Living Wage for Wales

The Living Wage for Wales is a collaborative effort to promote the benefits of Living Wage accreditation for employers, workers and the economy in Wales.

Cynnal Cymru is the Living Wage Foundation’s accreditation partner for Wales, supporting employers from the public, private and voluntary sectors with the process of accreditation. Cynnal Cymru uses its employer networks and understanding of how organisations operate to help them overcome barriers to accreditation.  Cynnal Cymru also plays an important role in promotion of the Living Wage to employers.

Citizens Cymru Wales initiated the Living Wage campaign in Wales, and leads the Living Wage for Wales campaign strategy.  As the home of community organising in Wales, its diverse member organisations across Wales set goals, identify campaign targets and train community leaders and workers to take action as part of Living Wage campaigns.

The Living Wage Foundation has dedicated staff time to support accreditation and initiatives such as Living Wage Places, and to co-ordinate marketing and communications around Living Wage Week.

We also work closely with Welsh Government and champion employers such as Cardiff Council and Cardiff University.

The Living Wage for Wales Leadership Team co-ordinates the activities of organisations working to make Wales a Living Wage Economy. 

The Living Wage for Wales website is managed by Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales.

You can find out more about our work and how to become accredited by visiting the Living Wage for Wales website:

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Foundational Economy Community of Practice

The foundational economy community of practice started in July 2020 as part of the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund. Its aim was to share learning and innovation, build relationships and encourage collaboration.

The Challenge Fund provided support to projects looking to try out new ways to address challenges – some emerging, some age-old – faced by foundational economy businesses or those relying on their services.

These included:

  • the recruitment, retention and skills of the workforce
  • the delivery structures and design of services
  • the recruitment, retention and skills of the workforce
  • the delivery structures and design of services

The aim was to explore a range of solutions that could potentially generate viable, adaptable models that could be scaled up and spread to strengthen local economies and community wealth-building.

Staring in 2019 with an initial 52 projects, it was always expected that some experiments would not succeed and conditions were made even more challenging by the impact of the pandemic.

A community of practice was also however put in place to help capture some of the rich learning and insights generated by all the projects taking part. The examples in the case studies below give a flavour of the projects supported by the Fund – their successes, challenges and above all learning, about how best the foundational economy in their area or sector can be supported. The Fund closed in March 2021 but, at the request of members, the community of practice has continued. Its role continues to be to share learning, encourage and expand dialogue and facilitate collaboration.

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Doing the little things in Cardiff on St. David’s Day

This St David’s Day, we are asking organisations across Cardiff to think about the little things they can do to ensure a fair day’s pay for their workers, whether it’s understanding how to become an accredited Living Wage employer, or reaching out to other organisations to encourage them to consider the real Living Wage, or helping us share the positive messages about the difference that paying the real Living Wage can make.

Cardiff Council is currently the only accredited real Living Wage local authority in Wales. The Council and partners are championing Cardiff as a Living Wage city which is having positive impact on the city and its employees. As of 1 February 2021, 45% of Wales’ total accredited employers were based in Cardiff and Cardiff employers had contributed to 69% of total uplifts in pay. Recent research by Cardiff University has shown that real Living Wage accreditation by 124 Cardiff employers has resulted in 7,735 workers receiving a pay rise which has added over £32m to the local economy in just over 8 years.

To hear more about the benefits of the real Living Wage from employers and employees in Cardiff please watch this video.

Leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, said:

“The seemingly small things really can make a big difference, and I know the significant impact paying the real Living Wage has had in the lives of our own staff. We’re pleased to be supporting organisations across the city to enable them to do the same for their own employees, and this St David’s Day I would encourage any Cardiff business interested in paying the real Living Wage to get in touch to find out more.”

Cardiff Council understand the wider benefits that the real Living Wage can bring to individuals and employers, as well as to the City; and they have made a commitment to reimbursing accreditation fees for SME employers based in Cardiff through their accreditation support scheme. For more information about the real Living Wage in Cardiff please visit the website.

Cardiff Council also encourages local employers to provide a Payroll Savings and Loans Scheme to their staff, enabling their employees to save directly from their salaries and if needed, access affordable credit from an ethical provider. More information can be found on this on the Cardiff & Vale Credit Union’s website.

Cynnal Cymru is the accrediting body for the real Living Wage in Wales and are here to help you through the accreditation process. Get in touch, join the movement, do the little things.

We wish you all a happy St David’s Day. Diolch yn fawr!

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Wales in 2051: Back to Reality

Over the past 6 weeks, Karolina Rucinska and Camille Lovgreen have shared a series of short stories, each one highlighting a key ingredient of sustainable development: people and skills that has become a reality in a post Net Zero Wales of 2051. 

 In this post, we aim to distil the key lessons we’ve learned and talk about how we came about writing the stories. We know from trailblazers like the Arts Council of Wales and Futerra how important storytelling can be in moving towards transformational change. We also know that these stories need to reflect people from all walks of life and recognise that we can all drive change, whatever our role or job title. These stories aim to ignite conversations and add more puzzle pieces to the exciting, complex, messy myriad of solutions we’ll need to reach a fairer, more secure future. 

