than on display, the initiative was taken up quickest at Asda stores with the lowest-income customers.
“People felt they could do their bit for the environment by not taking a carrier bag and it proved you do not have to be rich to be sustainable.”
Asda has pledged to send zero waste to landfill by 2010 and has created a special taskforce packed with outside experts who can advise the retailer on how to reduce packaging waste. Some experts believe that the green initiatives could even make the retailers some money.

Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer, said that during the past six months its Plan A green policy has become cost neutral and analysts believe that, over time, it could even make a profit for the company.
M&S announced the plan in January 2007 and pledged to invest £200m in the initiative — but as cost savings have borne fruit, they have already offset the green investments made by the company.
Additional reporting by Nick Rodrigues and Tricia Davis
Every little helps at Tesco
WELCOME to the greenest supermarket in Britain. The Tesco store in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, has a carbon footprint 70% smaller than any of the retailer’s other outlets.
Opened four months ago, it takes advantage of the most innovative developments in environmentally friendly architecture and engineering and provides the template for a new generation of low-carbon supermarkets.
It is the product of two years of testing environmentally friendly designs, materials and technologies in Tesco stores across Britain.
The 70% carbon savings at Cheetham Hill fall into three broad areas: energy efficiency (31% saving), use of natural refrigeration (20%) and use of renewable energy (20%).
Store lights dim and turn themselves off according to the availability of natural light, while everything used in the construction of the store has had its environmental impact assessed.
“We carved up the store into key areas, we looked at every single item and worked with our suppliers to see where we could make improvements,” said programme manager Jake Ronay.
The most notable features of the new store are the wooden beams that run throughout and the natural light.
“The warmth of the light and the timber is not what customers are used to,” said Ronay. “But wood is a good building material from a sustainable source and the natural light gives the store an 8% energy reduction.”
Another innovation is its combined cooling, heat and power plant, which meets 25% of the store’s electricity needs, all of its heat and 50% of its refrigeration. At its heart is a Scania engine powered by vegetable oil. Its carbon-dioxide emissions are 78% lower than those of a conventional power plant.
Deputy manager Jon Taylor said the store has had a huge impact. “The difference is visually obvious, so your attitude changes straight away,” he said. “The building makes it easy to care for the environment. It turns you into an eco fan.”

Got any rubbish? Price of recyclable waste recovers

Last year, you couldn't give away old paper and bottles. But now the salvage industry is back in business and starting a new boom

By Rachel Shields
Sunday, 17 May 2009

As an investment tip it is unlikely to inspire a rush: put your money in rubbish. Nevertheless, new figures reveal that the price of recyclable waste has doubled in the past six months.
The news will provide a boost to Britain's flagging recycling movement, and go some way towards reversing the gloom over mountains of glass bottles and newspapers piling up across Britain after the drop last year in the value of recyclables.
It will also be a welcome change for UK waste collection companies and councils, hit hard by a drop in demand last autumn for paper, bottles and cans from countries such as China and India. There had been calls for warehouses and disused airfields to be made available for storing rubbish that could not be sold.
A huge global drop in the volume of waste being produced, partly due to the economic downturn, is thought to have sparked the recent sharp rise. The price of cardboard has trebled to £59 per ton since November, while PET – the plastic used in drinks bottles – has also more than doubled from £75 per ton to £195. During the same time period, the price of gold has risen by just 14 per cent, and crude oil by 16 per cent.
"The main reason for this is that the quantity of recycled material available around the world is lower than it was six months ago. It is a question of supply and demand," said George Broom, the owner of the commercial recycling company Environmental Support Services. "Also, the international demand that had dropped off is coming back."
Reports are also suggesting that overseas demand for recyclable materials is slowly increasing. "Prices are creeping up," said Lorna Langdon, managing director of Paperchasers. "The price for highgrade paper fell last year from £60 a ton to nothing at Christmas time, but has now risen to around £35 a ton. All industries have had a downturn, which includes the recycling industry. I'm sure it will improve."
Figures released by the government waste watchdog Waste Resources and Action Programme (Wrap) last week confirmed that the price of recovered materials is continuing to rise. The latest figures show that plastic bottles are increasing in value, with PET bottle prices currently at, or above, last year's peak, and paper prices are edging higher.
Although the slump in the value of recycling materials did not have a measurable impact on levels of household recycling across the UK, reports of the slump in prices did little to help consumer confidence.
"Wrap tracks consumer recycling very closely, and there has been absolutely no evidence of a significant fall in recycling behaviour since the fall in prices," said a spokesperson. "But it's also clear from the research that consumers want to be confident that what they put out is actually recycled into something useful. So this evidence of rising prices and rising demand should definitely help reinforce consumer confidence that recycling remains worthwhile."

