Small and medium-sized businesses throughout Britain are about to get a new source of advice on their environmental problems, thanks to a unique collaboration between the four universities of the Manchester region, writes Martin Ince.
The Cooperative Bank is putting Pounds 500,000 into the Cooperative Bank National Centre for Business and Ecology, which has its headquarters at the University of Salford, and will also involve Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.
Terry Thomas, managing director of the bank, said that its customers included about 80,000 small and medium sized businesses. They often cannot afford the expensive staff and consultants that big firms wheel in to deal with the environmental problems they may have.
They will form an initial base of possible clients for the centre, although it will be free to work with clients of other banks.
The bank already applies environmental criteria to firms wishing to borrow from it as part of its ethical stance, which also includes considerations such as avoiding the arms trade and discouraging speculation against the pound.
Tom Husband, vice chancellor of Salford, said that the centre will allow staff and students to work on real scientific problems and solutions. It will be run by Phil Barton, former head of the Mersey Basin project in Liverpool.