This week I am looking at the role that business can play in protecting the planet.
But for a business to remain in business, they do need consumers to buy their products or services. And that means we all have a role to play.
Even at breakfast.
Because if you start your day with Jordan's cereal and a couple of slices of toast made from Allinson Bread, you'll be helping wildlife from the comfort of your kitchen.
These are just two brands that support Conservation Grade - a scheme encouraging nature friendly farming. Farmers that supply conservation grade products are obliged to allocate 10% of their land to create wildlife habitats. This is on a par with what we do at our Hope Farm. And, as at Hope Farm, Conservation Grade farms have more wildlife. It is estimated that they are home to five times more wildlife than conventional farms.
They achieve this by being pretty prescriptive about which habitats farmers need to manage to get the most wildlife on their land. Nearly all Conservation Grade farmers will be rewarded through agri-environment schemes and then receive a premium payment on top.
And, in farmers like Robert Law (former Farmer of the Year and Nature of Farmng Award regional winner), they have fabulous advocates. Sometimes it takes a farmer to convince a farmer"
I am a fan of Conservation Grade and any other schemes that drive up standards. I hope that their market share grows. And let's remember that we, as nature-loving consumers, can help make that happen by choosing the right products when we shop.
Do you buy Conservation Grade products? If not, why not?
It would be great to hear your views.
Recent talk about ‘responsible capitalism’ has tended to focus on issues of equity and social justice. Yet business also has a responsibility to the environment.
This week, I want to explore where business can step up to do more for nature.
Many multinationals, and some large domestic businesses, have global reach. They connect people with nature in many different ways – through their supply chains and products in particular. Their brands shape popular values and some of them reach billions of people every day. Companies influence governments, both in relation to particular decisions and legislation and policy. They emit a high proportion of greenhouse gases, consume resources and control or influence how large areas of land are managed.
It's easy to assume that 'advocacy' and 'influencing decision-makers' starts and ends with politicians and government departments. But big businesses have an equally large influence our lives - and probably an even greater influence on the environment. So focusing your influencing efforts on the policy sphere means that you are only doing (at best) 50% of the job.
If we want to achieve long-term success, we cannot simply rely on governments to do the right thing. We need companies to align with our conservation goals, and not only those of shareholders.
The RSPB works with private companies all the time: we advise thousands of family farms about nature friendly farming every year; we have helped reshape the way that water companies manage their estates for water and for wildlife; we influence hundreds of development decisions; we continue to enter into a number of partnerships to support conservation management (especially on our nature reserves); and we do benefit from corporate sponsorship such as the much enjoyed Black Grouse whisky.
But we can and should do more. We want business to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and advocate change within their own sector. Practicing and preaching sustainability should be key features of any responsible business.
And irresponsible businesses that seek to weaken environmental regulations should be exposed as self-serving and not acting in the public interest. I hope that, in the run up to important decisions about planning reform and the Habitats Regulations, UK Government ministers remember that fact.
What role do you think that businesses have in saving the planet? And what do you think the RSPB should do about it?
I was happy with the morning’s work.
Despite the mist, the five kids and I were relatively happy with our nine species: blue tit (3), chaffinch (2), collared dove (2), robin (1), dunnock (1), house sparrow (1), carrion crow (1), woodpigeon (2) and blackbird (1).
We were a little short on previous years. There may have been more (species, not kids), but we had to cope with various distractions. A lego version of Camelot’s court and a brace of Mums proved too much for some. But for our small suburban garden it was OK.
Just one of the kids (not mine) saw it through. At five, she is mainly interested in dinosaurs so I explained the evolutionary link. She indulged me until I quoted Robert Bakker “when you see the geese honking overhead, say - the dinosaurs are migrating, it must be spring!”. And then she was gone.
Here’s hoping that another 600,000 or so folk saw it through and had a great weekend.
The weather is terrible, the economy is in a mess, which means we all need something to bring cheer this weekend.
Here's my top tip: why not make yourself a cup of tea, sit down and count the birds in your garden for an hour.
If you want to be really indulgent, you could do this while listening to Sir David Attenborough's Desert Island Discs on Sunday. What could be better - watching wildlife while listening to a national treasure?
Yes, it's Big Garden Birdwatch weekend.
For my sins, I hope to be herding five kids (not all mine I hasten to add) to join in the fun. And I really do need those long-tailed tits (like the one below courtesy of Jogn Bridge and RSPB-images.com) to turn up in the garden at the right time.
Last January a record 609,000 people took part. We're hoping to top that this year. So, go on, take part. It will cheer you up! I promise.
And do let me (and the rest of the RSPB) know what you found...
Seven months ago, I blogged here that a Derbyshire gamekeeper, Glenn Brown, had been found guilty of attempting to illegally trap and kill birds of prey.
What I failed to report was that the gamekeeper later appealed this decision. However, yesterday, we heard that he lost his appeal and the Judge upheld his sentence of 100 hours community service while increasing his costs from £10,000 to £17,000.
I am delighted by this news. There is no place for illegal killing of birds of prey in 21st century Britain.
I am also delighted for all those involved in bringing this case to court including RSPB investigation staff who had to put up with sustained attacks on their integrity from the defence lawyers in both trials.
I am proud that RSPB has such dedicated and professional investigation staff. They work tirelessly with the police to bring these criminals to justice and this verdict sends a signal that those who illegally kill birds of prey will be caught and will be punished.
Crimes such as these illustrate links between driven-grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey. This is why industry leaders and employers need to do more to stamp out these crimes. It is an inconvient truth that since 1990 there have been over 100 gamekeepers convicted of crimes relating to the despicable persecution of birds of prey.
More needs to be done.
We believe that land managers and owners should be held legally accountable for any wildlife crimes that are committed by their staff, as is the case in Scotland. If you agree, please sign this petition calling for introduction of an offence for vicarious liability for raptor persecution. We shall be encouraging the Law Commission to give this serious consideration as part of its review of wildlife management legislation in England and Wales.
Finally, if you have not done so already, do read more about the investigation here.