Business case for thinking green

The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009

Whatever the size of the firm, belief in the eco cause drives real change, says Alastair McCall
Better training, greater awareness and improved communication on green issues characterise the 60 businesses included in the second Sunday Times Green List to be published next week.
Our unique survey of almost 21,000 employees shows how much they want to be green with a rise this year in the average employee green score to 73.4% from 69.8% in 2008.
“This is a significant shift,” says Will Ullstein, director of innovation with Munro Global, the market-research group and partner with The Sunday Times in producing the Green List. “Underpinning this overall rise in companies’ green scores are fundamental changes in corporate practice covering reducing waste, improved environmental training, encouragement of good green working practices and bosses willing to lead from the front.
“All the companies on the Green List have realised that you can’t achieve lasting change if you don’t bring your workforce with you.”
The employees of our greenest businesses say there is plenty of evidence this year of businesses changing long-established working practices. The score for companies not being perceived by employees to be producing too much waste is up from 56.5% last year to 63%, the 6.5 percentage point rise being one of the sharpest in year-on-year scores.
They say environmental issues are at the heart of how their companies do business, the 74.2% green score here representing a 4.3-point rise on 2008 — which is both encouraging and necessary with the Carbon Reduction Commitment due to come into force for up to 20,000 of Britain’s largest organisations from next year (see panel below).
More workers are being encouraged to car-share or use public transport to get to and from work, the score rising from 54.8% to 61.7%, up 6.9 points in the past 12 months with the same rise achieved for staff receiving adequate environment training, up from 63.3% in 2008 to 70.2% now. Internal communications about green issues are also improved, up 6.2 points on last year to give a green score of 78.8%.
Perhaps as a consequence of better training and communications, employees are showing a greater literacy with environmental issues, evidenced by a 5.6-point rise to give a green score of 65.8% for improved understanding of carbon footprints.
Richard Caseby, managing editor of The Sunday Times, said: “We might have expected staff interest with green initiatives to decline as they and their bosses coped with economic distractions. The reverse appears to be true.”
High levels of engagement are reflected in the total of 99 companies that registered for this year’s competition, which was open to all businesses in the UK. We received many more approaches from firms that considered entry but held back, perhaps put off by the level of detail required about corporate practices or the searching nature of the employee survey.
All the firms making the top 60 were subjected to rigorous data verification by Bureau Veritas to ensure they were achieving the levels of recycling and energy consumption claimed in their submissions, and that their environmental management systems were as described. Where discrepancies were found, scores were adjusted. Many were subjected to a site visit from Bureau Veritas environment consultants.
“It takes a brave chief executive to submit their business to the level of scrutiny required of this competition,” said Caseby. “Only the most scrupulous, making genuine changes to their environmental footprint, made the final cut.”

Within the overall competition that produced the Green List five smaller contests took place:
- Big and mid-sized companies (with more than 250 employees) with high environmental impact (14 companies in this category made the overall top 60);
- Big and mid-sized companies with medium environmental impact (11 companies);
- Big and mid-sized companies with low environmental impact (11 companies);
- Small companies (with between 50 and 249 employees) with high and medium environmental impacts (18 companies);
- Small companies with low environmental impact (six companies).
Two new awards will be made this week recognising the special challenges facing larger companies trying to be greener:
- Best big company for corporate environmental strategy;
- Best big company for employee engagement.
And from them all, one firm will be chosen for the ultimate accolade: best green company in Britain.
The competition attracted businesses ranging in size from supermarket Tesco with 185,000 employees to office-supplies firm Wiles Greenworld with 50.
The top 60 remained balanced in terms of size with 12 big companies (with 5,000 or more employees), 23 mid-sized firms (with 250 to 4,999 employees) and 25 small enterprises (with 50 to 249 employees).

