Phil Clark wonders whether both consumers and business will really embrace sustainability in the coming year
I can't help feeling that we may face something of a backlash to the drive to go sustainable this year. A little pessimistic, perhaps? Am I being overcome with the general gloom over politics/the economy/international instability etc? Time will tell but the trend of 'Green fatigue', as the Observer described it on Sunday, has plenty of credibility.
Be honest, how many friends or family do you know that have really made radical changes to their lives as yet? If I'm being truthful I made some steps last year, but they were small ones rather than big strides. The Observer green fatigue article quotes a MORI poll that found that while most people were convinced an environmental crisis was on the cards virtually none "were prepared to do anything about it beyond trying to reuse plastic bags and recycle some rubbish".
From a business and industry perspective I think the problem will not be as much apathy as frustration and fear. Frustration at how policy and regulation related to the environmental impact of the built environment are being managed, and fear at shorter term trends, such as the state of the economy and the housing and property markets. If house prices do drop by between 5-10% this year, as some experts are predicting, will ambitious plans by housebuilders to build to high Code for Sustainable Homes standards be mothballed? Could the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates in the next twelve months deepen the gloom in the property market by bringing it almost to a standstill in the summer? Could the potential for the legislation to be botched lead to furious responses from developers? Will the hoary old chestnut of the cost of going sustainable be used as an excuse to sidestep taking action, when budgets will be tighter in gloomier economic conditions?
All of these are valid fears but one hopes key individuals, organisations and companies can be persuasive and proactive throughout 2008 to ram such doubts down my throat.
Phil Clark blogs at Zerochampion