Only a few days ago I heard that the British Government was planning on banning plastic straws and cotton buds. While this may sound a positive step towards helping to save the planet, I am not sure that it will make an enormous dent in the plastic mountain that the world has created.
Even worse, when governments signpost their potential actions it only acts as a warning bell for the lobbyists that work for plastic straw makers to get to work to water down the proposals. This assumes that such legislation can fit itself in with the massive pieces of legislation needed to implement Brexit.
Cars also try and give the impression that they are doing their bit. I have recently obtained a new car that records what it says is the amount of CO2 that I am saving with the engine stop/start feature. In the first three months I have apparently saved 0.6 Kg of CO2. While I have a certain feeling of righteousness, I am not sure we are making great inroads into global warming.
Indeed, I feel far more righteous about the fact that when we were younger we used solar and wind power to dry clothes with a washing line, recycled glass milk, pop and beer bottles, used re-usable nappies and put on an extra jumper in lieu of central heating!
What I believe we need is for today’s entrepreneurs to look for innovative ways to tackle the problems facing us. This will involve solutions that provide positive engagement in the problems rather than annoying people by asking them to use several different dustbins!
One such solution has started in Istanbul that has a population of over 15 million, a large number of which use public transport. These people, along with many tourists, use the travel card to get around. New ticket machines allow people to deposit their empty plastic bottle or drinks can into the machine, in return for which they get money added to their card.
This has a few benefits. Firstly, it engages the public in recycling at the immediate point of disposal. Secondly, it is a clear educational tool and thirdly, it immediately sorts the recycled materials into plastic or aluminium.
Another clever idea that is being developed comes from America. There has been increasing concern about the loss of trees on the planet, and the difficulty of planting sufficient replacement trees.
Now they are using drones to map areas of deforestation and then they are using the drones to plant the new trees. Hovering a couple of metres above the ground the drone fires seeds into the ground. It is estimated that the company that has developed this can plant a billion trees a year.
We have a youth population that is much more socially aware than in the past, and they also have the potential to be more creative. Today’s solutions need to move away from simply being gee-whizz to being socially responsible solutions.
In my latest book I spoke of how 21stCentury entrepreneurship needs to consider more than just the bottom line. Entrepreneurs have always demonstrated that they are capable of changing our environment. One only has to look at the mobile phone, the computer, the car or even the light bulb.
The opportunities for entrepreneurs have never been better, and socially responsible entrepreneurship will deliver more rewards that cash. Perhaps then us old folk can forgive you for using plastic bottles, tumble dryers, disposable nappies, central heating and air conditioning!