Green Is The New Gold

If more proof were needed that environmental issues have entered the financial mainstream, look no further than HSBC. The bank plans to grab a slice of the growing market for socially responsible investing with a new fund that will exploit opportunities from climate change. The Climate Change Fund launches in early November, subject to regulatory approval, and will invest in 60 companies likely to benefit most from efforts to curb global warming. The fund’s constituent companies will be selected from HSBC’s Global Climate Change benchmarking index of 300 companies from 34 countries.

Don’t assume that sticking a ‘green’ label on your organisation means automatic success. While HSBC looks set to profit from climate change with its new products, at the other end of the scale the Big Green Gathering is in trouble. BGG is a 5-day camping event for “people who care about health, the environment, sustainability, our children’s future and life in general. It is a celebration of our natural world and our place within it”. Attracting between 15,000 and 20,000 people, BGG developed from the original Green Gatherings of the 1980’s and the Green Fields of Glastonbury Music Festival in response to a desire for a festival that was focused on Green issues.
Sadly, licence conditions imposed by Mendip District Council and Avon & Somerset Police added around £120,000 to the costs of this year’s event, turning an expected profit into a deficit of £75,000. On top of similar deficits in 2005 and 2006 BGG now has debts exceeding its assets by around £150,000, and will have to declare itself bankrupt unless £100,000 can be raised through donations or buying shares in the company.
No licence to print money in Somerset. The Big Green Gathering Co Ltd declares itself to be a “not-for-profit democratic company”, and is obviously living up to that aspiration, while HSBC is very much a for-profit company. Perhaps that explains their different situations. HSBC has been trumpeting its green credentials for years, and growing rich on the back of it. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that perhaps they might forget about profits for a moment and help to keep BGG afloat? Don’t hold your breath.

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8 Responses to Green Is The New Gold

  1. earthpal says:

    Would be good if they put their money where their mouth is so to speak and directly donated some of their profits to the BGG.

    But no, I won’t hold my breath. Such are the disparities of life.

    The cynic in me wants to say it’s all just a PR job but I guess if being Green makes good business sense for the bankers of the world then the environment will also benefit.

  2. Has anyone passed on this to HSBC?
    We’ll accept donations from anyone at present – otherwise there will be no Big Green Gathering next year.
    Over 14 years the BGG has changed thousands of people’s lives by turning them on to the possibilities of renewable energy micro-generation and many other aspects of sustainable living.
    Thank you for highlighting our plight.
    Please help us to survive.
    Brig Oubridge (Chair, the Big Green Gathering Co. Ltd.)

  3. matt says:

    Hi Brig

    Thanks for popping by.

    As I understand it you are the chair of the BGG so why would you be asking us if anyone has contacted HSBC?! Don’t you have a serious debt to deal with? Here’s an email to start off with because we’re nice guys over here at The Coffee House 🙂 ;
    Media enquiries to Nhan Chiem on 020 7991 0639 or at

    On other points I’m interested to know what the event got for the £120,000 fee (combined) from the police and the council. Was this covering policing costs and what did the police have to do apart from direct traffic and put a few bobbies into the showgrounds?

    As to the council was this charge for taking away rubbish/recycling and the like or were they simply making a nice tidy licence fee profit out of your company?

    Personally I’ve never heard of the BGG which surprises me since your site says it has been going for 14 years!

    Have you thought about approaching Greenpeace, FOE or WWF to sponsor the next event? Who’s the largest sponsor right now?

  4. matt says:

    Hey Pete

    Need the big bucks and the big campaigners in wedlock to have a real chance of turning things around for planet earth. This from their site (via your link);

    HSBC has a long-standing commitment to the environment. The Group recently announced a five-year, US$100 million partnership to respond to the urgent threat of climate change worldwide with the support of The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. The ‘HSBC Climate Partnership’ will work in some of the world’s major cities to influence climate change policy and practice and to engage HSBC’s global workforce, customers and the wider community. HSBC has also committed a further US$90 million over five years to reduce the Group’s impact on the environment through a series of initiatives, including the introduction of renewable energy technology, water and waste reduction programmes and employee engagement.

