Once I left the CRNS More Than Recycling 09 event in Perth I hot-footed it back to Edinburgh for the launch of Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) Awards at the Scottish Parliament.
This dinner-time event was set up to try and encourage businesses to apply for the awards and for partner organisations (like WAB) to help promote it. We had introductory speeches from John Scott MSP and VIBES Chair Gillian Bruce followed by an interesting and wide-ranging speech by SEPA Chairman David Sigsworth.
David talked about the need for businesses to look at their environmental credentials as a way of separating themselves from the competition and to help work themselves out of the downturn. This makes a lot of sense as the principles of being environmentally friendly happily coincide with many of the principles of good business management. After all wasted resources are likely to equal wasted profits.
The final speaker was James Macsween, Director of Macsweens of Edinburgh, winner of a VIBES Management Award in 2008. He talked about the steps his family-owned business have taken over the last few years in order to get their environmental house in order. By the sounds of it they have pretty much reduced their landfilled waste to zero, which is great. As James pointed out “it’s not rocket science”. It just requires the determination to reduce your impact.
After the speeches we were allowed to mingle (they call it networking, essentially the same thing) and wine and canapes were served. I had an interesting chat with a woman who’s applying for the awards this year and who thinks the whole system of business recycling is flawed. She believes that recycling should be free at the point of collection (and paid for through taxation) and the idea of me campaigning for businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle simply because of a potential financial benefit really disturbed her. I tried to explain that we do this because of the reality of the situation we face. Businesses are naturally going to be concerned with their survival first and foremost. The environment therefore might take a back seat. The biggest incentives for introducing more sustainable processes are therefore generally based on financial projections which show increased profits.
I came away from the event thinking that she might have a point and that perhaps Scotland is approaching the issues from the wrong direction. But it could have been the wine.
In any case, by the time I had walked home through the busy streets of Edinburgh on a Tuesday night I was feeling confident that we’re at least trying to do the right thing.