Coming together to combat climate change

Wednesday, 18th November 2020

Guest blog by Elizabeth Delaney, partner at UK law firm TLT

On Friday 13 November, over 75 businesses set aside time to focus on sustainability at a conference hosted by the Science and Industry Museum.

Andy Burnham, as keynote speaker, and Sir Richard Leese, as moderator, led my panel through an engaging debate about the implications of the five-year environment plan for Greater Manchester and the wider mission to combat climate change.

Sitting alongside representatives from Chiesi, Manchester Airports Group, Co-op and Seven Bro7hers, we talked about our experiences in addressing sustainability and climate change and signposted actions that other Manchester-based businesses can take to get started on their sustainability journey.

Andy Burnham, in his keynote address, talked about how future generations will view the business leaders of 2020 and the actions we are taking now. In particular, he touched on the circumstances many businesses are facing as a result of the pandemic conditions– and how it might be all too easy for us to decide to put off our investments in greater sustainability for another time.

Instead, he argued that now is the time to accelerate our focus on improving sustainability, with workforces being based more remotely and greater reliance on technology becoming the norm. Now more than ever, Greater Manchester businesses have an opportunity to seize the reins and push forward, rising to the global challenge and working together to meet the objective for Manchester to become a zero carbon city by 2038.

Andy noted that the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021 will be an excellent opportunity for Manchester to take the spotlight in terms of its ambitions on zero carbon – Manchester long having had a global reputation for a strong moral vision of what is right for residents, businesses and wider society. He believes that a renewed drive to capitalise on the strength of the digital economy in Manchester and the flexibility and innovation demonstrated by regional businesses will boost the prosperity and resilience of the region as well as helping Manchester to lead the pack in shaping the twenty-first century economy.

He suggested that in decarbonising transport, investing in renewable energy and focusing on sustainability in development, our region can potentially generate thousands of jobs for the people of Greater Manchester. Aligned with opportunities to upskill younger generations to prepare them for the green economy, this could help Manchester become a green leader in the UK.

Following the keynote presentation, we talked about our own journeys towards greater sustainability. A common theme from all panellists was the importance of listening to the market. Businesses must listen to customer and client needs and work to align ourselves with our wider business community.

Another theme was understanding how employees want to support green endeavours, and ensuring that initiatives are employee-led rather than imposing ideas on them from above.

Asked about ideas for businesses to get started, the consensus was that there is a lot of useful information available – from organisations like Manchester Climate Change Agency, B Lab and Manchester Growth Hub. Sharing knowledge with other local businesses and generating collaborative relationships on climate change has also been extremely useful.

Everyone agreed that it is better to do something small than nothing at all, and that every journey begins with a single step. At a time when businesses are facing so many changes on so many fronts, this and the idea of working together to combat climate change felt like some very relevant and powerful messages indeed, and an inspiring end to a positive event.