Why the onus to 'go green' is on companies and governments - for now

It is the responsibility of companies, Governments and key figureheads to change the political and social landscape from the inside out.
Written by Robert Matthams, Shipley, Contributor
Commentary -A staggering fact that I never tire of repeating is that over 25 percent of freight vehicles run completely empty of cargo and over fifty percent run only part-full. It never fails to make jaws drop yet somehow this is not common knowledge. However, that awe is often followed by a sentiment of “ yeah, but what can be done about it?”

Proponents of going green have long battled the general apathy of the general public when it comes to winning hearts and minds. The average man or woman after a long days work for the most part does not set aside time for a green revolution of their daily routine. Equally the weekend is rarely used as an opportunity to exert energies into being eco-friendly. Other than a vocal minority, this is the lay of the land.

"Why should I go green?" Is another oft repeated question. The implication is that one person will not make a difference. Changing routines and patterns is notoriously difficult but by making the services people use and the products they buy greener, half the battle is won.

Ease is the golden word when it comes to green, map out an easy and importantly cheap option and the public will follow. The more enticing and affordable environmentally friendly products are, the more likely it is to be accepted.

It is the responsibility of companies, governments and key figureheads to change the political and social landscape from the inside out. Although this has met its fair share of stumbling blocks, this is slowly happening in the UK. The strides in transport (where my particular interest lies) is evident.

On a bad day, the air in London can be nauseating, cramped spaces and thousands of vehicles do not make great bedfellows. Encouragingly, the wheels are in motion to combat the smog. The best example is the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, which follows the lead of several cities such as Paris in providing an opportunity to cycle anywhere in London. Signing up is easy and the price is minimal. The idea took off in a big way with the help of London’s mayor, Boris Johnson. So much so that they’re now dubbed Boris bikes.

Anyone who has been to London will tell you that the Underground is not quite at the peak of efficiency, having to rely on a centuries old network. Someone who uses it for their daily commute might say archaic alongside other colorful language. The Thameslink project is aiming to improve the rail infrastructure and part of this involves providing the Blackfriars station with solar power – a first for the UK.

Bart Van Renterghem, UK head of Enfinity (a solar energy company): "For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects can be delivered within a year because they don't attract the protests that wind power does."

This hits the nail on the head. We know being green is important but to move forward the concerns of the public have to be recognized. It is paramount to know when to negotiate the public’s reservations and when to realize to continue regardless. A 2006 white paper published by the European Commission forecast a 50 percent growth in transport between 2000 and 2020. Those with the power of influence cannot afford (literally) to not keep up, regardless of public opinion.

This is not to say that people should not be making concerted efforts, however small, to contribute to a greener society. We just need to make it as hard as possible to not be green. Whether it’s a mobile app, a website or physical product the idea is to make eco-friendly as ubiquitous as possible. There will come a point when to not be eco, to not be carbon-neutral and to not be green will be a damning blemish.

Robert Matthams is Managing Director of Shiply - the online transport marketplace. Robert was named Shell Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

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