There’s a saying that you can’t have too much of a good thing, which you can interpret in many ways. Maybe right now ‘the world’ is waking up to the fact that too much of a good thing has breached our planetary boundaries and that climate is being impacted, resources and biodiversity depleted and ecosystems disrupted – sometimes beyond repair. Perhaps to many of you, this is both familiar and depressing.
But, on the positive side, I think we are truly at an inflection point. It may be overly simplistic but whilst ‘my generation’ wanted to do good for the environment because we saw some problems on the horizon, today’s generation be that generation Y, Z or Millennials are beginning to act because that horizon is now within their lifetime. Sadly it sometimes takes until things ‘become real’ before people are willing to act. But while public perceptions are seemingly moving quickly, actions will take longer, you only need to look at the recent Glastonbury festival to see that there is still quite some gap between applauding Sir David Attenborough on the one hand and littering with the other!
Working in the resource sector the phenomenon of the value action gap is well-known and much good work has been done on converting verbal commitments to actual waste recycling and environmental behaviour. Nevertheless, more needs to be done. We recently hosted visitors from the trade and local media and even a BBC film crew at the Novelis Warrington can-to-can recycling plant, where the circular economy of the aluminium beverage can is plain to see. However, it was a stark reminder to me that what I take for granted; a fully circular permanent material like aluminium is not that widely understood – even in Warrington! We need to do more to communicate the benefits to anyone and everyone.
In June, the UK became the first major economy to pass a carbon neutral target into law, meaning that business and society at large needs to seriously adopt policies to deliver a net zero economy. Whilst EU leaders failed to get the same level of consensus on their target, in the end this will be agreed.
As we watch over the beauty parade for the next Prime Minister and ponder on what Government is doing with all those consultation responses, we would do well to give some personal thought to what net zero would mean for our roles and our services. Resource management and recycling is just one, but an important one action that people can readily associate with direct action on that road to net zero. As our society’s understanding and expectations of the future they foresee for themselves continues to evolve, we will need ever more ambitious policies across a range of issues to create a transformative operating environment. Working in such an innovative sector as resources and for me a global aluminium company, can be daunting, but it is also rewarding and stepping up to future challenges is what we’ve been doing year on year. So maybe that’s one ‘good thing’ you cannot have too much of……