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A green recovery is vital to building back better

By Harry Day

5 June 2020

Today is World Environment Day, which comes amidst growing momentum around calls for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Boris Johnson has urged countries to “build back better”, committing to “a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy”. Earlier this week, more than 200 major companies signed a letter to the prime minister, urging him to “deliver a clean, just recovery”. And yesterday, Greenpeace published its manifesto for a green recovery.

‘Build back better’ is a neat phrase, but we need to ensure this isn’t just empty rhetoric. We must seize the opportunity for a green recovery through real action. We all have a role to play; from policy makers pushing forward legislation, to individuals demanding and doing more through the choices we make every day, and businesses and civil society collaborating to accelerate innovation.

One of the major shifts we need is to transform the way goods are made, used and managed, creating a more circular and sustainable economy by keeping resources in use for as long as possible. Almost half of global carbon emissions currently come from creating the cars, clothes, food, and other products we use every day – so creating a more circular economy is vital to reducing emissions from the production and use of goods and materials and helping to meet climate targets.

As part of our work to accelerate progress, we’ve been working with London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) on Circular Economy Week – a series of virtual events and discussions to advance the agenda. Bringing together leaders and innovators from around the globe, it has focused on cities and how they can reduce emissions from the production and use of goods and materials.

The week has highlighted the growing awareness that our current ‘take, make, dispose’ model isn’t working. Only around 8 percent of the 100 billion tonnes of raw natural materials which entered the global economy were reused last year – if we want to have a substantial impact on long-term carbon emissions and meet environmental targets, we need a profound shift.

This isn’t a choice between a healthy environment and thriving economy – a green recovery can build a strong economy, create jobs, and foster more connected communities. A new report suggests that the UK can unlock up to £90bn each year by spurring a green recovery, creating at least 210,000 jobs by 2030.

At Forster we’re committed to walking the talk, and that has never been more important than now. We recognise that we need to all do more and go further, and earlier this year, we published a pioneering climate action plan – Forster’s three-year roadmap to becoming a climate positive business. It goes beyond achieving net zero so that the total impact of the agency’s direct and indirect actions are positive for the environment and remove damaging emissions from the atmosphere.

We also know that collaboration is vital to delivering a green recovery; as part of this, we’re calling for organisations to join us and LWARB in delivering London’s first ever Repair Week in October. We want to build on and share existing insights, services and expertise from a wide range of organisations, to help give Londoners the practical skills and resources they need to keep clothing, electricals and a wide range of other goods in use for longer.

These are just some of the steps we are taking. Of course, nobody can achieve the scale of what’s needed alone, but by pulling in the same direction, we can combine and collaborate for change. Let’s work together to seize the moment – our environment can’t afford to wait.