Nell Crowden: Climate week—cleaning up the sponsorship debate

Action on climate change is good for our health, good for our wealth, and good for our environment—our life-support system.

We are all complicit in the degradation on our once-reliable, stable climate. The climate science is clear. The economic arguments are clear. And the health message is clear: we can all do things that impact—for good and for ill.

Climate Week Overview

Climate Week is a week of action on climate change: promoting sustainable activities, such as eating low carbon food, taking small steps on a large scale. Over 2,500 individuals and organisations have signed up to participate, across the UK. These activities often have benefits for health too.

The Climate Week Awards (held on Monday) showcase the best examples of climate action, from community initiatives, artistic responses, and technology, to inspirational leaders. Congratulations to University College London Hospital’s Estates and Facilities Department, for winning Best initiative for a public or uniformed service.

Corporate Sponsorship

Some environmentalists will not engage in Climate Week on account of its funding from corporate sponsorship. Climate Week CEO, Kevin Steele, says:

“All of Climate Week’s partners have a strong commitment to action on climate change:

  • Tesco has committed to reducing the emissions of the products in its supply chain by 30% by 2020 and was ranked best company in the UK by the Carbon Disclosure Project.
  • EDF Energy is the largest producer of low-carbon electricity in Britain.
  • H&M is the largest user of organic cotton in the world.
  • Nissan has produced a 100% electric car, the LEAF, which was 2011 World Car of the Year.
  • One SodaStream bottle can save up to 2000 single-use bottles and cans.”

Corporates have scale: they have great potential for change, and to put large investments into new, sustainable technologies and developments. The Climate Week sponsors demonstrate this use of scale in action, and Climate Week itself demonstrates climate action, scaled up across the UK.

Alternative sources of funding?

In context, the global financial crisis has severely limited the availability of funds for socially beneficial initiatives. Meanwhile, the need to address both environmental and poverty-induced problems rises. Need rises, funding falls: something must be done.

Let’s be simple. A-level economics says: corporates, businesses, and individuals pay tax to 1) the government, which funds public sector, 2) charitable trust funds, and 3) employees/shareholders, suppliers, others.

As a public-sector organisation, the NHS is funded off the back of an unsustainable financial system. Is the NHS going to say “we only want budgets raised from ethical tax payers?” How much of the NHS could be funded in this way today? In five years? Ten?

Have an ethical policy regarding where you accept money, whether you are a charity, business, department, or individual. If you are happy for your brand to be associated with sponsors, corporate sponsorship and partnership is an efficiency saving by cutting out the middle-man of government or charitable funds.

Individual Power for Sustainable Change

We have to face up to ourselves and our habits; if we received a small electric shock every time we did something that has caused pollution to be released, we’d stop buying or doing that thing. But we don’t receive any negative signal until it’s nearly too late. It’s nearly too late now:

“We are the first and last generation to have the chance to act on climate change”

– Kevin Steele, at the Climate Week Awards (Mon 12th March, 2012)

As consumers, is it our responsibility to demand that the products and services we buy are sustainable from birth to beyond the bin (product lifecycle).

“The customer is always right” maxim is powerful. If you’ve ever been called up by a market researcher you’ll know companies want to know what you think: SO TELL THEM.

Climate Week: Clean Conscience Action!

Action on climate change is action on health. Climate Week shows the mainstreaming of action on climate change. It shows one week where we stand united on action to protect, preserve, and secure ourselves a healthy climate and a healthy future, and a healthier present. So get involved!

If the NHS can be funding with the same principals as Climate Week, maybe one day we could say:

“All of the NHS’s funders have a strong commitment to action on climate change”

Nell Crowden is the communications and campaign manager, Climate and Health Council.