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Climate

Using business influence against climate change

Business people who use their professional influence to put climate change on the agenda often have an uphill battle. We meet three women in England who are fighting for more attention, on very different fronts.

Documentary filmmaker Franny Armstrong, Green Party politician Natalie Bennett and entrepreneur Jane Burston: these three influential women are using their considerable power to get action on the issue of climate change in the UK.

31 year old Jane Burston has been working at the cross section of the economy and the environment for many years, across a range of businesses.

Jane Burston, Head of the Centre for Carbon Measurement at the National Physical Laboratory

Burston believes that business people can have a big effect on environmental protection

When she was a young entrepreneur, she set up a carbon offsetting company in London. Refusing to be deterred by people’s lack of understanding about climate change or carbon offsetting, she spent hours cold-calling potential clients.

The experience was intimidating, she says, so she had to focus on the larger vision of what she was trying to achieve:

"Even when self doubt creeps in, knowing that if you didn’t do something nobody would, overrides that," she told DW in London.

Different methods

Franny Armstrong, in contrast, is best known for her films "McLibel," and the climate change blockbuster "The Age of Stupid." The latter led her to launch 10:10, a worldwide campaign getting people to reduce their carbon emissions by 10 percent a year.

Armstrong says she’s also driven by the weight of responsibility on this generation’s shoulders.

"It does come down to us," Armstrong admitted, in interview with DW.

For Natalie Bennett, the current leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, politics seemed to be the best way to get action on climate change issues.

The 47 year old is a former journalist who says she entered politics because she wanted to change things, rather than just report on them.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales

Natalie Bennett used to be a journalist, but then thought politics would allow her to achieve more

"Ultimately there’s one place where the decisions are made: parliament. That's either at the local, national or European level," she says. "Its politicians who make those decisions."

Bennett’s decision to become a Green Party member was an impulsive resolution on New Year’s day in 2006. Now the party’s leader, she still accepts though that the Greens have little influence compared to Britain’s three largest political parties.

"You think 'I want to be in control of that now' and you’re not. But, you’ve just got to live with that and keep trying to get to the point where you are in control."

Personal motivations

So why did Armstrong, Bennett and Burston focus on the environment in their careers, when they could be doing something much more self-focused? And how true do they stay to their ideals, living as they do, right in the middle of the industrialized world?

41 year old Filmmaker Franny Armstrong says she has always been very much an environmentalist. Since the age of 11 she's been a vegetarian, she now has solar panels on her energy efficient house and almost never flies.

And, a change in her personal circumstances also made her become even more aware of her own environmental impact.

Franny Armstrong, documentary film maker

Franny Armstrong says she's always been an environmentalist

"I did have a very low carbon footprint. Since having a child, I've doubled my carbon footprint," Armstrong told DW. "In some senses that’s the most unecological thing you can do."

Like Armstrong and Bennett, Burston says she’s never been driven by guilt when it comes to getting involved in environmental campaigns. Still, she won’t accept excuses from friends or family for not at least trying to make an effort to change their habits.

"They think 'there’s nothing I can do, it’s for businesses to sort out and for governments to sort out' and that infuriates me," she says.

"After all, businesses and governments are made up of individuals too."

DW.DE