Birmingham’s entrepreneurs are being urged to cash in on local authorities’ green efforts at the Sustainable UK Cities Tour event in Birmingham on May 22.
The tour, which is hosted by the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy (UKBCSE) and supported by Shell UK, brings together local government and business leaders to discuss the role of cities in tackling climate change and the challenges and opportunities this brings. How local businesses can benefit from green public procurement will be high on the agenda.
The market for businesses with ideas to tackle climate change is estimated to reach £2.8 billion in 2008, according to a report commissioned by Shell UK.
The report predicts that public procurement will form a major part of this market, as councils like Birmingham look for innovative ideas from the local business community to reduce their carbon emissions.
Businesses in Birmingham are already starting to profit from the "Green Rush", as local authorities become more environmentally aware.
Local firm Innovation Station is currently negotiating a partnership with Birmingham City Council that could be worth millions to the company and help to tackle the city’s carbon emissions.
Each year the council collects 16,000 tonnes of dead leaves from public areas. It has to pay to get them collected and taken to landfill sites, where they emit greenhouse gases while they rot.
Innovation Station created the ‘leaf log’, an environmentally friendly fuel which turns dead leaves into a wood and coal substitute. For the company, 16,000 tonnes of the council’s leaves could create 14 million leaf logs a year.
With each unit retailing at £2-3 the deal would provide a huge boost to the business, while making substantial cost savings for the council.
The leaf log is the brainchild of Peter Morrison, who as chief executive of BioFuels International has already developed several of his green ideas into moneyspinners.
Sandy Taylor, head of climate change and sustainability at Birmingham City Council, said: "The council is committed to sourcing locally. As our need for greener products and services grows, we hope innovation from local businesses will play a big part in meeting demand. Our 'Birmingham Home’ initiative, for example, is calling for local materials, labour and know-how to create a prototype carbon neutral property."
James Smith, chairman of Shell UK, said: "Already home to half of the world’s population, cities are key to tackling climate change. We hope the event in Birmingham will help to spark positive local partnerships that deliver environmental and economic benefits."
The UKBCSE with the support of Shell UK is working closely with organisations such as the Carbon Trust, the Energy Saving Trust, CABE, the LGA and government departments including Defra to ensure that the Sustainable UK Cities Tour complements any existing climate change activities in each tour location.
The tour event in Birmingham has been scheduled to coincide with the Low Carbon Cities Conference being held earlier in the day. The conference is an initiative by the Carbon Trust and the Energy Savings Trust to discuss climate change action in three other core cities: Bristol, Leeds and Manchester.
The Carbon Neutral Company, which gives advice to 500 small businesses on becoming environmentally aware, said it was important for small businesses themselves to be aware of environmental issues if they wanted to win contracts from conscientious local authorities.
"We have seen from our own clients that the number of tenders with a requirement about climate change has gone up by 30 per cent to 40 per cent over the past year," said a spokeswoman.
She added the secret to turning a company green was to find someone within the business to champion the changes. "This person needs to be somebody who has influence and, ideally, budget – somebody who understands the commercial and moral benefits, who can make things happen."