Whether it’s through sharing these stories, applying some of these initiatives in practice, or sparking conversations about sustainable development, we believe that each of us has a part to play in this ongoing narrative. 

How it all started

Camille and Karolina originally wanted to organise a series of hands-on workshops to help SMEs understand how different, and sometimes overlooked, skills can help ready their workforce for a low-carbon economy. 

But, to do so, we needed an introduction, preferably a vision-setting piece that describes the impact green skills can make on one’s work. And we wanted to describe the impact of green skills in every line of work, not just in the energy or manufacturing sector.  

Before we knew it, we had created six characters, a future vision, and a whole universe in which people in Wales live greater quality lives through a complete system makeover. 

How it went

Every week, we published a story, set in the future, describing a day in the life of a person who meets a journalist who wanted to learn about what went well for Wales.  

In doing so, we described what Wales could look like and what work, housing, schooling, farming and local governance could look like.   

In telling these short stories and giving voice to our six characters – Adi, Cameron, Luke, Aman, Cleo, and Gwen-Eddo – we wanted to highlight the role of skills that made that future possible and, more importantly, the role of government in creating conditions to use, elevate, and apply diverse skills, knowledge, capabilities and lived experiences.  

Although it was fiction, we drew inspiration from existing and real people, social enterprises, initiatives, and solutions we hear and read about but somehow have not yet become mainstream.  

Many ideas we presented in our stories were based on Welsh social enterprises.  Each story was also based on our experiences. Having lived, studied, and worked outside of Wales, we also drew on the inspiring examples from other countries that show different, more inclusive, more holistic ways of doing things. We know that there are many more examples, from all sectors, that we could not include. 

When writing the stories, it became apparent that each sector we described, whether infrastructure, farming, or education, had to support another sector and that the demise of one business can negatively impact the ability of another business to stay afloat. This reinforced to us that all sectors are connected, and with them, the lives of our characters and the lives of people now, here in Wales and the world. 

The creative aspect of writing was relatively easy compared to our efforts to translate the vision of green skills into recommendations for hiring managers, recruiters, and directors of small and large organisations.  

To do so, we had to come back to reality and create events in which we explained green skills by giving examples, showing ways to embed these into existing jobs, and illustrating what the future could hold for all job families. We drew on existing toolkits, live job descriptions and reports to do that.  

The Wales 2051 story series and practical events we delivered made us realise that the green skills agenda must not be taken for granted. It needs continuous reinforcement, whether through training, events, tutorials, or storytelling, to show that green skills matter to every job.

Where next?

This exercise has sparked excitement across our team as to how else we can use storytelling and the Wales 2051 story series to make sustainability concepts more relatable and achievable. We invite you, the reader, to decide how these stories can be further built on and utilised. 

We’d like to thank all the individuals and organisations that provided the inspiration for this set of stories. You can find them listed below. We also drew from our experience in supporting the Mainstreaming Evidence in the Just Transition evidence panel and discussions around future skills linked to the foundational economy. 

We also hope the stories become the talking point about creating conditions for everyone to thrive. 

If you would like Karolina and Camille to share more insights from this creative process, the role of storytelling in bringing about change, and of course our suggestions around recognising, valuing and embedding green skills, please get in touch! Email us at

Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

List of inspiration: 



Business collaboration


Health care

Policy/community engagement

General organisations and initiatives that have inspired us: 

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Wales in 2051: The future of governance is us

Wales in 2051: The future of governance is us

The Welcome to Wales in 2051 series ends with the story of Gwen-Eddo, whose role is to facilitate conversations with citizens to ensure their views and ideas are acted upon. But more importantly, Gwen-Eddo ensures that any decisions taken at the local and national levels align with the Well-Being of Future Generations Act. The critical skill we want to highlight is an ability to listen and connect the dots, matched with knowledge about climate and societal changes. Like many characters and stories in this series, this one is also inspired by a real person as well as initiatives that happened in Wales and across the world. Our journalist picks up the tale...

The journalist’s interview with Cleo had cast another glimpse into how Wales had come to be so focused on people’s well-being and environmental prosperity and he was starting to realise how all the different working blocks of Wales’ society and its different sectors served to support each other – healthy food, clean and safe environments, rooted in education and put into practice.  

He wondered how such a transition in which all sectors simultaneously worked towards a similar vision of a healthy society, was made possible all at once. He realised that many other countries had talked of similar ideas and tried them. 

 Still, they hadn’t managed to put all sectorial ideas into practice simultaneously, meaning they did not support each other’s continuous progression. The journalist’s curious wonder into this matter had prompted Cleo to suggest him speak to Gwen-Eddo, the leader of the local governing structure called the Citizens Assembly.  

A day in the life of Gwen-Eddo 

A few days after meeting with Cleo, the journalist scouted around the local park, full of families and groups of people out for picnics, barbecues and games.  

He was meeting Gwen-Eddo by the fountain and finally she came into sight as she wheeled across the path with her wheelchair with such a warm smile that he immediately felt comfortable and returned a genuine smile of joy.  

Gwen-Eddo introduced herself as the leader of the governing structure, called the People’s Council, “but unofficially,” she said, “people call me the chief connector and sense maker”. Back in the day, it seemed this sort of role was a desk job, but now, it is very much a governing role, with people, listening, facilitating and putting back what I hear into our plans.  

