Sustaining the lockdown legacy
What will be the lockdown legacy? We’re living through an extraordinary crisis, but in times of adversity we often learn some of the greatest lessons.
Rebecca Chedd, Environmental Business Advisor at GC Business Growth Hub, has been assisting us with our progress towards carbon neutrality.
We invited her to give her views on the silver linings to life in lockdown.
The lockdown legacy
The Coronavirus lockdown has had a profound impact on businesses and their employees. My colleagues and I at the Business Growth Hub have been engaging with hundreds of companies across Greater Manchester over the last few weeks. It’s clear that no one has been left unaffected.
Home-based working, for those lucky enough to be able to operate remotely, has become mainstream on a scale scarcely imaginable just a few months ago. While this clearly has its challenges, there are some really positive outcomes that businesses should consider sustaining after lockdown is lifted.
Emissions down, air quality up
The lockdown has resulted in huge reductions in travel on our roads. For many of us, commuting has become a thing of the past. We’ve embraced virtual technologies such as video calling to keep us connected.
This has led to a significant drop in daily greenhouse gas emissions and dangerous air pollutants like NO2 and particulate matter. These are linked to around 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester each year.
We now have categorical proof of how transformative reduced travel can be on the climate and our health. Since lockdown started, there has already been an estimated 11,000 fewer deaths in Europe thanks to cleaner air.
Will part of the the lockdown legacy be a sustainable improvement in air quality? It would be a real shame if this achievement is reversed when lockdown is lifted.
If businesses allow their staff to work from home more often, or introduce flexible working so there are fewer people on the road at peak times, we can lock in cleaner air and lower emissions for the long-term.
It could also lead to less need for office space, which will save companies money on rent and bills. But the benefits don’t end there…
Quality of life
Without the need to commute, those of us who are working from home have more time on our hands. This time can be spent with family and friends, keeping fit or even learning a new skill or hobby. Anyone who has had to sit in rush hour traffic five days a week will know how detrimental it is to our mood and mental health. We’re all better off if we can avoid it.
One thing we’re seeing more of during lockdown is people cycling and walking. I hope businesses will support their staff to continue using active travel modes when lockdown is lifted. Not only is it beneficial for health and wellbeing, it’s beneficial for business productivity too.
Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham has already announced new plans to re-allocate road space and improve cycling routes in an effort to sustain the benefits we’ve experienced during lockdown, so watch this space!
Now is the time for sustainability
Of course, not all businesses can support remote working. Many sectors, such as manufacturing, can’t operate without employees being on-site. Understandably it’s these sectors which have suffered the most. However, downtime in the factory is the perfect opportunity to think about incorporating sustainable practices into operations.
As part of a positive lockdown legacy, the ‘triple bottom line’ approach to business – profit, people and planet – is now more important than ever.
At the Business Growth Hub, our team of specialist resource efficiency advisors are helping companies to adopt this approach. We can review their use of resources and utilities and identify opportunities to make cost and carbon savings.
Clean Air is one of many businesses across Greater Manchester who are benefitting from our support. It’s great to see the progress they’re making towards becoming carbon neutral by 2023.
If you want to know more about how Clean Air is sustaining the lockdown legacy, contact us.
Get in touch with the GC Business Growth Hub’s resource efficiency team to enquire about support for your business.
Rebecca Chedd is an Environmental Business Advisor at the GC Business Growth Hub. In her role as an advisor, Rebecca provides support to SMEs to identify and quantify resource efficiency opportunities spanning energy, materials, fuel, water and waste, helping businesses to reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Rebecca holds an MSc in Energy and the Environment and is an Associate Member of IEMA.