Opinion Piece by Mat Ilic, CEO of Greenworkx
The move to a low-carbon future is the biggest challenge and opportunity for this generation of business leaders. It is an all-enveloping, structural change in how our economy works, a mobilisation moment that humanity has not seen probably since the industrial revolution. It will happen – and it is happening – albeit not as quickly as we might all like, so the only choice before London and its business leaders is to work out how to take charge of the transition to make it successful, inclusive, and prosperous.
As with any big change, it can be smoother (for citizens, and consumers) if it is easy, accessible, and timely. And who else, to make this future a reality more urgently, than London’s leaders and businesses who can collaborate, create, and construct a world-leading low-carbon metropolis?
Getting to net zero begins with deep awareness and it takes transformative action
I used to think that climate change was for others; the conscious consumer, the activist, the pioneering scientist, and the G7 politician. It is, of course, but it is also on all of us to make small changes in our lives and to use whatever platform we have, to drive for bigger change, if we are to land in a future where our commons are healthier and wealthier. London is already full of shining examples of such action, but more velocity and scale is needed if we are going to win the race against time.
So, what can be done?
Every business can take a detailed look at its direct and indirect impacts, across activity, trading and purchasing and make significant choices such as using renewable energy, leasing a fleet of electric vehicles, or creating incentives for staff to help them shift at a time where renewable technologies still carry an up-front ‘green’ premium. We will get to price parity for new technologies over time, but we need early adopters too. When Ford introduced its Model T in 1908, it cost about $950 (nominal dollars), with only 10,000 units produced. By 1924, 2 million units were produced at the cost of $300 each, making it one of the most mass-produced cars ever. We are not good at spotting megatrends while we are living through them.
Because London is a complex business ecosystem, we can help each other through the carbon change
The City already has lenders starting to prioritise property and development loans to drive energy efficiency in the residential and commercial built environment. And while they unlock billions of pounds in new capital for this, they need to be connected to reliable contractors and suppliers who can deliver retrofit at scale.
More than anything, all businesses can ensure that London continues to lead the UK and the world on skills and productivity. At Greenworkx this is something we obsess about: ensuring that we have enough technical talent for the frontline of this change, electrotechnical skills for charge points, solar panels, and heat pumps as well as the army needed for insulating inefficient buildings. There is help from amazing partners such as London South Bank University and Technical College, who are leveraging public funding to deliver courses to thousands of adult learners that are being enlisted for this transformation.
But whatever business you oversee, take time to understand what this transformation can mean for you and your business, how you might lead the change, and especially how you might support talent, to ensure that they, you, and London can thrive and make a success of our shared low carbon future is a vital first step.
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