Responding to the Climate Emergency
On 1 May 2019 the UK Parliament passed an extraordinary measure: a national declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency.
The UK is the first national government to declare such an emergency. The decision marks a renewed sense of urgency in tackling climate change, following a visit to Parliament by teenage activist Greta Thunberg , the broadcast of David Attenborough’s documentary Climate Change: The Facts and 11 days of protest by environmental group Extinction Rebellion that paralysed parts of London.
The UK is legally committed to a 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (relative to 1990 levels) and this declaration does not change that. However, some local councils have already declared their own climate emergency and set out their climate emergency policies to become carbon zero by 2030. Such councils range from northern cities, such as Preston, Leeds and Newcastle upon Tyne to southern counties such as West Sussex, Somerset and East Hampshire.
When it comes to future tenders from local authorities which have declared a climate emergency we can expect that they will cascade the commitments they have made to the local electorate down into services they commission and the providers which are chosen to deliver them. To maximise your chances of success when bidding for tenders with any local authority which has declared a climate emergency, you can take steps now to align your business practises to the goals of the relevant council:
- Check the council’s position. Search your council’s website for details of their climate policies. The website https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/list-of-councils/ lists those councils which have declared a climate emergency.
- Align your own Environmental Policy to the goals of the council. There is no need to go faster, but if they say their services will be carbon free by 2030 you will have to have the same target in your own policy.
- See what resources the council has to help you achieve this target. Any resources or support to help you should be welcome, but by working with the council’s own teams is an opportunity to stand out as a leader in the local market and create great examples of partnership working for inclusion in a future tender.
- Create a plan. You need to be able to measure your carbon emissions as a business now (maybe broken down by type of product/service), have a system for ongoing monitoring and a plan to reduce those emissions. Your plan might have short term reduction methods now and a more fundamental change in the way you work in the future to get down to zero.
- Implement the plan, recording progress. When the tender comes you want to be able to not only say what you will do, but to prove what you have already done to give creditability to your promises. Creating Case Studies which demonstrate what you have done to achieve measurable and evidenced reductions in carbon emissions should be incorporated into your monitoring processes.
- Tell the community and be a leader. Don’t keep quiet about your environmental commitments and actions. Publicise your actions and offer to help other businesses build their own environmental action plans. Again, these partnerships and community leadership will make great case studies for future tenders.
- Keep an eye on the costs. You don’t wasn’t to find that by becoming an environmental leader you end up with an uncompetitive product/service or that you bankrupt your business! However, if you can identify costs of change you may be able to justify higher pricing needed to acheive the climate objectives.
Declaring a “Climate Emergency” is just that – a declaration. The degree of commitment governments or authorities make following such declarations is bound to vary enormously. However, you do not want to first discover that a council has a huge commitment to zero emissions only when you come to bid for a tender and find they are making huge environmental demands on potential suppliers. Successful future providers will be those who move in line with the changes in council policy now, not just attempt to catch up when a tender is published.