By Vincent Neate, Head of Sustainability at KPMG in the UK
We were delighted to welcome Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to KPMG’s offices yesterday where he launched his ‘green growth’ initiative. There were several really interesting aspects to the speech that caught my attention.
Firstly, the Deputy Prime Minister made it very clear from the outset that he regards green as a source of competitive advantage. It is not a handicap or an extra cost that will hold us back. Green technology properly embraced can help both businesses to make and consumers to save money. There are a number of government initiatives under way to help make that happen, with a particular focus on consumer households of modest means.
Secondly, I was very pleased to hear Mr Clegg’s reference to the importance of “natural capital”. Mr Clegg will be representing the UK at the Rio+20 summit in the summer where, he said, he will be “pushing for greater global protections for our natural assets.” This is a really important area. We have heard recently, for example, about the danger to bees and the cost to farmers if they have to pollinate their crops without them. KPMG has been working with a number of clients to help them understand natural capital – for example, developing the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s training modules on valuing eco-systems.
I was also very interested by the reference in the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech to trialling a project where consumers are told how much energy other, similar households use. This seems to be the “nudge” philosophy in action! The idea, made famous in the book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, is that the most effective way of influencing someone’s behaviour is by giving them a nudge, in this instance showing them what other people are doing. We have heard a lot about the Coalition’s interest in this but to see the concept actually entering government policy is fascinating.
Overall, a strong message has been sent out about the importance of the green agenda. If we want a progressive economy and a progressive society, we cannot afford to ignore it.