How to make business environmentally ingenious

Aisling Irwin

Aisling Irwin
Consultant news editor, SciDev.Net

A plea against bureaucracy when designing ways of getting businesses to be greener was made by Colin Drummond, chief executive of a UK waste company, Viridor, one of the few industry representatives to address the plenary sessions.

“Bureaucracy prevents new ideas coming forward,” he said, and gave a compelling example.

He contrasted the environmental footprint of the UK’s water industry with that of its waste industry.


Tax on landfill in the UK has seen a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.

“But we have achieved it at the cost of a huge increase in carbon dioxide emissions – and is the system robust enough to cope with future droughts?” he asked.

In contrast, with the waste industry there was “no bureaucratic approach” he said. There was just a tax on every tonne of waste that went to landfill.

Making landfill too expensive drove ingenuity, with the result that waste handling in the UK has seen a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions; a five fold increase in recycling; a six fold increase in renewable energy generation … and a profit for shareholders.

The argument that incentives work better than regulation was also put forward by Shell’s Martin Haigh, whose reception on Day One we covered here.

“If there was a global price on carbon that would transform the incentives for Shell,” he said

This blog post is part of our Planet Under Pressure 2012 coverage — which takes place 26–29 March 2012. To read news and analysis from the conference please visit our website.

One Response to How to make business environmentally ingenious

  1. […] Viridor) seemed to be: don’t bother with complex, value-changing engagement strategies – slap the right tax on us and we will innovate our way in a new, greener […]

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