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Words by Carl Rowlinson

Sustainability. A worn-out word, lost in its own excessive use, with no real meaning or gravity. Used in marketing, with a few exceptions, as a box-ticking exercise necessary to compete in a saturated market – but that was before, before we all changed, all of us. The high-water mark of the pandemic has passed. As a business owner and running a green start up, Covid brought existential crisis and seemingly threatened our survival. However, something unexpected happened during that period of lockdowns and vaccine rolls outs; people stopped, slowed down and took stock. During our allocated time outside, people headed for dog walks in the woods, to the beach and into our green countryside, re-engaging with their environment. As business returned to normal that connection stayed, and a deeper appreciation of our surroundings endured.

As the hive of life began again, lock down eased, and work, family, office, commute, parties, family and holidays came back to us. Words lost but returned, something else stayed; nature, and an understanding of our relationship with it, given back to us as a silver lining to a difficult time. As the offices began to fill and consumers headed back to the shops, we as a community demanded more from our businesses, from our brands, from the places we work from and with. Sustainability was reborn, and placed front and center of everything we do. Internal pressure from staff questioned the environmental efforts of their employers, and consumers selecting environmentally focused brands demanded clarity on the claims made.

From this opportunity, new roles were created, new businesses emerged, new brands stood up. Businesses that don’t seize this opportunity, I believe will struggle. To compete, being sustainable now means clarity, honesty, and ambition. Newly created roles as sustainability officers, or roles in Corporate, Social and Environmental governance or carbon accounting will be the roots of this new revolution. And Cornwall walks proudly ahead of the tide of change. Our unique connection with the environment means the businesses that work from here are already implementing strong and robust sustainability strategies. Cornwall has the most number of B-Corp registered businesses, Cornwall sustainability awards celebrate innovation every year and other businesses from up the line look across to Cornwall as leaders in this new area.

Sustainability means something else now –the pandemic changed that – sustainability means us, community, people, and it needs to be the nucleus of every business.

Carl Rowlinson is the co-founder of Plant One Cornwall, a registered Community Interest Company, where every penny received goes directly towards establishing trees and creating woodlands for the benefit of all.


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