- Net zero with nature
- Natural health service
- World class blue/green environments
- Creating great places through quality in design and build
- Centre for excellence in green skills and jobs
Take part in our Business, Environment and Society Survey
Southern Policy Centre, with support from Terence O’Rourke, are undertaking a study to explore the views of businesses across the central South. We will examine how local businesses see their responsibilities towards the environment and society. We believe it’s a valuable piece of work which should help us understand how we can shape the best recovery for the central South over the coming months and years, helping businesses prosper whilst protecting and improving what we value about our place.
As part of our project, we have prepared a survey, which can be found here. It should take around 10-15 minutes to complete, and the data will be collected anonymously. A report outlining the conclusions will be published in July 2021.
A Green Recovery: The opportunities ahead
In July 2020, Simon Eden published a paper on green recovery in collaboration with Green Halo and Future South. The introduction to this thought-provoking discussion is reproduced below while the full document can be accessed here.
2020. Not the year we expected it to be. Whatever it was supposed to be known for, it will forever be the year we went into lockdown. COVID – for all its disruption and destruction has perhaps given us a little glimpse into how we might rapidly transition toward a more prosperous, fair and environmentally aware society. If we can take some positives out of what has been a tragedy for many, then we absolutely should. The importance and urgency for our region is to recognise the best way to do this in a way that is right for us. To agree an action plan, pool resources and collectively move forward.
Nationally, there is a demand from the public for change. A recent survey, conducted for the not-for-profit advocacy group Positive Money by You Gov, found that 82% of members of the public questioned wanted the Government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over economic growth as they shaped a recovery. In the same survey 61% of respondents wanted improved social and environmental outcomes to be the Government’s priority.
In our region, a discussion convened by the Southern Policy Centre (SPC)1 has shown that a wide range of leaders from the public and private sector are looking for a recovery, which re-builds social cohesion in our communities and recognises our world-class environment as a shared asset that differentiates our area. Following that initial discussion, Future South2 and Green Halo3 have held a series of conversations with SPC, which have resulted in the production of a thought piece around the opportunities and active elements that could form part of our region’s response to a green recovery, post-COVID. It is not intended as a fait accompli, but simply a contribution to the conversations and discussions that are now taking place across the region.
The great news is that we can already point to activities, rich natural habitats and partnerships that give our region a head start. These are also the things that define us and make this place so very special, and suitable for a green recovery.
As we seek to re-build our economy and communities, so there is an opportunity to avoid a compartmentalised approach, and instead, consider how we can shape an economy that builds on our strengths and works for the environment and our communities.
In this paper, we have started to explore what a distinctive green recovery means, drawing from our rich assets and how that might help us recover more quickly; to a level that is more resilient and sustainable. For Nature, Economy and Society. Read the full report here.
Trauma and change: will we do things differently?
In July 2020, Simon Eden published this blog in collaboration with Green Halo.
In his book “The Language of Cities” Deyan Sudjic, Journalist and Director of London’s Design Museum, suggests that: “It takes trauma to make a complacent city invest in its future”. It’s only when a major crisis – from a loss of a key part of the economy to a natural disaster – shakes a place from the conviction it’s doing OK that real, transformative change can happen.
The Covid-19 virus has certainly been a major trauma for communities across the world, killing thousands and leaving many more with long term damage to their health. In response, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of Government subsidy for jobs and businesses, and radical changes in how society functions and how we relate to our fellow human beings.
Perhaps that trauma is also encouraging us to think afresh about our future. A recent survey conducted for the not-for-profit advocacy group Positive Money by YouGov found that 82% of members of the public questioned wanted the Government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over economic growth as they shaped a recovery. In the same survey 61% of respondents wanted improved social and environmental outcomes to be the Government’s priority.
Writing in The Economist Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, suggested that the events of recent months may have given society cause to reassess our values:
“Value will change in the post-covid world. On one level, that’s obvious: valuations in global financial markets have imploded, with many suffering their sharpest declines in decades. More fundamentally, the traditional drivers of value have been shaken, new ones will gain prominence, and there’s a possibility that the gulf between what markets value and what people value will close.”
Of course it’s easy to talk about a different set of values and priorities. The acid test comes as the Government eases the rigid rules of lockdown. Our medium and long-term plans for recovery will be the real measure of whether those aspirations for a different future will be sustained.
Green recovery plan
There are positive signs. Business leaders from the UK have called for a green coronavirus recovery plan, urging the Government to build “a more inclusive, stronger and more resilient” net zero emission economy. Senior bankers across Europe have argued that “this crisis offers us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild our economy in order to withstand the next shock coming our way: climate breakdown”.
Of course it’s essential our Government, leading businesses and our financial institutions change how they work and what they prioritise. But we also need individuals across our communities to act differently: to follow up the desire for change they professed to pollsters by adopting a different, less consumerist lifestyle.
Once again, there are promising signs. Bike sales have increased dramatically as people take more exercise, the challenge for the next few months is whether those new cycles become the preferred method of travelling to work. Research by PwC found that, since lockdown, more shoppers had been buying goods from small local stores, and promising to shop with businesses adopting higher ethical standards. Again, what matters is whether these changes, our professed good intentions, will be sustained.
How can we help cement those new behaviours? Organisations, institutions and leaders need to set an example: making sure their decisions and actions reflect a desire for a different, more sustainable way of working – what commentators call a ‘green recovery’. Short term recovery is no recovery at all if it simply gets us quickly back to over-consumption of resources, pollution and inequality. So they, we, must resist the temptation just simply get things moving again whatever the cost. They, we, must take the long view of where our best future lies.
Vision for the future
But if these organisations build the framework for a green recovery, individuals need to act within that. Each of us needs to have our own vision for a future where the environment and our health and wellbeing as just as important as the economy, indeed they’re an integral part of the economy we want to build for our future.