    There are some serious environment groups involved which is a good sign. The $100m over 5 yeas is a drop in the ocean for this bank however but it’s a start. Thing is, we’re nearing the end of the race for humanity according to the UNEP’s latest report.

  5. Pete Smith says:

    Hi Brig,
    No, I haven’t “passed this on” to HSBC. I don’t know anything about the details of your financial situation, so meddling wouldn’t be appropriate. For all I know you might actually bank with HSBC, with delicate negotiations in progress which might be upset by an outsider chipping in.
    Feel free to talk to them yourself though, they’ve got a branch in Glastonbury.

  6. For people’s information:
    The £120,000 referred to is not a fee from the council and police. The licence fee is £4100, paid to the council, and set by the Licensing Act according to the size of event. The council (advised by the police) then set (effectively dictate) licence conditions – such as number of SIA registered security personnel to be employed, number of internal and external security patrols and other deployments, type of fencing to be used, type of equipment to be used to monitor sound levels, qualifications required for people monitoring sound levels, qualifications required for people standing on road closure points, etc. The £120,000 is the increase in cost of complying with those conditions in 2007 compared with the cost of doing so in 2006, and has to be paid not to the council or police but to security companies, fencing companies, etc.
    The police presence was actually reduced this year (by about 50%), as was the police bill (by less than 25%, to just over £18,000). For that they provided a few bobbies on site who did very little, and a lot less support than previously in regard to unauthorised roadside parking etc. off-site.
    The council fee covers just the cost of obtaining the licence and being inspected to make sure you are complying with it. All the costs of recycling and rubbish management, landfill etc. have to be paid separately by the event.
    As regards sponsorship, we pride ourselves on being an independent event with high Green and ethical standards. The truly Green companies don’t have enough money to be sponsors beyond perhaps paying for an advert in the programme or on our website, while the big companies who have the money and may be interested in greenwashing their public images would be far too controversial for a large proportion of our participants, who are hard-core Green activists, and whose voluntary efforts towards the event are worth more than a very large amount of sponsorship money would be able to compensate for. Perhaps we need to be prepared to compromise more, but to do so we would also have to devote a lot of management time and effort into pursuing potential sponsors, but at present that available time is mostly taken up in the bureaucratic nightmare of licence applications and negotiations. So in more than one way, we are rather caught between the proverbial rocks and hard places.
    We do, however, ourselves provide sponsorship of a sort, insofar as the takings from one of our on-site bars went towards funding the Climate Change Camp at Heathrow Airport this August. It would be difficult to combine that kind of support for direct action and protest with (for example) being sponsored by Virgin Airways.

  7. matt says:


    Thanks for popping back.

    The information you provide above gives a much clearer picture (for me at least) of the sort of organisation you are running and the type of people your event is appealing to. Yes, you are is some ways, to use your own words caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Not sure how much you charge for tickets to the BGG but if people don’t want to see a mainstream sponsor then surely they have to pay more or, possibly see the BGG float off into the ether.

    I can now see why such events have got expensive over the years, particularly for families. I look at an event like Womad for example for my family and nearly faint at the price.

    Obviously any help from a bank like HSBC is out of the question as far as BGG’s ethics are concerned and yes, BGGs ‘sponsorship’ of the Heathrow protest doesn’t help. Sounds like you need a little help from a rich benefactor. Pity Goldsmith has signalled his intentions to run for the Conservatives. Or are they the new ‘green’? 🙂

  8. Pete Smith says:

    Hi Brig,
    Thanks for the update on where the cash goes. I have nothing but sympathy, you do sound as if you’re up a gumtree without a paddle. If you stick to your guns you get shut down, if you compromise your principles and get into bed with the enemy your punters don’t come back and you close anyway.
    However, you did say in your first comment “We’ll accept donations from anyone at present – otherwise there will be no Big Green Gathering next year” so that’s a step in the right direction for sorting out the immediate mess.
    I like some of your fund-raising ideas, in particular the CD of archived BGG performances and the ironic retro “Nuclear Power? No Thanks” t-shirt.

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