“We are so far beyond living sustainably”

In this week’s Net Hero Podcast, we spoke to environmentalist, Julia Hailes, who says we need to work with, not against businesses to go green

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Businesses have the potential to amplify environmentalism.

In this week’s Net Hero Podcast, we spoke to Julia Hailes, an environmentalist and author who started working in sustainability in the mid 1980’s, pushing businesses to think about the climate.

Julia said: ‘I realised quite early that it’s very important for people to recognise that there was a clear link between everything that we do, everything that we do will have an impact on the environment in one way or the other.’

When writing her book, The Green Consumer Guide, she realised that businesses assumed there wasn’t a demand for greener products when, in fact, there was.

She said: ‘There was a huge swath of consumers who really wanted to do something but didn’t know what they could be doing and we caught that.’

Julia noted that the 1980’s became a time when consumers and businesses alike were becoming increasingly aware of sustainability.

However, she was often criticised for working with businesses and her work was always stuck between zealous environmentalists and businesses.

She said: ‘If you attack businesses completely, the only response they will have is to ignore you because they can’t do anything. What we wanted to do is say businesses have the solutions.

‘Although I do occasionally campaign, I do very much understand working with businesses and getting them to value what can be done.’

Julia said that businesses today need to get serious about their environmental impact.

She said: ‘So many businesses say that they want to do exactly what they’re doing but a little bit greener.

‘I think that’s rubbish because we want businesses having a vision which says that we are going to repair the planet, to stop deforestation, to bring back biodiversity, to halt climate change.

‘I don’t think there’s a conflict between making money and doing good but I do think there’s a conflict in terms of staying with the same business mindset as they always had.

‘You take the big oil companies, I don’t think they should be piling on more and more oil exploration. They should be putting that money into improving the grid and increasing renewables.’

Consumers, she noted, have an important role to play in environmentalism.

She said: ‘I see the power of the consumer in terms of putting their messages to business and changing that culture.

‘I don’t think you can sit there saying the consumer isn’t making any difference because that there is that increased awareness.

‘Is the government ever going to tax fuel or flights or any of the negative things if the majority of the people think its all a whole load of rubbish? Or are they going to do it if, instead, the majority of the people welcome that positive change and are prepared to shift their behaviour?

‘We have to demonstrate that we [consumers] care through what we consume, what we buy and how we act.’

Although she will continue with her work in environmentalism, she has become more pessimistic given the current situation of the planet.

Listen to the full podcast to find out what Julia thinks of the current state of sustainability and remember to subscribe to our newsletter.

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