 I attend community events to speak to residents and get their honest opinions on challenges they experience and ways they think these challenges could be addressed. I log all concerns and bring them to the rest of the Council for further discussion. The citizens are the real heroes; I am only the facilitator and enabler. But sorry, I am getting ahead of myself and ranting on.” 

“No, this is exactly the sort of stuff I want to know about”, the journalist said. “How does that work? How do you go about considering everyone’s queries?” 

Between technology and empathy  

“Well, it depends on the type of query. Some people express their wish for cleaner local rivers and anti-littering practices, while others talk about more opportunities and hang out spots for young people to get involved and gain skills. At the same time, we have people sharing that they struggle with loneliness (especially those from older generations) or people who wish for greater wheelchair access or cycle safety on the roads. So it varies a lot and depending on the complexity of the challenge and whether there is a high mixture of different opinions in addressing the challenge, we either arrange a citizen’s assembly or tally public opinion from our community app.  

So, for context, the community app is our local community’s tool for democratic decision-making of expressed challenges and concerns. Any local resident can either anonymously or in their name express a concern or a suggestion they have for the town.  

Every resident can view the collection of concerns and suggestions, and there is an option for people to agree or disagree with these concerns/suggestions so that we can get an overview of public interest. The app allows everyone to get more involved with the local development and gives people a place to communicate about hopes and desires.  

At the citizen’s assembly, we get a sense of the people’s voice so that we have a better compass for acting on democratic opinion. Although we have this app, I still like to speak to people in person to feel more connected to the people I serve to build trust, get more people involved in democratic processes, and get an even better understanding of people’s views. 

 The app has been developed to be inclusive for people who may struggle to use digital technology as well, such as visually impaired people or people who are uncomfortable using digital technology for whatever reason. Therefore, our office has several dedicated mobile community champions who meet up with people in person who do not use the app and they manually take any requests and write them up. They also connect these people to others with similar interest to exchange ideas. Yet, this service has also been known as the friendship service as many friendships have come out of it.” 

Prioritising with the end in mind 

“So how do you decide what to focus on first and how do you decide on an outcome for a community challenge?”, the journalist asked. 

“The concerns or suggestions with the greatest community support are the ones we focus on first, and then we move down the ladder to address the least popular requests later. However, we do discuss and address all queries. When it comes to deciding how to tackle a given community challenge, for instance, older people experiencing loneliness, we at the Council look through all the suggestions for the challenge people had on the app as well as set up a citizen’s assembly for people to discuss the matter in person and exchange ideas.  

Ideas were shaped through facilitated conversations that turn everyone’s insight into action using the Three Horizons Framework. In the end, the people collectively decided on three different popular ideas for including older people and lonely people in general, one of which was to put nurseries and elderly living homes together.  

At the same time, another was a befriending service that organised social outings for people to meet, cook together, go for walks, etc.  

The third idea was about intergenerational exchange, where a younger person might learn how to cook or learn a new language from an older or lonely person. In exchange, the younger person might teach the older person about the newest technology or help where help is needed.  

All residents voted together using participatory budgeting techniques to decide the share of resources going to each project.  All three then became implemented as a community-led scheme. However social enterprises saw this as a business opportunity as they realised that this gap existed in the market, so they created affordable services for these three ideas, which created jobs but also tackled some of the societal challenges benefiting young and old people.  

Other times, the Council works with existing companies in the local community and subsidises them for projects around infrastructure, for instance, to build safe cycle lanes or more accessible parks. However, we still go through the process of gathering public opinion and expert opinion to learn about the best ways to ensure such an undertaking is inclusive and user-friendly. 

 All we do here at the People’s Council is facilitate the conversation, offer a platform for people to discuss these challenges in a safe environment, and connect the right people/companies to the right projects.  

We have this model of democratic decision making in place for local residents of all ages but have seen a rise in younger people  expressing their voice through use of the community app. Young people’s voices are just as important so we created a youth assembly to give them equal value to the older generations’ voices. And actually, we have done similar for Nature’s voice.  

The great thing about this participatory democracy model is that it feeds into the national governance structures. So, it is not just that we do these projects as a one-off, but we inform policymakers to improve funding models, for instance. The citizen assemblies, of course, can vote on national policies too. Of course, we, at the Council, do other things, such as holding companies accountable for our policies, such as green legislation through whistle-blowing schemes and audits. This is because the role of the People’s Council is to ensure that the well-being of future generations is being implemented on the ground. 

Connecting skills  

 My job is to sense-check proposals and not just by the companies, but by the Council and other authorities. This is how we have these great things in this region and others around Wales.  

There are more people in roles like mine around Wales, and we were selected because we were the most vocal, most radical, and down to earth. I come from an activist and nursing background, and others in my roles come from social care, teaching and campaigning; or with backgrounds in psychology, and most of us have not had any political training.  

We were selected because of our keen ability to listen, connect a wide range of issues, and communicate them effectively to others.  

We had rigorous training, though, over many years to prepare us for the massive challenge we had ahead of us. Some people think, especially the outsiders and from other generations, that we are community engagement officers and rebels.  But, here, in this age, we are seen as chief sense-makers and facilitators of radical democracy. 

