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The green challenge: save the planet and make money

Tackling climate change can and must be seen as a sensible business decision.

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

I caught myself browsing a website devoted to low energy light bulbs last week. In fact I even heard myself having a serious conversation about the performance of various bulbs and in particular whether or not you can use them with dimmer switches.

Apparently it is possible to buy a dimmable eco bulb, but only special ones and they don't work with standard dimmer switches. And at £12.95 each they are somewhat expensive for my lighting needs particularly when you add in the cost of the new light switch.

All of which got me thinking about what the payback period might be. Perhaps someone might know or be able to work it out but I'm not sure that at £12.95 and with an expected life of 10,000 hours this bulb would ever pay for itself.

Is that a problem? Maybe, maybe not.

On the one hand I would be doing the right thing - using less power to light my house. But on the other hand I would also be paying for a feature that I didn't necessarily need. A standard low energy light bulb is, after all, a third of the price compared to the dimmable alternative.

The government published its long-awaited Climate Change Bill this week, a document intended to ease - or where necessary force - us all towards a reduced carbon lifestyle. How do we tackle climate change mitigation without either incurring a huge cost being forced to make huge sacrifices.

The answer is that it is possible. However it will require us to think that little bit harder.

Take plant manufacturer JCB. Last week I heard that changing the light bulbs in one of its factories to lower energy varieties cost £46,000 but knocked £64,000 a year from the annual electricity bill. That's a seven month payback.

It is just one example of how we can turn climate change mitigation, and sustainability into a business opportunity.

Six months ago the government-backed Sustainable Procurement Task Force laid down some pretty tough challenges to persuade the public sector that it can use its multibillion pound procurement purse to embrace sustainability and tackle climate change.

Former Tarmac chairman Sir Neville Simms led the work and concluded in his action plan that "this is worth doing, there are clear benefits, it can be done, it is not difficult, it will not cost more in the medium term and will show real dividends in the long term."

In short, tackling climate change can and must be seen as a sensible business decision - something that well run businesses do because it drives profit to the bottom line.

It is a challenge we cannot afford to miss. Not only will we be out of business but we'll also be out of planet.

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