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Green Brexit - May or Maybe?

Will the Red, White and Blue Brexit be GREEN too?  

As the triggering of Article 50 looms near, the Prime Minister has repeatedly reiterated that we are looking for the right deal for the United Kingdom. How will this ‘right deal’ pan out?

The Brexit negotiations have been likened to a Divorce talk. And as in any divorce proceeding, the difficulty lies in splitting the spoils. There is always a price to pay and which is often the child caught in between two opposing parties.  Will environmental safeguards and sustainability standards become the ‘compromised child’?

Currently, all of our environmental policies and legislation have been drawn up in Brussels, albeit with the UK playing a significant and influential role in formulating them. Being a part of the EU and has not only bound us and made us accountable to the EU environmental policies, it has also given the UK more international clout and the ability to exert international influence on environmental outcomes.

Proponents of the environment have often used EU laws to challenge the government on issues regarding air quality, nature, toxics and transparency. Many NGOs and advocates of the environment in fact campaigned against Brexit because of the impact it would have on the environment and because a united action across national borders is very necessary on issues such pollution and climate change.

An online poll conducted by IEMA just before the EU referendum in Jun 2016, showed that the majority of the respondents felt that UK business collaboration towards a circular economy and sustainability was best served within the EU block

Now that we are in the midst of the Brexit reality:

  • Will the environmental protection rules whether it is over air pollution or the use of pesticide be overshadowed by the uncertainty and worry over the economy and the fate of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa?
  • Any of the environmental laws such as air quality laws, which the UK has failed to comply in the past, could be weakened further or even scrapped?
  • Even in the best of times, implementing CSR policies takes a tenable business acumen that can foresee their long term benefits. Since no one knows how the UK government will negotiate its withdrawal, UK businesses that are heavily reliant on EU trade will find procurement a challenge.Understandably, Brexit has left businesses cautious and businesses are likely to tighten their purse strings.  Sustainability will be the one aspect of procurement that will be the hardest hit and CSR activities will be scaled down to save money. There are major concerns about the economy and when the economy suffers, concerns about the environment easily take a back seat.
  • EU regulations ensured common practice adhered to by all member nations. But Brexit will mean new independent laws which may be a major obstacle to CSR. With Brexit, access to suppliers who adhered to the same policies and procedures, such as ethically sourced goods, no longer exist.  Losing access to the single market compromises the guarantee of sustainable supply chains. During such an unpredictable period, unfortunately, businesses are more likely to place cost ahead of ethics.


  • Will our policy makers continue to affirm their commitment to strong environmental laws and ensure a united action across Europe on the important global issues such as climate change?  Amber Rudd, the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in her address to clean energy investors in London on Wednesday 29 June 2016 after the Brexit vote, reaffirms UK’s commitment to greenhouse gas reduction targets through 2032. She also said that ‘ UK’s ‘relationships with the United States, China, India, Japan and other European Countries will stand us in good stead as we deliver on the promises made in Paris’. (
  • Brexit gives UK the autonomy to set its own targets and laws on air quality, pollution, waste recycling, nature and climate change which can be as good as or even better than the EU laws.
  • UK can still be a strong voice advocating climate policies with its European counterparts. Brexit could provide an opportunity to make Britain a world leader on green policy – and to keep those protections in place.
  • In this climate of political and economical uncertainty, sustainability – being adaptable and resilient to change – can be the constant that can guide both corporations and policy makers to promote innovation and growth. This means putting sustainability at the heart of everything that we do both at the government, corporate, and individual levels. It means redrawing the targets and exhibiting best practices on sustainability because it makes financial sense. Businesses should not take the short term view of just looking at costs a long-term view to the value of CSR and sustainability.


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