· Features

Responsible Business: M&S keeps it simple to engage staff around responsible initiatives

It has been another bad month for climate change campaigners.

Hot on the heels of the Copenhagen conference's failure to deliver firm commitments to cut CO2 emissions, the head of the IPCC, the body that assesses climate change, resigned over incorrect assertions about the extent of Himalayan glacial melting.

And now, the UK Government has had to withdraw two of its 'Act On CO2' advertisements. Let me give you a flavour: one press ad depicted a drawing of a young girl and boy looking for water at a well on a hill. The headline text stated: 'Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none, as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.' The text then explains that 'climate change has serious implications for our way of life'.

Many objected because they believed there is significant division of informed scientific opinion on the matter. The Government argued there was an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that rising CO2 levels, mainly caused by human activity, had been - and would be - responsible for changes in the global climate.

The Advertising Standards Authority adjudication runs to 14 pages but boils down to a couple of things that are likely to affect you. First, people are increasingly sceptical about climate change. And second, sensationalist poor communication is the ultimate own goal. Few doubt mankind is contributing to planet warming, but there is no excuse for losing an argument because you cannot make the facts stick.

Against this backdrop I have taken heart from M&S. The retailer keeps it simple to engage employees and customers around its responsible business initiatives: words and deeds. It has formed a partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy - M&S Energy - to roll-out energy efficiency products and services. The first, loft and cavity wall insulation, can cut both energy bills and CO2 emissions. To kick-start the drive to encourage home insulation, M&S is offering it free to its staff. Richard Gillies, director of Plan A at M&S, told HR: "We hope to create 30,000 green ambassadors by offering this energy-efficient solution free of charge to our employees. We believe it will inspire them to become advocates for energy efficiency." Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband must be wishing such clarity could be brought to bear on his Act On CO2 campaign.

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- Michael Saxton is founder of Greenpoint PR