business sustainability

How business is responding to a resource crunch

Yesterday I outlined some of the risks to business from the resource crunch, as described in the Carbon Trust’s report Opportunities in a Resource Constrained World.

The report profiles several businesses that it considers to be good examples – big companies that are taking a proactive approach to sustainability. Most companies are reactive, waiting for legislation to force them to adopt sustainability measures. Others will take on efficiency measures when they see cost savings. The way the Carbon Trust see it, the most pioneering companies put sustainability at the heart of their business and use it to build reputation and revenue. Here are three doing just that:

  • Whitbread owns brands such as Costa and Premier Inns. They invest £4 million a year in energy efficiency measures and have carried out detailed analysis into their energy and materials use. Each section of the business has sustainability targets as well as financial targets to meet, leading to a 23% reduction in carbon emissions. New hotels have water saving features from the start and older ones are being retrofitted with rainwater catchment and greywater systems, yielding a 22% fall in water use. A zero waste to landfill by 2017 goal is making good progress, with a 93% reduction from its restaurants and hotels.
  • Stagecoach is a major transport group, running 13,000 buses and trains every day in Britain, the US and Canada. They have pioneered alternative transport techniques and experiment with new technology, such as regenerative braking on trains, or electric hybrid buses. Bus drivers get real-time feedback on their fuel efficiency to encourage the best driving practices. Overall, the company has so far reduced its carbon intensity by 30%.
  • BT are a communication company and have duly pioneered flexible working with staff to reduce office overheads, and video conferencing to avoid flying. They are also interested in extending sustainability beyond the company through customers and suppliers. Through an awards scheme, suppliers can earn Bronze, Silver or Gold status by reducing material use and making things recyclable – particularly on its key consumer products such as the BT Homehub. It has so far reduced operating emissions by 44% and waste to landfill by 40%. Ultimately BT aims to reduce its carbon intensity by 80% by 2020, a rare example of a business aiming for genuine one-planet sustainability.

Those are three big corporations profiled in the report. I’ve previously mentioned the clothing company Rapanui, Patagonia, Puma, Maersk, and a number of other companies that demonstrate that environmental responsibility does not need to be the enemy of profit.


  1. Green capitalism chokes any rational when considering the global, planetary, troposphere context. It also works in a Power utilitarian, Populus degrading, human central, confined context… in the short term(dozens of years, half a generation). Do your homework before stepping into a niche so full of contempters labouring on truisms.

    This, stepping away, might actually be “smart”(recognition, career) regardless whether it is intelligent. After all the intellectual elites, will be the first turncoats another time around.

    The confusion of the ones in power should not affect your vision, something wrong with your second hand statistical data, your method of data credibility evaluation, the goal is not producing polished text, that’s a given, it is content.

    1. Okay, not sure I followed all of that, but good luck creating a sustainable world without involving business or the intellectual elites you so despise.

      1. Before tripping more confusion of language(http:, sorry if having offended the writer of the article.

        Politeness and truth, regardless of any misunderstandings, willy-nilly sometimes collide. Power elites and intellectual-ethical elites should not be confounded. There is a serious contradiction between power and potentential these days.

        Rational-emotional stances are rare, they always were, throughout history, never were they more relevant then today, the reason being that convention, what social intercourse generates is contradictory to rationally healthy these days. A social well adjusted person is probably a opportunist, an ignorant(forgiveable), both. The most powerfull tool of humanity, social organising comes to the fore as a desire to suppress the quasi totality of human numbers.

        Uncompromised, un-peered, unconnected, unrelated conceptual thinking, critical as in out of the box critical, un-mined potential, new systemics, do carry meaning.

        Adjusting, tweaking, at a certain point becomes anemic. And in the case of holding on to conventional views of good and bad, pragmatism, there is no alternative…well there is none indeed, the best individual way is positioning in the short term for survival. That of course was not the point of the article, it was about leanway, solutions in the grand scheme of things.

  2. Regenerative braking on electric trains is hardly new, it has been in use since the 1930s. Network Rail has for a long time paid a rebate to operators who use it. Quite why SWT didn’t insist on installing it on these trains when they were built I beyond me, probably a cost saving measure.

    The bigger story is this one: . Regenerative braking on diesel trains where you can’t just feed it back into the wires.

    Is it me of did m’s entries sound like they were written by a machine? it failed the Turing test.

    1. That’s true and it ought to be standard. I suppose energy was cheaper at the point the trains were brought it – or perhaps it was assumed that it would be cheaper in future.

      I wondered about m’s comment. I know what all the words mean, but I don’t know what the sentence is getting at.

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