“No one is too small to make a difference” – Greta Thunberg.

On Earth Day last April, I wrote about how collaborations were happening to deal with the dire effects of Coronavirus. There has since been an “unprecedented” level of cooperation to research, test and produce the several vaccines. This required the combined efforts of researchers, scientists, and volunteers. Now the results of these collaborative projects look as though they could change the course of the pandemic as the vaccines are rolled out. The political point scoring that has accompanied it shouldn’t detract from the massive achievement of developing effective vaccines in less than a year, a process that often takes up to ten years.

This would not have happened without collaboration between scientists, universities, governments and international pharma companies – an unlikely set of partners on the face of it. Yet they were all driven by the overwhelming ambition to produce something that would stop the virus in its tracks. And they have succeeded.

What if we collaborated to solve other threats to life?

This same level of ambition is needed to counter an equally large threat to our way of life – climate change. Nearly every day there is a report about another disaster that has been caused by climate change. The most recent is a glacier melting in the Himalayas causing a flood which has taken 26 lives so far with 197 people missing. 

Himalayan glaciers play an important role in South Asia, providing drinking water and water resources for agriculture, hydropower and biodiversity. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region are a crucial water supply for the 240 million people who live in the region. – MS News

240 million people is 48 times the population of Ireland – disasters like this put millions of lives and livelihoods at risk of drought and famine. As a result of this disaster, scientists are calling for a review of hydroelectric projects being built in this ecologically sensitive area. Whilst we need carbon neutral (or even carbon positive) methods to produce our energy, it must not be at the expense of the very ecosystem we are trying to protect. 

This means that a collaborative approach and strategy is urgently needed by the energy companies, regulators, governments and international bodies. 

Which brings me to the multinational oil companies, who have been slow to adapt their business models and even slower to recognise the benefits of collaborating to develop new ways of working. They have invested derisory amounts into renewable energy production despite making a big song and dance about their efforts. The EU is soon to introduce measures that will prevent this greenwashing. From the Irish Times:

The European Commission will be introducing rules for asset managers on environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures in the middle of next month, along with a taxonomy to provide clear legal definitions on sustainability that will make greenwashing more difficult.

And I love this snippet from Laura Slattery in Planet Business from last Saturday’s Irish Times. 

The list: Smaller oil

Time to start panic-shopping for tiny violins: Big Oil has been suffering in this pandemic too. So what have its leading lights been telling investors?

  1. Exxon Mobil. The oil major this week reported its first annual loss in 40 years. Oh, and there was a $19 billion assets writedown.
  2. BP. The slump in demand led to BP’s first annual loss in a decade. Warmer weather in the US than expected and colder conditions in Asia also hindered its natural gas trading performance.
  3. Chevron. It was “a year like no other”, said chief executive Mike Wirth of 2020 and he didn’t mean it in a good way, obviously.
  4. Royal Dutch Shell. It cut its shareholder dividend in 2020 for the first time since the second World War.
  5. Total. The French energy giant’s full-year earnings aren’t due until next week, but the signs are it hasn’t escaped the big slash-and-burn.

Beginning to sound like stranded assets to me.

Collaboration for the greater good

On a more positive note, there are many collaborative projects happening that are working  towards a more sustainable future. 

A great example is a partnership between two large state sponsored bodies in Ireland cooperating to generate clean energy. The regulator has just approved a €1bn partnership deal between Coillte and the ESB to build wind farms to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030. This will be renewable energy that will power about half a million homes. 

Another good example is Thriftify, the online charity shop. This platform has grown and expanded during the recent lockdowns as charity shops have been closed. Competing charity shop chains are now all on the same platform and benefiting from being a one stop shop for those who are missing the trip to their local charity shop.

I am currently collaborating with Sarah Blake of Earthology on a joint project called Green Zebra. We are putting together an innovative package of information and support for businesses who want to be more sustainable but don’t know where to start. We’ve already delivered webinars to a number of business owners and helped a senior management team put together the business case for sustainability in their company. Watch this space for more updates!

“No one is too small to make a difference” is not just a good quote but a maxim we can all live by. Whether it is choosing to buy second hand or changing your energy supplier to a 100% renewable source, there is much you can do. If you are in business then think about the things you would like to or need to change to make your business fit for the future. Perhaps collaboration with a competitor is the only way to solve those problems to the benefit of you both.

And if you’d like to have a chat about making your business more sustainable, book a free call with me

Useful links as quoted above

Apart but connected: collaboration to save the planet

Explained: Himalayan glaciers sensitive to climate change, rapidly shrinking

Clampdown on greenwashing

Planet Business Laura Slattery

Coillte ESB partnership

Thriftify https://www.thriftify.ie/home

Earthology https://earthology.ie/

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