We are currently facing major problems, the like and scale of which we have never before encountered. These include manmade climate change, resource scarcity and its associated conflicts, loss of forests and topsoil, and extensive pollution of oceans and fresh water bodies. All of the above could lead to worsening of the effects of climate change with resultant increased flooding, desertification, decreased food production and increased global hunger and social unrest.
Many of these problems are a consequence of corporate and industrial practices which began at the time of the industrial revolution and which are based on a take, make, and waste paradigm. There are people, including some in business and politics, who still regard the wellbeing of natural systems as a potential nuisance – one which interferes with economic growth, development and job creation. In order to prevent further environmental degradation and safeguard a reasonable quality of life for all earth’s inhabitants, major changes must be made to corporate and industrial practice. Some businesses have already begun lowering their carbon footprint and embarking on the road to sustainability. Others (for example the extractive industries) may only be persuaded to change through radical new legislation.
Despite having been a significant part of the problem, business and industry must also be, and many already want to be, part of the solution. Major change can seem frightening and overwhelming, but it can also be a fantastic opportunity – inspiring imagination and stimulating creativity.
Can the corporate world stop inflicting severe environmental damage without legislation? Will the majority of businesses be inspired by examples of best practice?
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Polly Higgins was a barrister specialising in corporate law before she developed the idea of eradicating ecocide. Her initiative centres on the need to introduce enforceable, legally binding mechanisms in national and international law which will hold to account perpetrators of long term, severe damage to the environment. You can find out more about Polly at her website; www.pollyhiggins.com and her work in this 2011 article on the Guardian website.
Steve Giles is environmental manager at Metsec which is the UK market leader in light weight steel construction systems (for example supplier of steelwork used to support the new St. Pancras International Station roof as well as the new roof on the centre court at Wimbledon). In 2004 Metsec decided to reduce its carbon footprint and Steve Giles will describe the journey over the past 8 years – both the challenges and the benefits to the business.
Polly Higgins and Steve Giles will each speak for 30 mins. This will be followed by 30 mins for questions and discussion.
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