Did you like this story? How did it make you feel? What aspects of the story provoked you the most? Email us on your response on

This being our last character, in the next week we will wrap up the Welcome to Wales 2051 with a short summary. 

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of?   

Have a look at our range of services and


Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

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Wales in 2051 – Green Skills

Wales in 2051 – Green Skills

Wales in 2051 is a series of six interconnected fictional stories exploring sustainability, working life and community in the year past the Net Zero deadline.

In this mini-series, told through six characters, we explore what the world could look like in a healthy, collaborative, and inclusive future where governing structures have adapted to fit a way of life that supports planetary boundaries and fair treatment of all people with well-being as the focus for measuring societal success.

Inspired by CAST’s social visions of low-carbon futures report, the manifesto by the Ministry of Imagination, Ciprian Sipos’ posts about future jobs, and Climate Outreach, we hope to show readers that everyone can play a huge role in achieving a sustainable present and future.

More importantly, through these stories, we want to focus on the role of skills and enabling environments to illustrate that we need all kinds of ideas, people, and institutions working together as one creative hive mind.

Our first set of stories have been developed by Camille Løvgreen and Dr Karolina Rucinska’s as part of their work on green skills, and formed part of a their work green skills, alongside a series of events and advice sessions.

Here is what they said:

“Nothing moves us like a good story. Through storytelling, we can imagine the future we are working towards, build hope and momentum, and come together to take collective action. These six characters and their setting let us talk, creatively, about big ideas without using big words. This makes it possible for everyone to see how they fit into the current and future world visions”


“The idea of exploring these characters  through an imagined society with different operating structures and a different priority on the way we live is not only to imagine what a healthy coexistence between people and planet may look like, but to explore how quality of life can improve with a deeper connection to the people around us.”


Setting the scene

It’s 2051, just a year after what leaders of the past called the Net Zero deadline. Although the emissions continued to reduce over the decades, only a few benefited from the shift to low-carbon economies. Why? The transition worldwide was terrible due to the lack of planning, imagination, foresight, inclusion, and system thinking. Everything that was not meant to happen… happened. Between 2024 and 2035, the world experienced mass unemployment, instability, closure of borders, the collapse of ecosystems, barren agricultural fields, reversal of human rights, and collapse of economies.

A leading news agency correspondent visits nations worldwide to see how they are doing a year after the big two-oh-five-zero.  Most people forgot what 2050 was about, but a few remembered.

Welcome to Wales in 2051

Meet our characters

The stories are viewed through the eyes of the narrator, a leading A leading news agency correspondent, who sets the scene through a message sent to the editors of a leading news agency about the tour around Wales in…2051!

Starting with Adi, each story introduces a new character who describes their day. Each story leading onto the next, showing how we are all connected directly and indirectly and can positively influence each other’s lives.

Adi – a civil engineer with an expertise in environmental resilience

Cameron – a young school boy, friend of Adi and son of Luke

Luke – a family man and business owner


Aman – a community farmer


Cleo – a doctor

Gwen-Eddo – a policy-maker

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Environmental Management Systems: A guide for Welsh SMEs

Environmental Management Systems – A guide for Welsh SMEs

Consuming electricity and water, producing waste, operating machinery and processing natural resources – these are just some of the ways that businesses interact with the environment at operational level and through their supply chains.  

Businesses of all sizes are realising the need to understand, manage and improve their environmental impacts to ensure they can operate and grow sustainably. An Environmental Management System (EMS) proportionate to the size and activities of the organisation is a key framework for helping businesses to do this. 

However, it can be more challenging for SMEs to measure, manage and report on climate and environmental goals, due to constraints of time, cost and human resources. So, what are the options? Do you need to comply with the internationally recognised ISO 14001 or are there alternatives? 

We hope that this guide will help with understanding (i) the key elements of an EMS, (ii) the benefits and opportunities they bring for SMEs and (iii) provide an overview of the different certification standards for EMS implementation and support for SMEs in Wales. 

Remember, there are many benefits to gaining an EMS certification but it is the journey towards it that counts in terms of practical actions and outputs. All certifications will require resource. If this is not possible for your organisation right now we hope that this guide will still be valuable to steering you towards meaningful actions.    

1. What is an EMS?

An EMS is a structured framework of policies, procedures and practices which help organisations assess, manage and improve their environmental impact.  

The primary goals of an EMS are to ensure: 

  • Compliance with environmental requirements (for example, under an environmental permit issued by Natural Resources Wales) 
  • The efficient use of resources 
  • Waste reduction and minimal pollution 
  • The continual improvement of environmental performance 


A core strength of any EMS should be enabling continual improvement of environmental performance. Continual improvement as defined in ISO 14001, refers to recurring activities to enhance environmental performance. For example, organisations can identify improvement opportunities through audits and monitoring progress against objectives and targets.  

For an SME, this could be implementing behaviour change initiatives to support carbon reduction and nature related goals, such as eliminating deforestation. However, from a wider perspective, continuous improvement might look like an increasing number of business areas or processes being covered by the EMS, or an accumulation of knowledge and skills in dealing with environmental issues. Overall, it’s about a move from operational management of the environment to a more strategic approach.  

