Reflections on the last 18 years as a consultant working in the low carbon sector.

4th December 2004 was a big day for me.  I had left my job as the West Midlands Environmental Cluster Skills Manager and registered my consultancy business.  18 years on I look back on one of the best decisions I had made, but at the time it was quite nerve wracking!

These last 18 years I have been fortunate to work with and for some lovely people, on fascinating projects both in the UK and across the EU.  I count myself lucky that I am still busy today. 

18 years ago, I was also lucky enough to have people give me a lot of good advice.  People who had already taken the plunge into self-employment.  Some of them are still doing that today, now as good friends. I thank them for all their support over the years, you know who you are.

Some of the challenges of being self-employed have remained constant, such as how to maintain good working relationships whilst maintaining your independence.  A consultant should always be able to give advice without fear or favour and act as a critical friend, particularly if you are telling a client news they do not want to hear.

The science and the message about the need to reduce carbon emissions has not changed over the last 18 years.  There have been some notable successes in the UK in the form of the climate change act and the setting of carbon budgets.  The UK has reduced its carbon emissions, but we are still using resources at unsustainable levels and offshoring a lot of our emissions.  Governments have come and gone, this year more than most! Enthusiasm for tackling the climate emergency changes with each Prime Minister and the government they appoint.  We are far from on track to limit global warming and the need to force politicians to act quickly is greater than ever.

Back in 2004, a new search engine called google was starting to be talked about, Gmail had just been launched, along with a platform called Facebook, that few people used.  Twitter wouldn’t be launched for another 18 months. It was a world much less connected, and trolls only appeared in Grimm fairy stories. 

Developments in technology have massively changed the role of the consultant. 18 years ago, I would spend a lot of time on trains travelling to meet clients to discuss projects.  Today I barely travel and discussions with clients are now via Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.  These bring their own challenges but do reduce my carbon footprint!

The developments in technology have also brought me back to teaching part time at the University of Derby Online. Developing new skills in writing online learning material and delivering asynchronous and synchronous learning from the comfort of my home office, to engaged students worldwide.  I am fortunate here to work with some amazing colleagues who are at the cutting edge of online learning methodology.

Anniversaries are a time to look back and my 18th business anniversary is no exception, but it is also a time to look forwards to 2023 and beyond.  There is still so much to do before we can say we have decarbonised our economy and there are notable sustainability skills gaps, particularly with SMEs and micro businesses, on how to become a sustainable and low carbon business.  

This year, following on from the refresh of my website in 2021, I have been working with the same web designer to develop a new teaching platform that will deliver bite sized courses on sustainability to SMEs and micro businesses. These courses will be focused on enabling real world ‘application’ i.e., be applied more than purely academic (yet still grounded in excellent learning principles).  I am looking forward to launching this platform in 2023 and adding more courses to it over the years ahead, as the UK races to become a net zero economy.

So, the last 18 years in a nutshell: some fabulous people; new friendships; interesting science; plenty of successfully completed projects that have made a real difference and students supported and developed to reach their full potential.  Yet there is still so much to do!

Paul Beers

December 2022


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