Thursday, 2 April 2015

Walk the Sustainability Walk

Human beings are infinitely complicated creatures. But we are also herd animals. We must be since half of the time we do things because other people do, or because we get the idea that something is a good idea, the latest thing or whatever. 

Being green falls into that category.

I was born in 1961, back when everyone smoked and drank Double Diamond. Or Babycham, there was an awful lot of Babycham...and Cinzano. In those days it was compulsory to buy a bottle of Advocaat and a packet of dates at Christmas. No one ever touched either but we had to buy them because that was what people did.

No one was very green. Peace and love filled my earliest memories. Except it didn’t. Hippies never quite made it to the better parts of Surrey. The idea of saving the planet (from ourselves) started with a bit of bra-burning and sort of merged into CND and the three day week.

But now, just four decades later, it is not weird to be green, although I am not sure that extends to people who vote for the Green Party and lie down in front of Fracking lorry’s. I think they may well be a little on the weird side. Every business website mentions a commitment to the environment and we are used to having bins for everything. One for the food waste, one for paper, one for plastic and one for glass. Someone started it off...possibly Germaine Greer, or was that the bra-burning?...and the rest of us thought we really ought to follow.

The trouble is most of us still don’t know what we are doing or more importantly why. If you think all those companies mean what they put on their websites about supporting sustainability, you are delusional. Shareholder interests come first. If there is any time, energy or money left over after that is dealt with, the environment will still be a way down the queue.

Cynical, moi? Just a tad. IT recycling is a case in point. Do you know how many times in six months at eReco anyone has asked me about how we recycle? Three times. I have heard the words ‘how much?’ three times a day but only three times has anyone queried our green credentials.

Part of that is because electrical gadgetry is not particularly green in the first place. Well, let’s be honest it is not green at all. I am not sure any polar bears are actually exterminated to make your laptop, but all that plastic, metal and batteries comes at a price. So we recycle to make the most of that cost to the environment. We are doing our best to limit the damage.

When you get into the meat of it, discussing how things are going to happen with a client, there are three or four areas of concern. Data is one. It has to be dealt with, to keep Genghis Khan, the good old Information Commissioner, on his horse. Cost is second. Everyone has a budget and if the cost gets too high the whole house of cards wobbles. Paperwork is third. The boring old reports that will prove an audit trail and keep the long arm of the law at bay should things ever go wrong. And then finally a bit of recycling.

In other words, it’s an afterthought. If it does not cost us any more, let’s be greener. And the handy thing is that selling the stuff on in working order is the greenest thing so if it is worth everything everyone is happy.

I am hoping this is just a phase. Over a similar period of time other things have become fashionable for want of a better word. Those websites that mention sustainability no doubt boast about being an equal opportunities employer too. Since 1961, racism, sexism, ageism and environmental damage have all become social taboos. But none have disappeared. We like to think they have and then a bunch of Chelsea supporters push a man off a Paris metro because of his colour. 

Women still earn less than men doing comparable jobs.

As a nation we have to stop paying lip service to a lot of things. Recycling is just one. Let’s stop putting things on websites just because we think they ought to be there and start actually thinking about what we do and why.

When I was a kid in the seventies there were television sitcoms watched by millions which they cannot repeat these days because they were plainly racist. There are television stars of that period going to jail for sexual assaults which were if not exactly tolerated at the time then certainly swept under the carpet. And there were huge landfills and pollution everywhere. So things have got better when you put it like that.

But we could do better. Let’s give it a go, shall we?

(This is the 100th blog post we have posted here. Thank you so much for reading and the nice comments we regularly receive.)