That is what far too many campaigners forget when they are demanding (to paraphrase one of Billy Connolly’s best riffs about making love to a modern woman and hitting the infamous ‘G’ spot) ‘less of that, a bit of that, some more of that and a lot more of that’.
Not every business is led by a reincarnation of the pre-Christmas Ebenezer Scrooge, but they do have conflicting pressures from shareholders, stakeholders, employees and customers. So whilst we would all like to see everyone earning the living wage, for instance, we have to realise that businesses and ultimately jobs only exist to make a profit.
Sustainability and responsible environmental behaviour are vitally important to everyone, but we do have to remember that someone has to pick up the cost. My business is IT recycling and I like to think that every collection we make is doing something positive. However, the van has to be paid for, the driver expects his salary and the garage won’t fill up the tank for free. We are not in it only for love you know.
Our business model is fairly transparent. We take your redundant equipment for a small collection cost and recycle it. Best case scenario, we can wipe it of your old data, tart it up and sell it on to someone else.
Extending the lifecycle of any electrical appliance is the greenest option as 80% of the environmental harm is done during manufacture. In this case, once our costs have been covered we will happily give a rebate.
Worst case scenario is that the tele-sales team really did trash those desktops. We have no choice but to wipe your data and pull the things apart, turning them back into raw materials to be used again. We are pretty good at that, we have a 0% to landfill objective and apart from a few really nasty things which we can’t recycle (no one can, it’s not us slacking off – promise) we achieve it. And we get paid a small amount by the ton. It is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick but believe me we will not be retiring any time soon either.
So, recycling matters too. It shouldn’t cost the Earth (Is it my imagination or was that a slogan for a campaign once? If not, it should be. I will wave my usual fee). And it doesn’t, but it does cost something and I have some sympathy for the people picking up the tab.
Because business always pays. It is hardly surprising that they occasionally try to avoid it because let’s face it, everyone is after them for another slice of the cake. Someone needs to start considering that when drafting the next bit of legislation, because the burden ought to be shared.
It’s no good just getting out the big stick every time. We need to look at the carrots too. This isn’t a political point to me, it is just plain commonsense. We need to do business. We need to make profits so that we can re-invest in sustainability and to pay fair wages.
You cannot have one without the other.