The range of environmental impacts was also wide, taking in several construction firms — such as Carillion, Skanska, Willmott Dixon, Wates Group and Morgan Lovell — as well as small, low-impact concerns such as Explore, the travel agency.
Across the Green List as a whole there are 16 high-impact companies, 27 medium and 17 low-impact firms, again reflecting the equality of opportunity for businesses of all sizes and impact to succeed in this list.
Meaningful changes to environmental practices were what really scored in our survey. Alongside energy consumption (gas and electricity) we recorded water use for the first time this year. The proportion of companies achieving at least a 3% year-on-year reduction in consumption of these services was 30%, 42% and 43% respectively. Meanwhile, three-quarters of the top 60 companies achieved either a 10% reduction in waste produced or a 10% increase in waste recycled in at least one of three waste streams nominated for examination in the survey.
Improvements like these could be achieved by many other companies. And the evidence provided by employees of the firms that made it on to our list suggests that other organisations which are still hanging back, reluctant to embrace green issues, might soon find themselves forced into action by the concerns and demands of the people they employ.
Additional reporting by Alan Copps
Staff make it happen
IF you want to “green” your company, there is no better starting place than your staff. That was the view taken by the London office of Mediacom, the global media-planning business, in an initiative that is now being copied by its branches in several other countries.
“Once a year we have a consultation called ‘If I ran the company’,” said managing partner Gavin Duke, “and a couple of years ago the winning entry said ‘We want to be carbon neutral’. The case was well-argued so we decided to make it happen.”
The first step was a carbon audit. This established that the UK operation, which turns over about £1 billion a year and has 600 employees, was producing emissions equivalent to 2,300 tons of carbon dioxide a year. “We examined the sources — electricity use, transport, waste and so on, and then set about each in turn, methodically, using the principles reduce, re-use, recycle,” said Duke.
Electricity was by far the greatest source of emissions. The company signed up to a green tariff for its Holborn office, installed long-life lightbulbs, movement-sensitive floor lighting and programmed computers to hibernate after 20 minutes. Paper usage was cut by curbing unnecessary printing, increasing double-sided printing, ending subscriptions to unwanted magazines and newspapers and increasing recycling. Staff were encouraged to cut down on business travel and cycle to work.
It was not possible to wipe out the carbon footprint entirely, so the company bought carbon offsets to achieve the neutral goal. “The offsets cost us about £20,000 a year but that is more than compensated for by the savings we have achieved, I would estimate them at about £40,000,” said Duke.
The latest venture is turning office balconies into vegetable gardens, planting grow bags with tomatoes, chillies and pumpkins. Mac Stephenson from the international department was picked to run this scheme because he has an allotment. “Staff are divided into teams and there will be a ‘best-looking tomato’ contest at the end of the summer,” he said. “It shows people how easy it is to grow vegetables.”
“It’s a bottom-up approach with serious management support. It’s what people wanted here,” said Duke. “But it’s not an overt thing when we’re dealing with clients. However, when they come into the building they notice the difference, and we’re now seeing questions about sustainability creeping into tender documents and so on.”
Forced to cut carbon
THE Carbon Reduction Commitment comes into force in April 2010. It is designed to stimulate energy efficiency across the economy, including large companies, local councils, universities and other public-sector bodies. They will be obliged to join its carbon-trading scheme, calculating their carbon emissions and then buying carbon credits against future emissions. Failure to comply will result in penalties of up to £500,000. Companies will be named and shamed in league tables showing who is doing most to cut emissions.

