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Jul
01

The voice of the people – Part 2

There's been a recent wave of good news around deliberative engagement on climate change. Last week the UK Climate Assembly produced an interim briefing on the question of a green recovery and the French equivalent produced its full 460 page report with 150 recommendations. It was uplifting to see Le Monde covering that report in depth including a ...
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Jun
01

Building from the Corona crisis to a more sustainable future

Interview with Tim O'Riordan Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia 29th May 2020  Please could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background, and what sustainability means to you? Well, I began as a geographer and I taught for 40 years as a professor of environmental science, at the University of ...
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May
13

A local green recovery

It is a widespread ask from environmental groups, including Sustainability First, that as we emerge from the current crisis the focus must be on a green recovery. Ahead of the Petersburg Climate Dialogue recently Britain's Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that "the world must work together, as it has to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, to sup...
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Apr
29

The voice of the people

It's not surprising that groups like Sustainability First are calling for a focus on a green recovery from the current crisis. But what does the population at large think? We know that concerns about climate change had been rising rapidly up the agenda but are they now being pushed back down as people are faced with much more immediate financial an...
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Apr
27

Covid 19, other disruptors and the case for public purpose utilities

Sustainability First's Fair for the Future Project was launched two years ago to answer the questions: how should utilities such as energy, water and communications better address the politics of fairness and the environment in a disrupted world? How might fairer, more sustainable business models contribute to this? and What are the implications of...
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Apr
16

Should consumer challenge groups set up by utility regulators have a role during Covid-19?

I've been struck over the last few weeks how in responding to the Covid-19 crisis neither Ofgem nor Ofwat has either consulted or proactively communicated their approach to the Customer Engagement Groups (CEGs), User Groups or Customer Challenge Groups (CCGs) that they required companies to set up. For example, Rachel Fletcher's letter to water com...
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Apr
09

What do we do now? Re-framing Ofgem’s priorities

In the face of the wide-ranging impacts of the coronavirus crisis, Ofgem have rightly said that they are reviewing their Forward Work Plan to allow more focus on short term issues around consumer protection and also to avoid over-burdening companies, acknowledging that the regulatory process can be demanding. As a part of that re-prioritisation, Su...
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Mar
27

Bridging corona to a sustainable future

The coronavirus is the biggest shock in a generation.Peter Hennessy has said that we will look back and divide history into 'BC' and 'AC' – Before and After Corona.We are currently living in 'DC' - During Corona.Utilities are flat out on business continuity and resilience. But can we build a bridge through the pandemic to a more sustainable place o...
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Mar
18

Coronavirus is a shock - and it can be a spur

With the coronavirus, everything is up in the air.It is forcing us to rethink the relationship between business, the state and society.This blog is based on a letter that I wrote to the Financial Times in response to an article by Jonathan Ford on 'stakeholderism'.The letter was printed on 16 th March. Jonathan Ford rightly points out that 'Stakeho...
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Feb
26

Getting to grips with climate and environmental risk in utilities

In recent years we have seen the rapid rise of climate risk as a major focus for companies across the economy, with sustainability and wider environmental risks such as those around biodiversity increasingly treated as growing and even existential concerns for investors – from outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's warning that companies m...
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Feb
21

PIAG Phase 2: Unlocking the public interest benefits of smart meter energy data

' Data is key to making informed policy choices, but current provisions for access to smart meter data for a public interest purpose leave policy makers at risk of "flying blind" into the energy transition .' The Smart Meter Energy Data Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) , a landmark joint project convened by Sustainability First and the Centre ...
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Feb
20

Utilities can play a key role in unlocking local value. But to maximise impact, the focus needs to shift beyond regional growth to regional wellbeing

Putting on a hard hat and standing next to a digger can be a difficult photo opportunity to resist.As the Infrastructure revolution gathers pace, we can expect more pictures from across the country as new MPs do just this.There are many good reasons to do so. With significant regional inequality, 'levelling up' is the fair thing to do – between reg...
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Feb
07

Ofgem: pointing the way ahead on de-carbonisation

2020 is already a defining year for the climate crisis.The COP26 Climate Conference in November will ensure all eyes are focused on the need for action.Turning talk into a meaningful international agreement on net-zero is not plain sailing. With the Government's 2050 net zero commitment, it is also a significant opportunity to show leadership at ho...
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Jan
02

Everything has changed - yet nothing has changed

We've had a decisive election result – but what has changed in the utility space?  Some companies may feel that they have 'dodged a bullet' and that they are now 'off the hook' in terms of delivering on fairness and the environment.  That they are now free to return to 'business as usual'.  We strongly disagree and consider that our ...
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Dec
02

Purposeful business – a major contribution from the British Academy. But what does it mean for climate change?

​ Over the last year, debate on the future of capitalism and 'inclusive capitalism' has taken off. A focus on corporate purpose has been at the heart. What this actually means and how to embed purpose in a meaningful way – so this doesn't just lead to CSR 'purpose-wash' – occupies many column inches. Last week the British Academy released its groun...
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Nov
15

The consumer lived experience in energy and water

Guest Blog from Richard Hall, Chief Energy Economist, Citizens Advice To go alongside our recent Fair for the Future Project working note on 'Changes in the consumer lived experience in regard to fairness and the environment' , Rich has shared his perspective from Citizens Advice. We live in uncertain times.Some basic assumptions about how society ...
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Oct
22

How will Ofgem shape the future of electricity distribution in ED2?

​ Change comes fast but utility regulation risks slow motion. Since the RIIO2 process kicked off some two years back, government has legislated for a 2050 net zero green-house gas reduction target – and XR certainly knows how to focus minds. What's more, the wider politics of our utilities continues to pose a major challenge for economic regulation...
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Oct
02

Time for a radical rethink

While there is near universal support for the move to net zero emissions, the elephant in the room remains the question of how this should be paid for.  The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) asked HM Treasury to undertake a review of how the transition will be funded and where the costs will fall, noting that a key policy challenge is to ensur...
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Sep
30

Making best use of ‘capital’, competition and collaboration: are energy and water companies turning talk into action?

​ There has been a lot of talk over the summer, including in the pages of the Financial Times, on corporate purpose and how a focus on this may help 'reinvent capitalism'.  There has also been a clear pushback that discussion of purpose needs to lead to changes on the ground if they are to move beyond 'virtue signalling'. Sustainability First'...
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Sep
26

‘Fairness’ in UK energy and water sectors: roles, responsibilities, and changing expectations

This summer, Sustainability First convened the third workshop in our Fair for the Future project, aimed at establishing a 'Sustainable Licence to Operate' for the energy and water sectors as set out in our proposed strawman .  The third pillar of the strawman focuses on the roles and responsibilities of key sectoral stakeholders in terms of de...
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