Cheese and wine, anyone?

MY challenge for this article was to write about something HR-y in an edition that is all about electric power and green energy. I am a maestro at tenuous links so let’s see how I do!

My starting point was pondering our carbon footprint at work. This got me thinking about my first job after leaving college in the 90s, which was when I first got a company car; my first car, actually.

At that time, I rode a 1968 BSA Bantam motorcycle. It has a slippery clutch, so I had to rev it like crazy to set off from junctions or get up hills and it spluttered smoky two-stroke fumes everywhere. I would turn up to work at the office in my leathers and get changed in the loos; despite this, and smelling of pre-mix (look it up!) I had been talent-spotted as a future manager.

When I shortly got promoted to a management role, the company offered to put me through my car driving test and give me company car so I could aim for further promotion to a regional role covering Northwest England. I duly passed the test, got given a new Ford Escort that very day, and was sent to Dewsbury which meant going up a motorway, something I had never done.

I didn’t crash or cause too much chaos on the roads thankfully, but I did drive the wrong way up a one-way street and I couldn’t tell the police officers what I was doing wrong when they stopped me. It was a huge learning curve for me that day but probably good for the environment as I finally mothballed the Bantam.

What I hadn’t realised was that having a company car, and my Northern Irish ignorance of geography, led to a rather generous interpretation of ‘Northwest England’ by the company. Northwest England included Birmingham, Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle. Sometimes even Scotland. There was no expensing hotels so I would be driving everywhere and back the same day leading to 12-14 hour days sitting in traffic on many occasions. It’s amazing how gullible I was at the age of 23, and how big my carbon footprint was. What wouldn’t I have given for Google Maps or AA Route Finder back then?

Those of you who have read my musings over the last few years will know that, despite this, I went on to become a petrol-head. Nowadays, whilst I rarely need to commute very much during the almost two-years of pandemic madness, I still feel the need to maintain my fleet of vehicles comprising an MK1 Audi TT, T25 Volkswagen Campervan, Triumph Bonneville and Suzuki Sv650. Oh, and a mountain bike… er… and a racing bike. Maybe I’m a wheel-head too.

Like many in the labour force, I do not think I will be doing a daily commute in the future thanks to the ‘C’ word, therefore I’m now in somewhat of a quandary. Should I do the sensible thing and pare my collection down to one eco-friendly, four-wheeled vehicle and a Damon Hypersport electric superbike, which actually looks rather sexy, or convert my collection of vehicles to something greener? Alternatively, do I consider my penchant for keeping and maintaining vehicles in pristine condition (instead of trading them in for a newer model every three years) as being a ‘green’ champion for the last 30 years and just get on with life?

Whilst considering my options, I came across some interesting research by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs which found that the average UK classic vehicle travels only 1,200 miles and emits just 563kg of CO2 in a year. This is apparently less than half the emissions of using a mobile phone over the same period. How reassuring for me, but not most organisations!

The phasing out of fossil-fuelled vehicles is not currently planned to affect the classic market, and you can see why. However, the above research got me thinking about the future green credentials of organisations, particularly given my first experience of travelling for work.

A tanker truck driver delivers petrol to a petrol station

I found the CO2 data on mobile phones really surprising and I expect many others will too.

Organisations will need to consider everything from running fleets of vehicles, mobile phones, and how much their people need to travel in order to prepare the way for a greener future. It goes without saying that where people can work from home (or more locally which I wrote about last month) that digital connectivity, alongside green energy to run it, will be a key plank of any green strategy.

Speaking of green strategy, I cannot end an article without a wee bit of commentary on politics.

The UK’s COP26 green strategy has of course hit a bit of a bump in the road with the resignation of spokesperson Allegra Stratton who, in her statement to the press, remarked that Boris’ ‘leadership on the environment and nature would make a lasting difference to the whole world’.

She’s not wrong. Boris and Carrie do love an organic night in.

Various news outlets reported not long ago that they had over £27,000 worth of cheese, wines and other organic delights delivered in paper bags to Downing Street during the spring months to aid Boris’ recovery from Covid. Downing Street has, it seems, seen its fair share of cheese and wine during the pandemic. Boris’ food deliveries were, I’m told, transported by bicycle so that’s alright. A great example of leadership, Boris. Possibly the only one I’ve seen, in my humble opinion.

Of course, had they been delivered by a gas-guzzling 1988 campervan, 20-year-old Audi TT or classic motorcycle, I might have had something to say…