Financier donates millions to climate research

The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009
Jeremy Grantham has given British universities £24m in a bid to save the planet, writes Jonathan Leake

SOME might have called it a strange investment. Just as the worst of the credit crunch was hitting home last year Jeremy Grantham decided to bet £12m that economists could save the world.
The British financier, who founded the Boston-based investment fund GMO, which has £55 billion under its management, gave the money to the London School of Economics (LSE) to fund an institute for researching the economics of climate change. A similar amount went to Imperial College London to study climate science.
Altogether, the £24m is one of the largest donations ever made to climate research. It is an area that has so far been spectacularly ignored by other private philanthropists. So why did Yorkshire-born Grantham do it?
“Because climate change is turning into the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. I wanted to invest my money in places where it might actually help tackle that problem,” said the financier last week, speaking exclusively to The Sunday Times about his donation.
The words sound apocalyptic — but who is he? Most of us have not heard of him but in financial circles Grantham, a British √©migr√©, is known for his investment skills.
What he is renowned for, however, is being one of the few big investors to have publicly predicted the collapse of the American and British property markets, and the global credit crunch that followed.
Not many believed him back in 2006 — and even fewer may want to believe his latest predictions. Because Grantham believes climate change could lead to the collapse of Earth’s ecosystems and even threaten human civilisation.
So concerned is Grantham, 70, over this issue that he has set up the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, endowed with £165m of his own money, to fund environmental research and campaigns. From it he is funding the LSE and Imperial donations, and other grants to American groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund.
Grantham sees such donations as an investment in the future. He said: “We are destroying the planet. We are in the middle of one of the greatest extinctions of species Earth has seen. If it continues unchecked, humanity will soon be running out of food and water.
“What it means is that the environment, especially climate change, is going to be the central issue for all society, including business, politics and the economy. Capitalism and business are going to have to remodel themselves and adapt to a rapidly changing and eventually very different world.”
Grantham grew up in Yorkshire and went to university in Sheffield before moving to America in 1968 to take an MBA at Harvard. However, his decision to invest some of his foundation’s money in Britain was not a nostalgic one. It followed the publication of Lord Stern’s report on The Economics of Climate Change and it is now Stern who heads the LSE institute.
Those choices are already paying dividends. The LSE’s research seems likely to play a key role in this December’s UN negotiations in Copenhagen where world leaders will seek agreement on cutting greenhouse gases. The work by Imperial, led by the eminent atmospheric scientist Sir Brian Hoskins, will also be crucial.

Why have we got ourselves into this state? And why do we need economists to get us out? After all, they did a pretty bad job by not predicting the credit crunch. Isn’t climate change mainly a scientific issue?
“Humanity is largely innumerate,” said Grantham.
“They don’t understand how frightening the numbers behind climate change really are. What’s more, the people who can count, the scientists, are paralysed with fear about overstating their case. They have consistently understated the risk and so allowed politicians to ignore it.”
Grantham believes that economists like Stern can help translate the science of climate change into practical politics and economic policies.
Some might argue that Grantham would have been better off spending his money on donations to political parties. After all, history has shown how a few million pounds in the right political pockets can buy influence.
Grantham never considered it.
“I don’t approve of that kind of government. It’s very sleazy.”
Instead he put his energy into persuading fellow financiers to support green causes. “In America there are half a dozen hedge-fund managers who have given huge support. We raised £3m for environmental causes in one evening. In the UK it is desperately hard to get money for anything, let alone the environment.”
Professor Cathy Pharoah, co-director of City University’s Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, suspects climate change is such a big problem that many would-be donors do not know how to donate or who to give to.
“Climate change has yet to become an attractive issue for many donors,” she said.
She also found that the top 50 environment charities had income of £977m in 2007 — less than half the £2.1 billion achieved by the 50 top overseas aid charities, such as Oxfam. The National Trust is the organisation that raises the most money — about £63m a year.
Scientists argue, however, that there is little point donating money to save birds, woodlands or coastline from short-term threats if they are simply going to be wiped out by global warming later on.
Grantham agrees. With three grown-up children and his first grandchild on the way, he sees money spent on climate research as an investment in the world his grandchildren will inherit.
He is, however, increasingly pessimistic about what kind of world that will be.
“Our species is very bad at dealing with issues like these, so the outlook is bleak. There is no alternative to doing all we can but I suspect humanity is going to face a lot of grief.”