2. The benefits of implementing an EMS for SMEs in Wales

  • Manage and improve environmental impacts: by integrating environmental considerations into their operations, SMEs can minimise their ecological footprint and reduce negative impacts on the environment. 
  • Risk Management: The tools within an EMS provide a systematic approach to identifying and managing environmental risks and help SMEs to future proof their business and avoid potential liabilities and disruptions. 
  • Cost savings: Implementing efficient resource management practices can lead to cost savings for SMEs. By optimising energy and water usage, reducing waste generation, and implementing recycling initiatives, SMEs may see reductions in utilities bills and other financial benefits from more efficient and innovative processes. 
  • Compliance with regulations: An EMS helps SMEs comply with environmental regulations and legal requirements. By staying up to date with environmental legislation, SMEs can avoid penalties and legal issues. 
  • Enhanced reputation and competitive advantage: Demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability is important for many potential employees and customers. Increasingly, it is also a requirement for public sector buyers to take into account the sustainability of their contractors. For example, in Wales, the Social Partnerships and Public Procurement (Wales) Act introduced a Socially Responsible Procurement Duty and at UK level,  PPN 06/21 mandates that carbon reduction plans be taken into account in major government procurement contracts. 
  • Improved access to finance: An EMS can help SMEs to identify and manage steps they can take to fulfil requirements under Business Wales’ Green Growth Pledge. It can also act as the catalyst for innovation financing, for example, the Green Business Loan Scheme from Development Bank of Wales. 

3. EMS Standards and Certifications

When starting out to create an EMS, there are a number of standards available for SMEs in Wales. The main ones covered in this guide are: 

  • ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management Systems – Requirements and Guidance for Use)  

The most widely used voluntary EMS standard globally, providing a holistic framework ‘encompassing all aspects of an organisation’s environmental management and offering tools for continuous improvement’. Certification is available for organisations that have implemented the requirements of ISO 14001.  

  • ISO 14005:2019 (Environmental Management Systems – Guidance for a flexible approach to phased implementation) 

This standard provides guidance for a phased approach to establish, implement, maintain and improve an EMS. It may be particularly useful for SMEs as it provides flexibility and allows organisations to develop their EMS at their own pace. Full implementation of the guidance will result in an EMS that aligns with ISO14001.  

Note that BSI’s earlier guidance standard for SMEs, BS8555, which also provided a phased approach to EMS implementation has now been withdrawn and replaced by ISO 14005.  

Green Dragon is a UK based environmental accreditation awarded to ‘businesses that take action to understand, monitor and control their impacts on the environment’. It operates on a staged based system over five levels, allowing a business to progress in its own time.  At Level 5 the Green Dragon standard is equivalent to ISO 14001.  One of the advantages of Green Dragon is its recognition and support from Business Wales and its acknowledgement in Welsh Government procurement processes. 

Green Key is an eco-accreditation awarded to businesses operating in the tourism sector. Green Key certified businesses meet a set of high standard environmental requirements across 13 areas including environmental management, staff involvement, energy and water conservation, waste management, and food and beverage. In Wales, Green Key is operated by Keep Wales Tidy on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).  

EMAS is the EU’s voluntary scheme applicable to all organisations in the public and private sectors who want to evaluate, manage and improve their environmental performance. EMAS is broader and more rigorous than ISO14001 (as explained below) but ISO 14001 satisfies the requirements for the EMS component. Following Brexit, the UK no longer has a ‘competent body’ responsible for EMAS, however, organisations doing business in the EU might find EMAS Global registration useful and we have included information about the main requirements and links to further information in this document for completeness. 

It is worth noting that businesses do not need to adhere to a certain standard for their EMS and might decide to design a bespoke system. However, using one of the available standards might well be less resource intensive and can help to ensure a robust EMS that provides reassurance to stakeholders.  

The following sections of this guide provide a bit more detail about the above standards to help you identify which might be the right approach for your business.   

Please note this is a guide based on a summary of available online information. Please check the web links given for the most accurate and up to date details. 

4. International EMS standards

ISO14001:2015 (Environmental Management Systems – Requirements and Guidance for Use) 

ISO 14001:2015 is an internationally recognised, holistic framework for an EMS, encompassing all aspects of an organisation’s environmental impact and offering tools for continuous improvement.  

What is involved? 

The basis of ISO 14001 (as with other EMS standards) is the management system process Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). The PDCA cycle is applied to the overall EMS, as well as individual processes, and enables organisations to achieve continual improvements to their environmental performance through improvements to the EMS. 

The Guidance describes the requirements for setting up and implementing an EMS including: 

  1. An environmental policy: A statement that outlines an organisation’s commitment to environmental sustainability. 
  2. Planning: This involves identifying environmental aspects and objectives of an organisation, setting targets and establishing programmes to achieve them. 
  3. Implementation: This stage involves putting plans into action, allocating resources and assigning responsibilities. 
  4. Checking: Regular monitoring of performance against objectives and targets is critical to ensure the timely implementation of corrective actions. 
  5. Management review: A formal review of the EMS supports its continued effectiveness and suitability. 

EMS Plan-Do-Check-Act Model (Source: Westcon,2017, online) 

Costs, Certification and Training  

The standard can be purchased from the ISO website for approximately £130 and businesses can choose to implement the standard without the costs of certification. There are also various free and IEMA accredited training modules to assist with implementation. 

As mentioned above, certification is optional but can provide both organisations and their customers assurance that ISO 14001 has been implemented in a robust manner.  

Costs of certification from organisations accredited by The UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) vary but online quotes without commitment can be readily obtained. 

Certification is typically awarded for three years, subject to annual surveillance visits. The standard itself undergoes revisions periodically (typically every 5-10 years).  

ISO 14005:2019 (Environmental Management Systems – Guidance for a flexible approach to phased implementation) 

Whilst ISO 14001 is applicable to all types and sizes of organisation, the full implementation of an EMS at the same time might be prove challenging for some organisations and particularly SMEs where time, cost and human resources can be limited.  

At international level, a phased approach to implementing an EMS was therefore developed (previously the BSI standard BS8555:2016 which has been subsumed by ISO 14005) to encourage and guide SMEs to meet the requirements of ISO 14001. 

What is involved? 

The phased approach in ISO 14005 is designed to provide flexibility for an organisation to develop their EMS over a number of phases to ultimately meet the requirements of ISO 14001. 

The number of phases an organisation chooses to implement at any one time is flexible and can be determined depending on resources and priorities. Each phase is broken down into six consecutive stages to be completed over time. SMEs can monitor progress using the maturity matrix in Annex A of ISO 14005 and the free supporting documents provided by ISO 14005. 

The Assessment Sheet (on the supporting documents page) provided by ISO is a helpful tool that enables organizations to monitor and record progress through five levels of maturity corresponding to each EMS subclause. An EMS that satisfies the maturity Level 1 (Column 1) through to full maturity at Level 5 (Column 5) meets all the requirements for a particular clause of ISO 14001:2015. 

Costs, Certification and Training  

The Guidance can be downloaded from the ISO website for approximately £130. As the aim of ISO 14005 is to assist SMEs with reaching 14001, there is no separate certification for this standard. However, it is a good reference to turn to for ideas and practical examples on how to make your implementation of ISO 14001 more effective. 

5. Alternative EMS standards recognised in Wales

For SMEs based in Wales, there are alternatives to the above standards that are administered by national organisations and recognised by the public sector in the procurement process.

5.1 Groundwork Green Dragon Environmental Accreditation

The Green Dragon Environmental Accreditation is a comprehensive standard administered by Groundwork, a UKAS accredited inspection organisation. It is awarded to businesses that take action to understand, monitor and control their impacts on the environment. 

What is involved? 

Similar to ISO 14005, the standard operates on a staged based system (Levels 1-5), allowing organisations to join at any stage and progress their EMS in their own time. 

The five levels are: 

  • Level 1: Commitment to Environmental Management 
  • Level 2: Understanding environmental responsibilities 
  • Level 3: Managing environmental impacts 
  • Level 4: Environmental Management Programme 
  • Level 5: Continual environmental improvement 

Organisations can choose which level is appropriate to the nature and scale of their activities and upon completion of each level they will receive a certificate. At level 5, the Green Dragon standard is equivalent to ISO 14001. 

Groundwork provides several useful documents on its website to accompany the standard, including an Environmental Review Workbook. There is also a list of organisations across Wales who have achieved Green Dragon accreditation.   

Certification and costs 

To achieve and maintain the Green Dragon Environmental Standard, an annual audit with Groundwork is required. The cost of the audit varies depending on the level, with Level 3 being the most common entry point for organisations and costing.

5.2 Green Key – A sustainability standard for the tourism sector

Green Key is an international environmental certification programme for the tourism and hospitality industry. It has been awarded to more than 3,200 businesses from across the sector in 65 countries and is open to businesses from across the sector.  

Globally, Green Key is operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) who work with national partners on certification. In Wales, the Green Key certificate is managed by Keep Wales Tidy. 

Green Key promotes sustainable practices and recognises businesses that meet specific criteria related to environmental management and sustainability. Criteria are set out over 13 thematic areas including energy and water conservation, waste management, sustainable procurement, and environmental education. 

The FEE has developed criteria and explanatory notes for businesses in six different categories (hotels and resorts, small accommodation, campsites, restaurants, attractions and conference centres).  

In each category, there are ‘imperative’ and ‘guideline’ criteria. For example, creation of a sustainability policy and interaction with stakeholders are imperative criteria, whilst a target to reduce carbon footprint is a guideline criteria.  Each organisation applying for a Green Key certificate must achieve all imperative criteria and then for each subsequent year that they apply they must meet an additional 5% of the guideline criteria.  

In addition to the general benefits of EMS implementation, Keep Wales Tidy highlights that travellers and tourists are increasingly keen to support sustainable businesses and that investment in a Green Key certification is a key market differentiator. Keep Wales Tidy has collated case studies of organisations across Wales who have invested in Green Key. 

Certification and costs  

The application process for certification consists of three parts: 

  • Sending the application documents 
  • Receiving on-site audits 
  • Decision by an independent entity (third-party verification) 

More information about the application process in Wales can be found on the Keep Wales Tidy website. 

Keep Wales Tidy aims to keep certification costs affordable and to ensure Green Key is accessible to all tourism providers. Investment levels therefore vary depending on the size of the business: 

Costs are paid as part of the application prcess and then annually following updated verification (for more information see

5.3 Seren Scheme

The Seren Scheme is based on BS8555 and follows the same phased approach. Organizations can choose to use the Seren Scheme to achieve other EMS standards such as ISO 14001 or EMAS, or register at a phase that aligns with the nature and scale of their business and remain at that phase. 

The Seren Scheme is applicable to both large and small organizations and places a strong focus on continuous improvement. 

BS8555 is divided into 5 phases: 

  • Stage 1: Leadership, context, and commitment 
  • Stage 2: Ensure compliance 
  • Stage 3: Plan and develop the EMS 
  • Stage 4: Implement the EMS 
  • Stage 5: Check and update the EMS 

As long as organizations pass an annual inspection, they can stay at that particular phase indefinitely and use their EMS to demonstrate their commitment to environmental management to stakeholders and customers. 

The Seren Scheme is administered by a private company called Tarian Inspection Services, which conducts inspections in a friendly, down-to-earth, and highly practical manner. They ensure that companies have a robust Environmental Management System that enhances their credibility, good management, and cost savings. 

Further information can be found at 

6. EU’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

EMAS is a voluntary environmental management scheme designed by the European Commission. Its overall aim is to enable continuous improvement in the environmental performance of companies, language similar to that in ISO 14001. However, ISO 14001 aims for continual improvement of the system itself hopefully leading to improved environmental performance of the organisation. EMAS requires improved environmental performance of the organisation to be assessed through indicators relating to six core areas – energy efficiency, material efficiency, emissions, water, waste and land use with regards to biodiversity.  

EMAS is more rigorous than ISO 14001, however, ISO 14001 satisfies the EMS component of EMAS requirements.  

Registration with the scheme requires the following steps: 

  • Conduct a preliminary environmental review – this will be the baseline for improvement 
  • Adopt an environmental policy and programme in which you involve employees and external stakeholders  
  • Establish and implement an EMS 
  • Prepare an environmental statement  
  • The EMS and environmental statement to be verified and validated by an environmental verifier. 

Recognising the challenges faced by SMEs, EMAS has amended rules for SMEs to encourage participation in the scheme. These include verification every four years (rather than three) and publication of the environmental statement every two years, rather than annually. There is also financial support available in some Member States and a number of tools and guidance to assist SMEs. 

For more information, please see: 

In summary...

SMEs increasingly need to demonstrate an understanding of environmental impacts and a strategic approach to minimising climate and environmental impacts to satisfy potential customers and to future proof their business. 

In light of the prevalent tick-box culture in environmental matters, many organisations are seeking broader and more engaging systems, examining the impacts on their staff, communities, and supply chains.  

Regardless of the framework used for environmental, biodiversity, sustainability, or ESG reporting, businesses still need to adhere to similar concepts: focus on leadership and staff ownership, understand impacts, prioritise, plan, communicate, implement, and review. 

If you need further support or advice with any of these activities please reach out to our sustainability advisors.  

Environmental Management Systems: A guide for Welsh SMEs Read More »

Wales in 2051: Listening with care for healthcare


Following a stimulating visit to a city-based community farm the day before, Aman travelled to a more rural area to meet Cleo – a doctor at a community practice known for its innovative approaches to health challenges. 


A day in life of Cleo  

When he entered the practice, he met Cleo and a team of five nurses in a clinic containing three medical examination rooms, the reception area, an office space and lounge area for the staff.   

The journalist was keen to know what made this clinic so different to the others he had visited on his European journey.  

 Cleo responded, “Well, a lot of our work deals with public health and prevention. One example is our work with schools as we used to see so many kids under 10 with cavities and poor dental hygiene. 

Several times a year we visit schools and work with the teachers to find fun ways to teach kids and their parents the right way to brush teeth. It’s a simple intervention but we collaborate with the two dentist offices in town and so we know it is effective. Engaging with the children at their own pace and in ways that they can relate to have been important strategies. 

We also have a programme to support parents, and particularly pregnant mothers, with nutrition and access to healthy, affordable food – sometimes connecting with cookalong clubs or food coops. We listen to the challenges that people face – which might be money, time, fussy eaters, allergies – and find solutions that can work for the whole family, 

Although the visits are only a small part of our work, it has been rewarding to see declines in children coming in with basic, preventable health conditions. This gives us more time to deal with more challenging health cases and it feels like we are building a closer connection to our community. 

Sharing is caring   

“Another initiative we have successfully implemented focuses on reciprocity – capturing the enthusiasm of many recovered patients to ‘give back’ to services that supported them. The programme allows previous patients to help current or recovering ones – for example those leaving hospital who may not yet be completely independent.  

For those where practical and emotional support cannot be provided adequately by friends or family, our programme can help. Regular visits from a previous patient who has undergone the same thing helps manage isolation during recovery. Practical support lets patients recover faster with less worry about practical tasks such as cleaning or shopping. 

This approach, building on the successful Helpforce programme, has been instrumental in enabling nurses and other staff to focus on duties where their competencies are more acutely needed.  

It is an optional programme but many former patients have themselves thrived on the reciprocity and love it so much that they have become permanent volunteers in the programme. 

It works because we are constantly listening to what our patients and volunteers need so we know how best to use their skills and benefit from their ideas.” 

Relating and tuning into systems   

“Another important programme we run has been inspired by Hilary Cottam’s Wellogram Programme. 

Like other social prescribing models, it is for our patients who suffer from a complex range of social, emotional, economic and physical ailments that cannot be solved in one doctor’s visit.  

We have trained ‘listening’ workers who take time to meet with these patients to simply listen and understand their challenges and needs – and the barriers that may be blocking good physical and mental health.   

A plan is then decided together, to be worked on at a patient’s own pace  which may or may not involve medication. Other options to combat loneliness, increase exercise, provide more access to nutritious food or help solve financial or emotional anxieties can be equally important. 

This programme also works to build trusted relationships, support continued good habits, and combat the social isolation that underpins so many problems. Being patient-led is a key ingredient. 

Supporting patients to take active steps towards healthy lifestyle changes was not only empowering, Cleo explained, but was effective in reducing patients’ ailments. I feel immensely proud to have seen the changes over the past 14 years that have successfully tackled some of the issues related to low incomes, poor diets and limited access or confidence around healthy food and lifestyles.”  

The journalist curiously asked how people on low incomes now had access to nutritious food. Cleo responded that many community-led initiatives had highlighted the health issues of a food system where cheap junk food dominated less affordable fresh, whole foods.  

The response, backed by communities and public bodies, was more home-growing, more community allotments and increased investment into organic farming. Initiatives to support both community and commercial farmers to secure a decent income from sustainable practices had also flourished. 

“And how are all the programmes funded?”, Aman asked, scratching his head as it still seemed that all these programmes would require a lot of funding and resources.  

Cleo responded that all medical services in the local area shared an allotted health care tax, meaning that just sharing the money was not enough to guarantee effective responses. Collectively they had decided to collaborate, refer patients, support and learn from each others’ innovations and take the best practices forward.  

In addition, the programmes capitalising on reciprocity, volunteering and learning actively saved money that could be invested in other programmes, as well as delivering social and well-being returns . 

Drawing on personal experiences  

Intrigued by what he had heard the journalist asked how Cleo herself has ended up trialling these programmes. 

“Oh gosh”, Cleo said, “well as a kid I looked after my younger brother a lot, which ended up being my entry into care.  He is blind and so needed a lot of assistance.  I learned to simply listen to him, to understand his challenges for emotional support and the best ways to help him. I realised that I enjoyed it a lot and it let me be closer to my brother.  

Later, I found a medical degree that looked at new ways of managing public health services. There were 3 mandatory internships as part of the programme where I learned a lot from different practices. I was also lucky enough to travel to different parts of the world with innovative social health care programmes, where I either volunteered or got hired for entry level positions. 

 I was eager to experiment with several of the models I came across back in Wales and was fortunate to find a practice already involved with social prescribing and community connectors. Collaborating with others in the region we have developed more activities and programmes – and here we are! 


The next week we introduce our last but most important character of all, Gwen-Eddo, a local wellbeing-of-future generations officer.  

Did you like this story? How did it make you feel? What aspects of the story provoked you the most? Email us on your response on  


How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of?    

Have a look at our range of sustainability advice and training services.

Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

Wales in 2051: Listening with care for healthcare Read More »

*NEW* Sustainability Guides for SMEs

Sustainability Guides for SMEs

How can a small or medium enterprise (SME) be sustainable in your actions? 

Our Advice team are here to help you. 

Take action towards removing inequalities in your workplace.

We provide actionable changes towards staff training, benefits, flexible working arrangements, and more. Creating a more inclusive environment for your staff is possible for organisations of any size and budget.

Cynnal Cymru are the real Living Wage Accreditor for Wales. Check out how you can become a Living Wage Employer.

Reassess your suppliers and find new sources for materials in your work.

Whether you’re a business that provides goods such as a shop or cafe, or if you’re an office-based business needing to purchase electronics and office supplies, you can consider where you get your materials and find more ethical sources.

As part of our services, we provide a Carbon Accounting services to help businesses understand your carbon impact, including the materials you purchase. See if Carbon Accounting is for you.

Do you know how workers are treated along your supply chain?

It can be difficult to find out whether your suppliers are treating their workers fairly, which is where this guide can help. With key questions to ask yourself and your suppliers as well as actionable goals, you can find suppliers that you trust to treat their workers as fairly as you treat yours.

If these changes feel too big to make alone, our action planning service can give you the support you need.

Minimise your waste and find waste management strategies.

We’re all aware of the amount of landfill and pollution on land, sea, and air, getting worse day by day. As a responsible business, if you want to go beyond basic reuse and recycle requirements, these tips and tricks can reassure you that you’re creating the least waste possible. We can never reduce our waste entirely, but we can always do more. 

Unsure where to start? We can provide transformative strategies to work towards your personalised sustainability goals.

Understand and reduce your energy and water usage.

As an island nation, we rely on shipping for many of our products. On top of tips to reduce water and energy usage in your supply chain by using local products and responsible importers, this guide will also help you understand how to track and limit your business’ daily energy usage. 

Our Carbon Accounting service will help you fully understand your energy usage through an audit of your supply chain, office energy usage, and more, with action items to reduce your energy usage each year.

Unsure how to use the guides? