Keeping environmental impact to a minimum

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On the road to help improve Cornwall’s green performance. A day in the life of Business Link Convergence advider Brendon Westacott.

As a specialist environmental adviser for Business Link’s Convergence service covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – the first port of call for free and impartial business advice for the county’s most ambitious and innovative companies – Brendon Westacott faces something of a dilemma on an almost daily basis.

How can he keep his own environmental impact to the absolute minimum as he travels the length of the county helping others to reduce theirs?

It’s an issue to which he and his three fellow on-the-road team members give a great deal of thought. “The reality is, that although I probably average two face-to-face client meetings every day, we do what we can to keep them as infrequent as possible,” he says. “The environment is just one consideration here – our clients are busy running their businesses and don’t want to be distracted from their main focus. So we do what we can by phone and email.”

Clearly, though, there are times when a site visit is inevitable. As Brendon points out: “It’s not possible to undertake project work for a company or to carry out a detailed environmental audit, which helps us make recommendations for improvement, without actually visiting a client. In these circumstances, visits are vital in helping businesses reduce their emissions and cut back on waste, so enabling them to improve their resource efficiency and make some very real cost savings.”

He works with businesses in a very wide range of areas, from tourism and design to manufacturing and construction, helping them to save costs, overcome barriers to growth and open new commercial opportunities. “Increasing numbers of large organisations in both the public and private sectors are analysing the environmental performance of businesses in their supply chains, because it reflects positively on how they too are perceived as controlling their environmental impact,” he explains.

“The credit crunch has caused many businesses to turn more to the public sector as a source of work as private sector contracts have dried up. We have helped many of these to improve their environmental performance thereby improving their prospects when tendering for work. This is also a vital consideration for those businesses that wish to be eligible for the host of upcoming opportunities around the 2012 Olympics.”

As a Convergence Adviser, Brendon can spend more time with individual clients than some of his Business Link colleagues can. “The special funding has allowed the creation of an expanded Convergence team which means we can get very closely involved with our clients.

“There’s also the Environmental Development Voucher which enables us to arrange for half-payment of up to £4,000 to help clients pay for eligible activities that will make a valuable difference to their environmental performance.”

He is also often able to help businesses pre-empt changes in legislation and get an early lead over the competition. “For example, in years to come carbon auditing will be compulsory for all businesses, just as financial auditing is today,” he says. “By making people aware now, we can save them a lot of unnecessary stress and expense in the future.”

So, as Brendon leaves home early most mornings to help a remote business at the far end of the county, he can consider the double benefit that his work is enabling. “It’s great to feel that we’re not just helping businesses perform better, we’re also making a contribution to a cleaner environment for everybody,” he says. “It’s a really satisfying job.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about the Convergence programme and all the services that Business Link delivers across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly should call 0845 600 9966 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/southwest.