“Big Society”: Just a stinking acronym…


– We should recycle this “top down”, cynical, BS because its got to be good for something…

As many Corporations have found, embracing a Strategy for Sustainability, has had a positive effect upon their balance sheet! So, why then does the UK Government appear intent upon ignoring or marginalising the issues? How can you TALK “Big Society” and not WALK a strategy that can have a positive impact in every domain?

The paper that Spelman put out on Monday, under the compelling title ‘Mainstreaming sustainable development: The government’s vision and what this means in practice’, is without a doubt the most disgraceful government document relating to Sustainable Development that I have ever seen.

Jonathon Porritt, guardian.co.uk

Well said Jonathon!

It is beyond belief when you consider that, by running their operations more sustainably, Government Departments are saving money as well as reducing energy and water consumption, emissions and waste. In August last year, after the Government had announced its withdrawal of funding for SDC, I quoted this headline: “UK Government’s progress towards sustainable operations saves £60-70m a year”

I’m sure I am not the only person to feel deeply offended when treated with such utter contempt by Politicians who, patently, believe we should just accept the claptrap they spout in an effort to justify their actions! Still, I suppose that in the eyes of the blinkered or naive it is progress to see a semblance of some strategy…no matter how nonsensical and contradictory!

“Convey what sustainable lifestyles are about and how great it is to live them. … It has got to be about what we gain, not what we give up.”

United Nations Environment Programme (2010)

Despite more Political idiocy an increasing number of us recycle, insulate our lofts and choose more ‘green’ products but we are far from living lives that are ‘sustainable’ for future generations. It’s a well quoted statistic but still a powerful one – if the whole world consumed as we do in the UK we would need three planets to sustain everyone. The economic, environmental and social consequences for people and the planet from this excessive and unequal resource use make the goal of sustainable lives not a ‘nice to have’ some day but an essential priority for governments right now.

The Sustainable Development Corporation suggest using four key pillars to underpin policies for more sustainable lives:

  • A clear positive vision for sustainable lives that engages all players and is clear about the priorities for action to achieve the goal of sustainable lives.
  • Making it easy by providing a framework that uses the full spectrum of levers and incentives to ‘enable’ us to do the ‘right thing’ more easily.
  • Working with others through better collaboration and better partnerships between national and local governments, civil society organisations, businesses, communities and people themselves. They all play a vital role in the transition to sustainable lives.
  • Building capabilities and using evidence to create better understanding of what works in practice and using this knowledge in policy making.
    Their report Making Sustainable Lives Easier: A Priority for Governments, Business and Society gives advice to the UK Government and the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland on how governments can build incentives and infrastructure that make sustainable choices the easy choices. 

    The increasing number of people who try to ‘do the right thing’ often find themselves swimming against the tide – their behaviour doesn’t fit society’s norms. It is difficult to make sustainable choices easily when we live in poorly insulated homes, public and active travel is difficult and expensive and are surrounded by unhealthy food.

Behaviour change research shows that governments need to use a range of interventions from regulations, economic incentives and business standards to campaigns and information. A one-size-fits-all approach, which an emphasis on the UK Coalition Government’s ‘nudge’ implies, is unlikely to be effective.

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