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Expert Comment: How green is my wallet?

Home insulation Monday 27 July 2015

Reverend Tony Bradley, Associate Director of SEED and Professional Tutor in Social Enterprise at Liverpool Hope University Business School, comments on the government’s Green Deal announcement.

The UK Government has announced the ending of its Green Deal subsidy for domestic solar energy installation, citing that it remains committed to environmental policy, provided this is "business friendly" (BBC Politics, 23rd July 2015). Clearly, the assumption is that businesses may be antithetic to green taxes, environmental subsidies and state engagement in fostering eco-policy. What this fails to recognise is the massive increase in green and ethical markets in the UK. 

The fact that businesses as a whole are taking issues of environmental sustainability very seriously and 'greening' their own markets is a direct challenge to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd’s assumption. This displacement activity is not solely confined to the SME sector, with large corporate companies such as Unilever, Siemens and Tata leading the 'greening' of mega-businesses.

However, there remains a fundamental issue on the demand side. To what extent are consumers like you and I willing to pay more for greener products and goods? How green do we want our goods to be? Do our wallets reflect a 'greenwash' or are they turning 'deep green'?

The evidence suggests we are becoming far more green-conscious as consumers. Spending in ethical markets accounts for about one-fifth of all UK consumption and has increased by more than six times (in real terms) since the start of the century. Even so, the roots of these issues and the depths of our behaviour arguably remain ones of values and spirituality. 

It is the extent to which we see the planet more as our mother than our servant that will condition our green-consuming responses. How green is our wallet? That probably mirrors the issue of how green is our soul. For Amber Rudd, she may be required to turn from an angry red to a more passive green if she is to experience a clearer road ahead with UK consumers – sticking on amber is not an option.

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