With COP27 taking place in Egypt this November bringing world leaders together to focus on climate change and sustainability, LCR High Growth Programme reached out to Liverpool City Region thought leaders to see how we can move to building sustainable business growth.
We interviewed Tony Seasman, Project Manager with Clean Growth UK at Liverpool John Moores University and member of the Growth Platform Clean Growth Board to gather his thoughts on building #SustainableLCR.
Clean Growth UK catalyses clean and green innovation through access to university expertise and facilities, commercialisation and investment support. They help businesses develop clean and green products, services and processes through access to expertise and facilities at three regional university hubs.
Q: What do you feel is the key driver for businesses in terms of sustainability?
A: I think businesses as a whole have different drivers.
- The cost of living might not affect many now if they are tied into a contract but energy costs have gone up around 150% so it’s going to have an impact and I’m sure they’ll be worried about this, not to mention the ripple effect so cost of everything that they purchase will be going up;
- Those that bid for work are being asked to demonstrate a lot more in their tenders and the weight of this section has become a lot bigger so these guys have to benchmark, measure, monitor and demonstrate etc. So supply chain pressure and accessing new markets are drivers.
- Changing legislation and knowing that they need to be ‘futureproofing’ their business to be more resilient for what comes their way – there’s probably a limit to what they can control but it is a driver.
- I’ve been doing this a long time and we never used to see businesses acting out of altruism but we have lots of conversations with businesses now and they accept the bigger picture and therefore, doing the right thing has crept in to their thinking. So I would say a driver would be the Liverpool City Region pathway to 2040 – we all have to do our bit and work together.
- Finally I would say the feeling of not being left behind and staying competitive. This could’ve been the first point but it is an all encompassing point I think, that almost goes without saying…. It’s what you’re in business to do.
Q: What is the most impactful change businesses can make to become more sustainable?
A: Unfortunately I think it is still the case that most businesses have their heads down on the day to day and therefore still haven’t taken a step back to put a strategy in place. If they do this, with support if necessary, they will still have to make lots of decisions along the way. So for all sorts of reasons they do have to measure their carbon footprint (scopes 1, 2 and 3 – don’t avoid 3 (the toughest part)) because then they can take the individual parts and put things in place to reduce. It is only when they have knowledge and can quantify that they can make decisions / demonstrate and communicate. Going back to tenders or marketing content for their customers, businesses need to prove what they are doing and how much they have reduced their carbon footprint by – greenwashing can be spotted a mile off.
Also businesses cannot claim to be working towards Net Zero if they haven’t done a carbon assessment and developed a timeline with a reduction plan in place that allows the business to forecast some future activity and reductions. You would tackle the low hanging fruit first and low cost options, then work out other things that would require resource and decisions from Finance etc. It doesn’t have to be done in one go, which is impossible anyway because there should never be a point where you would think ‘job done’.
Finally, businesses are about people. So if you want impact you need to educate, engage and motivate staff. Do that right and change / impact will happen.
Q: How important is innovation for businesses to begin to work towards net zero and improve their sustainability?
A: It has always made perfect business sense to manage environmental impacts and save money / be seen as a responsible business, but most businesses are SMEs and struggle with time and finance (to name a couple of the most critical barriers). You also find when they start thinking about it, they lack knowledge within the business and can easily lose motivation as the process is and should be a continual one.
I would say that innovation, a new idea or introduction of something new is crucial to the success of any business. Behaviour change interests me as it is difficult to explain and yet is the most critical aspect to all of this. For example, we know climate change is happening and is man made so why don’t we do more as individuals and businesses? We know innovation is crucial to a business’ survival so why would a lot of business do what they have always done? At LJMU in my 8 and a half years we’ve probably supported 500 businesses and just by coming to us and exploring what they can do, they are being innovative.
Innovation is important because there’s no set way of doing things.