Friday, 31 January 2014

Education and the future

Green24 is for everyone's future. We should never lose sight of the fact that sustainability is for future generations, for our children and our childrens’ children. This is a long-term project and part of everything we do.

We have explained in this column how businesses can and should benefit from being actively involved in sustainable development, both in terms of innovation and implementation. Whether or not we have made the case successfully, it is undeniable that sustainability must be forwarded through the involvement and engagement of young people and education providers.

Schools, both in this country and in many others, have built sustainability into the national curriculum. Although the curriculum is being slimmed down, just now the Sustainability and Environmental Education charity - SEEd - ( is piloting new forms of curricula, working sustainability learning into a wide range of subjects. This includes a scheme to make your school more sustainable! An excellent resource is the ‘world mapper’ that shows countries by size of carbon use. There is also the eco-schools campaign (, 'Teach Share' for teacher’s materials ( and the 'Sustainable Schools Alliance' ( supporting learning programmes.

In Scotland, the ‘One Planet Schools’ initiative, backed by government, published the One Planet Schools Report in December 2012, providing a whole-school approach to learning about sustainability. It is a model that many countries would do well to follow.

At a higher tier of education, many universities offer degrees up to Masters level in sustainable development and related subjects. The universities of East Anglia, Exeter, Leeds, Dundee and Aston are prominent in offering a range of courses that attract international students. Some, like Kingston, focus on environmental change, while others like Lancaster make links with business and management. Even my own university, Oxford, has expanded the oldest Geography department in the world to include environmental change in its title. To brag a little, we were, I recall, at the forefront of climate change research in the 1980s!

The international scene is very diverse and rich with opportunities. PhD work is widespread and many universities have research centres. I am connected to Royal Holloway, London, but there are other centres, from Aberdeen and Glasgow to Cambridge and Hertfordshire. There is a wealth of activity, interest and application among the younger generations; perhaps the rest of us need to catch up! Certainly, I have one son studying a sustainability degree and another to follow. It is encouraging that they can see this as a key part of their futures. It is up to us to provide the support we can. This is where Green 24 starts.

David Jackman

Monday, 27 January 2014


It is hard to ignore the severe weather events in both the US and UK right now. There have been successions of storms piling across the Atlantic, bringing extensive flooding and loss of life. The coastlines of Wales and the West have been worst affected, with the beach becoming almost entirely deposited on the seafront promenade at Aberystwyth. In Canada, a region used to difficult weather, the conditions are described as a ‘polar vortex’.

This reminds us of our deep connection with the environment, a chord we cannot cut. Many of those interviewed on daily TV news reports freely make the connection between the increased frequency of extreme weather events and global warming. As a long-time resident of a village (now an island) in the Somerset Levels remarked, ‘flooding is more common, reaches a higher level and lasts for longer’. That pretty much sums it up.

Perhaps now, as in so many things, commitment to sustainability becomes a matter of belief. There are those who will never have enough evidence to accept that the climate is changing, or that if it is, human agency has any significant role in the change. Others readily see the signs everywhere and are perhaps over-zealous!

So perhaps the argument should move on to different ground? Perhaps it is a sense of inter-connectivity in economic, social and environmental terms that we should be focusing on. We should say, ‘be sustainable because sustainability is mutually beneficial’ rather than rely on the climate change threat. There is a well-founded impact on economic and social cases. I have personally carried out a good deal of international research on this, with Edinburgh Business School and King’s College London, which demonstrates that good sustainability in corporate practices connects to long-term financial performance and improving return on assets.

Perhaps it is easier to talk about the responsibilities we have to each other as part of being reasonable citizens. The strength and resilience of our communities depends on our commitment to each other and indeed, on our faith that communities are worthwhile. Being aware of what we measure as signs of success needs careful examination. That also forms part of the work I am currently engaged in for the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

We owe it to each other to examine the facts and the options more closely. Departing from the climate change debate, there is still much to chew over and many other reasons to accept the sustainability challenge. green24 is here to help.

David Jackman

Monday, 6 January 2014

It’s a Wonderful (Integrated) World

All eyes have been on South Africa recently. We have been sharing in the country’s loss while, it seems to me, wishing the country well for a future, post-Mandela age. I wrote to him once and he was kind enough to send a response. I remain impressed.

The sight of nearly 100 world leaders, together in the pouring rain in the cavernous FNB stadium outside Soweto in Johannesburg, tends to inspire a ‘bigger picture’.  It could be argued that we do too little ‘world thinking’, and yet this week reminded us that the people of the world share similar problems, emotions and aspirations.

Similarly, there is a movement catching on in sustainability which is global in perspective; broadening horizons, and moving away from national concerns and financial obsessions. It is called Integrated Reporting (, and it brings together the long term value of creation of all kinds. Unilever, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Hyundai, Microsoft, PepsiCo, National Australia Bank and Tata Steel are among over 100 businesses in the IR Pilot Programme. I note that Singapore has a board member and a local bank, DBS, which started using the system in 2012.

IR is being pioneered in 25 countries. This includes South Africa, which is taking the lead in writing IR into statutory requirements. Once again, South Africa draws us together.

Supported and launched by Prince Charles in 2009, details of the IR Framework were only released on 9th December 2013. The benefits for business include:
·         A rise in all forms of capital.
·         More connected departments within corporations, breaking down silos.
·         Improved internal reporting and governance processes.
·         A lower financial capital cost.

Currently, many companies view sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as separate from the main business. Such companies may publish partnership reports some months after the main report, or accounts which leave a feeling that they perhaps don’t care. The way sustainability measures are reported is not standardised, and this leads to many comparison problems, particularly for prospective investors.

There is undoubtedly a long way to go in sustainability efforts, but this seems to be the goal; it is of particular interest to those with governance roles in businesses, as well as their accountants and fund managers. For details, download a copy of the easy-to-follow framework from the IIRC website.