Earth Day 2024: Our Consultants Share their Perspectives

Every year on 22nd April, Earth Day reminds us of the importance of raising awareness about issues affecting our planet. This year’s campaign focuses on combatting plastic pollution, calling for a 60% reduction in the production of ALL plastics by 2040.

To mark Earth Day 2024, we asked our team of expert consultants to share their unique perspectives on the key issues facing the planet and what actions we can take. Read on to discover what they each had to say.

Dr James Cadman, Head of Consultancy and Carbon:

“The human race has emitted 2,400 billion tonnes of CO2 since 1850, when the industrial revolution really got going. This is probably a large and meaningless number until you realise two facts. From 2020 we have a budget of just 500 billion tonnes of CO2 left if we are to stay on the 1.5°C pathway and avoid the worst effects of climate change. And, at current emissions rates, this means we have about 12 years to stay on target. We need to act now and reduce our annual emissions by half by 2030.”

Emma-Jane (EJ) Allen, Consultant:

“Getting your head around the potential impact of your business and its supply chain on the natural environment is challenging enough. But more people need to understand the intrinsic links between environmental destruction, climate change and human rights.

For example, consider how extreme weather and droughts can force people from their homes, destroying livelihoods and making them vulnerable and more likely to be exploited. The example of Blood Bricks in Cambodia really brings this concept to life.  This Earth Day, I would urge businesses to take a more holistic approach to tackling these issues.”

Hattie Webb, Consultant:

“We are living in the Plasticene. We now can’t escape microplastics no matter how hard we try. And plastic-production emissions could triple to one-fifth of the Earth’s carbon budget. Plastic creation generated 2.24 gigatonnes of planet-heating pollution in 2019, or as much as 600 coal-fired power plants. These numbers are expected to double or even triple by 2050.

The evidence is clear that plastic production is wrecking our planet, one micro at a time. This Earth Day, it is more important than ever that we cut down our plastic usage wherever possible. Every cup, packet and wrap makes a difference.”

Helen Carter, Lead Consultant:

“As individuals and organisations, we must recognise our role as caretakers of this amazing planet. The health of our environment is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of all life. By embedding sustainable practices and developing a deeper connection with nature, you as organisations can lead the charge in creating a more resilient, equitable, and thriving world.

From reducing waste, supporting conservation efforts, or striving for a low carbon economy, every positive step counts. Use your leverage and influence to inspire your communities to safeguard our home for generations to come.”

Lucy Picken, Consultant Researcher

“It is estimated that the UK construction industry alone generates 50,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year, with approximately 40% of plastic from construction sites left in mixed waste skips rather than being recycled. Common causes of construction waste, such as packaging, overordering of materials, offcuts, improper storage and lack of training, are highly wasteful and easily avoided.

Now is the time to start thinking with a circular economy mindset, including how we can drive down waste production, especially single-use plastics. Improving your waste management strategy can and will positively impact the environment, people and the economy with long-lasting benefits.”

Mellita D’Silva, Senior Consultant:

Sustainable procurement takes centre stage in helping companies to reduce their carbon footprint, engage in circular economy principles, mitigate biodiversity loss and conserve water and soil. Earth Day at the start of spring helps us to focus on efficient ways of working to think about sustainability. If it’s all about cost, it might cost us the earth, literally!”

Ross Primmer, Senior Consultant:

“Perhaps one thing we should think about on Earth Day is the earth (or soil) under our feet. A quick internet search will reveal that “we’ve only got 60 harvests left” or that we are close to an “agricultural apocalypse”, and whilst these headlines are certainly attention-grabbing, they need to be considered with a pinch of salt.

However, it could be argued that we fail to give soil the respect it deserves. Systematic applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers disrupt and in many cases destroy the range of natural processes, which if managed correctly, can maintain soil fertility naturally. Large machinery periodically compacts and ploughs up soil, destroying soil structure and potentially exacerbating erosion. Soil is undoubtedly a sustainability issue which will be increasingly important in the future.”

Sarah Chatfield, Consultant:

“Plastics often bear the brunt of environmental criticism, yet they have their merits. As highlighted in Kim Ragaert’s TEDtalk, plastic packaging can significantly prolong the freshness of some products, such as cucumbers, which helps to significantly reduce food waste. In addition, when we consider alternative packaging materials such as glass, their production processes are far more energy-intensive in comparison to plastic.

However, the grim reality of plastic pollution hits hard when witnessed firsthand, as I experienced during a visit to Bali in 2020; this idyllic location (and its resident turtles!) is being overwhelmed not only by its own plastic waste, but also the plastic waste of others that gets swept inland by the tide; these stark realities underscore the necessity for responsible sourcing and waste management practices.”

Action Sustainability can provide strategic advice and tactical support on your company’s approach to climate change and our planet. For more information on how we can support you, please contact our team.

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