Environmental Leadership

ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP

Welcome to the Martin Haese Report, the sixth in my series of musings on entrepreneurial leadership. With COVID-19 having wreaked havoc across industry sectors around the world and in turn disrupting how many do business, a growing number of people are asking whether it’s time to reconsider the business community’s relationship with the natural environment. I am one of those who believe that it is now timely to discuss how entrepreneurial and environmental leadership intersect.

COP21 Paris 2015
Before we commence, some context that qualifies me to share my thoughts on this topic. In my former role as Lord Mayor of Adelaide, I was invited to attend the United Nations COP21 in Paris in December 2015 where I spoke at several functions including the Sustainable Innovation Forum. It was at COP21 that I grasped the significance and strategic importance of South Australia’s renewable energy leadership and the high regard in which the State is held on the world stage.

It was also in Paris that I signed the Compact of Mayors, met with world leaders who are committed to environmental and economic leadership, and committed to educating myself about climate change adaptation, mitigation, the growth of low emissions industries and the circular economy.

Over the ensuing years as Lord Mayor, I focused my energies on translating South Australia’s renewable energy leadership into practical actions within the City of Adelaide. These included the City of Adelaide’s Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025, the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Action Plan 2016-2021, Sustainability Incentives SchemeSolar Savers Adelaide, the roll out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and many tree planting, waste and water management programs.

In January 2019, South Australian State Minister David Speirs MP appointed me as Chair of the Premier’s Climate Change Council (PCCC) where I have since worked alongside a talented group of fellow Council members to advise and inform the State Government on climate change adaptation, mitigation and the importance of low emissions industries in South Australia.

In September this year, I (virtually) attended a number of sessions at Climate Week 2020 in New York City where I watched HRH Prince Charles’ inspirational address;

Has COVID displaced climate change?
While the global pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, there is a growing anxiety that some other pressing issues are being neglected, most notably climate change. This is a topic that was swept to the top of the national agenda when the drought culminated in last summer’s devastating bushfires, but was quickly set aside with the onset of COVID-19 only three months later.

But rather than despair, I suggest that the pandemic may in fact provide an opportunity to reassess, recalibrate and refocus on climate change issues, as COVID-19 has resulted in many people developing a greater awareness and appreciation for the natural environment.

For many, COVID-19 has forced a rethink about how we consume, where we consume, and who we consume from. This is resulting in a protracted shift towards people wanting to buy from and do business with organisations that either have an environmental sustainability policy (ESP), a goal for carbon neutrality, are actively involved in the circular economy, or have greater transparency about their waste cycle.

Consumer behaviour is changing
Consumer sentiment and behaviour is changing and if businesses don’t respond to the needs of their customers then they are often not in business for much longer. With more organisations putting measures in place that govern how and where they invest, there is a stronger emphasis being placed on whether organisations are making investments into climate aware and climate appropriate companies.

Insurable risk is another key consideration in business decision making, and assessing climate risk is already driving behavioural change within the business community. To illustrate the point, in January 2020, the Vice Chairman of BlackRock discussed their plan to avoid investments with high sustainability-related risk as climate concerns are driving a sweeping change in the way the firm invests and manages its $7 trillion in assets.

An opportunity rich environment
With rapid advances in technology, changing consumer behaviour and new demands being placed upon institutional investors, the low emissions sector is clearly the next big thing. If the steel, plastic, aluminium, cement, food and agriculture sectors were each to adopt circular and low carbon practices, not only would 9 billion tonnes of carbon be saved by 2050, a multi-trillion dollar carbontech sector would be unleashed.

In the following video, I share my thoughts on how climate change and technological innovation are catalysing the growth of low emissions industries and greater innovation within the circular economy.

However, while the economy is clearly important, I caution you against thinking that every climate related problem or opportunity must be considered in pure economic terms. After all, it has been that very thinking that has got into the predicament we currently find ourselves. Sometimes doing the right thing should be justification enough.

Thank you for reading my blog : The Martin Haese Report.

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With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

How will South Australia’s single use plastic ban impact you?

Just stop and count how much plastic is in your immediate vicinity right now.

It’s in our phones, our clothes, the seats we sit on – plastic is everywhere. 

Plastic is so useful that we produced an estimated 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic between 1950 and 2015 – that’s more than 1 tonne of plastic for every person on the planet today.

But there is a difference between ‘useful’ and ‘convenient’ and the line has become increasingly blurred. 

In 2015 alone, we produced 381 million tonnes of plastic and 146 million tonnes of that was used for packaging. 

That’s around 38.5% of total plastic production going into packaging – the stuff we use once and throw away.

You can read more about global plastic production, uses and disposal at ourworldindata.org

South Australia has consistently punched above its weight when it comes to recycling and reducing consumer waste – we developed a container deposit scheme 40 years before the rest of Australia and introduced a ban on plastic shopping bags nearly a decade before the other states even noticed they were a problem.

It seems like every South Australian has a story about crossing our borders and noticing the cans and bottles littering the roadsides.

So it’s no surprise that South Australians are leading the way again.

Earlier this year the SA Government released a discussion paper and subsequent stakeholder engagement found overwhelming public support for government action to reduce single use plastic consumption.

Recognising that businesses will need a transition period, the government will act on single use plastic in three phases;

Phase 1 – banning plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers – starting as soon as they can get legislation through parliament in early 2020 and the minister has assured us that valid concerns from disability and aged groups have been heard.

Phase 2 – banning polystyrene cups and polystyrene takeaway containers as well as ‘oxo’ degradable plastic bags (the ones that are degradable over a longer period of time but aren’t compostable or biodegradable)

I suspect there are many who would like to see Phase 2 brought forward but the government has wisely chosen to flag these changes up to a year in advance to give businesses time to transition to alternatives.

Phase 3 – Will see more consultation and research into banning or further recycling options for other items such as takeaway coffee cups, thicker (non compostable) plastic bags and other takeaway containers.

South Australians will do what they’ve always done – we will adapt our behaviour and lead the rest of the world.

You can download and read more about the government’s consultation process and subsequent plan at greenindustries.sa.gov.au

What keeps the world’s business leaders up at night?

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Each year the World Economic Forum asks business leaders and other experts which major threats they believe countries are most likely to face in the coming decade. In the latest report, the top three global risks concern the environment and climate change—with destructive weather leading the pack for the third year in a row. For Americans, it seems, that threat is already here. Last year there were 14 weather disasters in the U.S. with losses topping $1 billion each—from Hurricanes Florence and Michael to the devastating California wildfires. That’s more than twice the annual average from 1980 to 2018.

A version of this article appears in the March 2019 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline, “What Scares the World.”

CHART SOURCE: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

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