48 (143) 2021

Green Transformation

Green will be the new normal. A view of the new world - one that may be brave too?

By Dr Allan Lawrence, a director of Projects Beyond Borders has a doctorate in Environmental Botany awarded by the University of Greenwich and is a lecturer in social policy and business-related programmes
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BPCC member, Projects Beyond Borders Ltd (PBB) is a micro-business based in the North of England that has been a member of BPCC for four years and like most fellow members is wondering about how to adjust to life after Covid-19, when that will be, or even whether the word ‘after’ even applies.

The legacy is profound – the acceptance of the wearing of masks, of social distancing, economic destruction and uncertainty, and the on-going psychological effects of social isolation.

We are a small company that provides online education, consultancy and supports local and international partnerships. Importantly, although we are a ‘for profit’ company we are driven by our social objectives. These social objectives include support for social justice and environmental sustainability.

It is an interesting time for the environment. The damage caused by climate change is widely understood and there is a global political conversation about a future where decarbonisation and energy conservation are urgent and necessary. In November, the UK hosts COP26, the UN’s global environmental conference, in Glasgow to assess progress in the achievement of the goals set in Paris to reduce carbon emissions. America has re-joined the Paris Accord and the EU has the European Green Deal, which has been manifest in the strategic re-shaping of many European programmes such as Horizon, in particular Pillar III, Innovative Europe and Erasmus Plus for the years 2021 to 2027. If these strategic directions have any sincerity at all, then it is a new normal that we are headed for!

One of the alarming effects of Covid-19 has been the amplification of social inequalities and the realisation of just how fragile the human psyche is when forced into an indefinite period of social isolation. PBB has long supported social justice as we have been actively involved in working with the growing social enterprise or third sector. We have actively supported social enterprises locally in the Greater Manchester area and internationally by supporting a new-start social enterprise working with disabled young people in Kampala, Uganda. Our local partnerships include working with social enterprises and charities supporting marginalised young people in Greater Manchester. During the first wave of the pandemic, we worked with a network of social enterprises and communities committed to the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) using innovative 3D printing technology with a minimal carbon footprint. Currently, one of our partners is a Manchester-based company, Abstruse Ltd, which is producing biostatic coverings for door handles, and any other kind of handle where the community-spread of viruses and bacteria is possible.

Erasmus has been an important vehicle for international and European collaboration for us. We have just received funding for our third project working with social enterprises across Europe. As a consequence of the concern expressed at workshops within the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2019, PBB as the coordinator, along with seven partners from Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, UK, Lithuania and Estonia, is working on identifying practical educational support and signposting for entrepreneurs experiencing stress, burn-out and the progressive psychological disorders that result. The application was made in 2019, and we were blissfully unaware that the project proposal would have such value and relevance for our ‘new future’.

PBB has an educational product and service that we hope will fit with our new reality. We provide on-line UK accredited qualifications at an undergraduate level (Levels 4 and 5) in key economic sectors relevant to regeneration such as Business & Management, Tourism and Hospitality, ICT & Computing. We also provide postgraduate programmes in Strategic Management (Levels 6 and 7) for anyone wishing to study online. A blended provision with additional tutor support and human interaction is also available. These academic programmes are run in conjunction with a broad range of professional courses in a wide range of topics such as Marketing, Sustainability, Environmental Protection, Mental Wellbeing, for example. One thing Covid-19 has shown us is the potential and opportunity for personal development that exists without needing to leave our study, our home, our family or our place of work.

To summarise, we have realised that the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) has become more important and relevant than ever! It is a concept first presented by John Elkington in 1994 in his article, Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development’ published in the California Management Review. It followed on from the earlier concerns expressed by Freer Spreckley in 1981 in his book, Social Audit: A Management Tool for Co-operative Working; TBL refers to the need for businesses and companies to embrace social and environmental responsibilities along with financial responsibility. At the heart of the concept is the importance of the three Ps of Sustainability, People, Profit and Planet. However, if you were to look now, there are further essential conditions added, or reference is also made to the three Es (Equity, Ecology and Economy). More recently, and almost with an element of foresight and prescience, Maria Correia of the University of Northampton wrote an article in 2019 in the International Journal of Strategic Engineering entitled Sustainability: An Overview of the Triple Bottom Line and Sustainability Implementation, making reference to this new importance attributed to sustainability in its widest sense and to the competitive advantage that is possible with innovative green products and socially responsible strategies.

This interplay of sound business, sustainability and social justice is a potential new direction for us in a post-Covid world. It is nothing new, the UN Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015 and OECD Green Growth Strategy of 2011 are a manifestation of this way of thinking, and they have given an impetus to global and European efforts to achieve sustainable development. What is new though, is the opportunity created by a ‘blank canvas’ and the momentous paradigm shift that has resulted in global populations being confined to their homes and the potential that has been created for reflection, introspection and for a desire for something new and better in the future!

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