05/11/2012 12:39 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Why We Need to be Making Better Choices

According to scientists from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center, the current Arctic sea ice cover is the smallest size ever observed in the three decades since consistent satellite observations of the polar cap began. Only this summer, an addditional area of sea ice more than three times the size of the UK has melted.

As always, this gives rise to the debate "is it a manmade problem?"

Some scientists disagree, but does it really matter? Surely no one can disagree that it makes sense to cut down carbon emissions whereever we can and I certainly don't want to look back and think I missed my chance to help to do something about it. I'm not alone - 84% of our customers really want to reduce their carbon footprint too according to research conducted by Ice last year.

But do they know how to go about it and can they afford it?

When money is tight, people struggle to afford altruistic gestures. If reducing their carbon footprint doesn't make financial sense, they are far less likely to do it. Research commissioned by Ice showed that even people who claimed to be concerned about the environment understandably put their families before the planet. They might switch the lights off, but this was because it saved money; they might buy locally produced food, but this was because they thought it was fresher and better for them; they might use public transport, but it's cheaper than taking the car.

So how can we make it easier and cheaper to lead a lower carbon lifestyle?

Firstly, customers need to know what choices to make. Some businesses are doing great things in their sector, whilst others lag way behind and some don't even have a policy. But can a consumer tell the difference? At Ice, we only work with businesses that are doing their best for the environment and we make our choices based on a number of important criteria. These criteria go way beyond a business' approach to running its own operation; we consider how much care a business takes in ensuring best practice in its supply chain. This can include use of water, chemicals, raw materials and energy, as well as the business' approach to waste, recycling and protecting biodiversity. None of these businesses are perfect, but they are taking clear, measurable steps and achieving their targets.

Secondly, we know customers are willing to support these better businesses, but not if it costs them more. In fact, we think it is important that it costs them less. In Ice, customers receive a financial reward for making these better choices and we feel, over time, this will mean that the better companies will profit and the poorer companies will need to raise their game in order to compete. Companies such as John Lewis make a considerable effort to reduce carbon emissions and also design their stores to be as energy efficient as possible. In fact, their commitment to sustainability is continued down the supply chain as they try to showcase products and designers that use sustainable materials whilst continuing to improve the sustainability of their own brand products. John Lewis however, with its promise of being 'never knowingly oversold' is also price competitive. It sets a fantastic example to other large companies as well as consumers.

It's all about helping consumers to use their mass purchase power to build a more sustainable economy. If we get it right, we don't need to feel constrained, our budgets will stretch further and we'll feel good about making a difference. And who knows, maybe we'll leave a better planet for our children