The environmental businesses support organisation Enworks talks to MCFly co-editor Arwa Aburawa about its success, its struggles, and why now is the (cheapest) time for businesses to take action on environmental issues.
Now in its tenth year, Enworks has been working with businesses in the North to cut their carbon, their costs and use their resources more efficiently. According to its 10 year report, the organisation has helped businesses save £100m, safeguarded 7,488 jobs and also saved 476,000 tonnes of C02. Sam Nicholson, programmes director, explains that their transparency and clear auditing is key to their success. “We are working to achieve environmental goals with businesses and so we need to be able to show them that we can help them save on costs, become more efficient and increase their competitiveness. Having the figures to back that is very important.”
Before joining Enworks in 2003, Ms Nicholson worked as an environmental business advisor for four years and lectured at the University of Salford after completing her masters in environmental resources. Green issues have always been on her agenda but she recognises that that isn’t always the case for businesses. “All businesses are really different and whilst some really get it, others are at the start of their– and I hate to use this word- journey. So what we try to do is work within their concerns, the culture and find a way in to promote environmental issues and take real action which saves them money. Whether that’s looking at procurement or their operational costs depends on the business we are dealing with.”
When asked if she had noticed a change in the business attitudes towards environmental issues, she replied that there is probably a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ answer to that. “I think there is significant market failure on business resource efficiency and a reluctance to deal with climate change. There is a definite need for businesses to be supported in this area. Having said that, over the last few years awareness of carbon footprints and those kind of issues has increased in businesses. But as you probably know, awareness doesn’t lead to action.”
“Awareness also doesn’t mean a detailed understanding of how climate change could impact your business or sector, the risks that your business faces and the particular actions you should be taking as a priority. So, a real understanding of the real economic benefits and risks is still really low and market failure is an issue. The reason that we get public funding is because of a recognition of that market failure and that businesses are still not taking the necessary action.”
According to Nicholason, the major challenges to helping businesses take action remains a lack of understanding of environmental issues and fears that it will just mean a cost – rather than a saving- to their business. Dealing with that in the economic downturn is a struggle although Nicholson remarks that on balance the same amount of companies are coming forward in the hope that resource efficiency measure will save them money. Budget cuts are not only affecting businesses; Enworks, which received funding from the soon-to-be defunct North West Development Agency has also been affected.
Nicholson explained that their European funding is safe but their matching funding from the NWDA is only secure until 2013. Beyond 2013, she told MCFly that their services aren’t likely to be available completely free of charge as they are now. “I guess there is a silver lining to every cloud, and so we are marketing this is an opportunity for businesses to make the most of our services whilst they are still 100% free.”
In terms of the Green Investment Bank [see interview with John Ashcroft here] and wider Greater Manchester climate change policies, Nicholson remarked that they are happy to work with anyone working towards the same agenda. With regards to the Green Deal, however, she noted that whilst on paper the plans looked good there was still a lot to be decided and policies finalised. As such, she explained that it wasn’t useful to pass judgement right now. She did add that its aims were commendable.
Over the last ten years, Enworks has helped 11,580 businesses which is no small feat. Looking to the future, Nicholson says that she wants to be able to help lots more. “In the next 20 years, I want to see market failure in terms of resources efficiency higher up the agenda and for more businesses to recognise the real benefits of taking up environmental measures.”