Today saw both the UK Secretary of State for Environment and Prime Minister Theresa May announce an extension of the tax on carrier bags, hot on the heels of the “latte levy” and amid a chorus of calls to reform Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the UK, including from us. It is encouraging to see the sustainability impacts of production and consumption on the agenda at the highest level, in the mainstream media and provoking significant debate in public. What we now need is action.
In her speech today, Theresa May announced the publication of the 25 year plan to improve the environment. We need to see a meaningful and strategic framework, one that really focuses on building sustainable production and consumption into the UK economy, provides businesses with the confidence to invest and create green jobs in uncertain times and manages the burden of any costs equitably.
When responding to public concern around very specific topics like carrier bags and coffee cups, it is very easy to focus on “putting the fire out” rather than the fundamentals. While action on these pressing issues is necessary, they can be a distraction from the wider and more practical, yet perhaps less attention grabbing, structures of governance and drivers of behaviors related to sustainable production and consumption in the UK.
Myriad legislative regimes push and pull industry through the sourcing, manufacture, distribution, retail, consumption and end of life for their products. The price of materials, energy, labour and other resources drive behaviors that can both support and detract from the sustainability agenda. New and disruptive products, business models and technologies provide both an opportunity and a risk, and our policy makers need to account for a very uncertain future. The core framework, therefore, needs to be ambitious, progressive, practical and robust.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing our wishlist for a strategic framework to support the successful implementation of this plan, providing our own view on the future of more sustainable production and consumption. If you have a favoured practical action that you think should be on our wishlist, get in touch and let us know.