Reflecting back home - government needs to act fast and be brave and strong.

16.05.2011 Back in the UK

Reflecting now that I’m back home, I saw some inspirational stuff last week. Not least, on Wednesday when I got to watch some of the official Ministerial proceedings in the United Nations General Assembly room (they're the ones that you see on TV sometimes); such auspicious surroundings for such important discussions.  And the calls to action from the opening speakers could not have been more urgent.  Several of the speakers used ecological footprinting as evidence and the analogy that we are now consuming several planets worth of resources as illustration of the size of the challenge – what a great fillip for us supporters of the One Planet Living mantra. And for the first time ever I heard speakers claiming that we have reached the tipping point; that from now on our actions are going to have much more significant impacts than they ever have before.

From where I was sitting on the balcony above that huge room packed with representatives from so many countries it was really clear how difficult all these negotiations are going to be.  There are so many delegates from so many countries representing so many people with such diverse needs, all of which need to be considered.  But as the opening speakers said, this is a challenge that will impact everyone.

As timber has always been at the very heart of B&Q’s sustainability agenda it feels like a good place to illustrate how we are experiencing the impacts.  Our focus on timber has traditionally been on considering what the standards are for sustainable forestry; supporting foresters to move from unsustainable practices towards certified sustainable methods and working with manufacturers on specifying sustainable materials in their designs – and this is important work. 

As our journey has gone on we have seen competition for sustainable timber increase. 

This competition has come from various sources
• the expected and welcome, as more customers for sustainable products come to the fore
• and the less expected and unwelcome as we see the competition for forest land and material affect its value and availability. 

The most high profile examples of this second kind of competition are from agriculture and palm oil – where swathes of natural forest have been replaced with farms or palm oil plantations.  The less obvious is the increasing demand for biomass as a fuel source – a move that is important from a carbon perspective but equally challenging from a materials resource perspective.  It illustrates how not only do the needs within countries need to be considered in these discussions but also that globally we need to consider – with local people – how we make the best use of the planet’s available land and put policies in place to ensure that happens sustainably.  Further down the supply chain we have responsibility for considering the best materials for each application and ensuring that at their end of life products are sent on for new lives in other uses but again we need an appropriate policy framework to support this.

So I guess if I could say anything to all of those ministers sitting in that amazing room it would be to implore them to take the warnings seriously and be brave and strong in their resolve to get the policies we need to allow us to achieve one planet living as quickly as possible.

Rachel Bradley, B&Q