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A sustainability programme for a Bristol Green Capital Partnership organisation

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnne Barr, independent sustainability consultant and director of Rural Development Services (UK) Ltd and member of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, explains in this blog her approach to designing a sustainability programme – and why relationship-building comes out on top…. 

“The business case for organisations of all sizes to have a sustainability programme is well understood. A focus on environmental and social issues increases access to funding and commercial contracts, reduces costs and attracts employees, customers, suppliers and investors. Strong relationships with these stakeholders and our wider community, coupled with the necessary business acumen are critical in managing resource risks and maximising opportunities. However, the importance of investing resources in developing these relationships is often overlooked in the design of sustainability programmes.

Designing a sustainability programme

An effective sustainability programme incorporates an organisational policy, objectives, targets, projects, and monitoring and review and communication systems. It requires an assessment of the organisation’s current social and environmental performance, what is important to its mission and the expectations of its stakeholders and whether the structures, resources and processes by which it operates are compatible with those concerns. This may seem quite overwhelming, but the programme can and should be developed iteratively.

The approach I advocate, which is different to a standard top-down approach of addressing where the biggest cost savings are, is to focus on relationships. If we nurture the ideas and enthusiasm of our employees, suppliers and customers and address their concerns for people and the environment, we invest not only our own resources in our programme, but theirs as well. And, if we extend this idea, to consider our organisation in its community context, our access to resources extends even further.

A sustainability programme for Bristol

February 2015 Quarterly Partnership Gathering - Anson Rooms

February 2015 Quarterly Partnership Gathering – Anson Rooms

I would argue that the Bristol Green Capital Partnership is creating a sustainability programme on a city-scale with its membership pledge and vision of a ‘low carbon city with a high quality of life for all’. It forms a community to build relationships and identify new partners and projects that can help your sustainability programme succeed. Through attending Quarterly BGCP Gatherings and the monthly Green Mingle, where those interested in sustainability have the opportunity to meet informally, you can find  innovative ways to manage waste, incentivise low emission travel, source ethical supplies and services and support local causes. Examples of Partnership members I’ve met and worked with include:

Healthy City Week - 10th - 18th Oct 2015 - emerging from the Health & Wellbeing Group

Healthy City Week – 10th – 18th Oct 2015 – emerging from the Health & Wellbeing Group

The Partnership also incorporates various groups and partnerships with existing sustainability networks, where members with similar interests from different sectors can come together to share ideas and develop projects that benefit our community. In the Health and Wellbeing Group that I have been a part of, we initiated both the Kitchen on Prescription and Healthy City Week projects. Through innovative projects like these, we express our and our organisations commitment (mostly through our allocation of time) for the Partnership vision and inspire others to make the changes required to achieve it. It is important to recognise and celebrate the value of all our individual contributions, as these relationships of mutual support form the foundation of our city’s sustainability programme.

Formalising the sustainability programme

Once we begin to develop relationships with organisations committed to benefiting people and the environment, we quickly understand the many ways in which we can make positive changes in our own activities. However, many organisations find it difficult to identify priorities for action given this broad scope and many operate their programmes on an informal basis. Go Green’s action plan is a useful (and free) tool to gain ideas for positive changes your organisation can make and record your sustainability improvements as well as our cumulative impact.

I would recommend any Bristol Green Capital Partnership organisation to formalise its sustainability programme so that it can manage its social and environmental impacts and promote its success internally and externally. Fortunately, the Partnership provides access to organisations who can support the development and implementation of your programme so that we can all realise the vision of being “a low-carbon city with a high quality of life for all.” ”

Anne is currently an independent sustainability consultant and director of Rural Development Services (UK) Ltd, and is supporting the Healthy City Week programme. RDS (UK) offers organisations of all sizes support in the design, implementation and review of sustainability programmes.

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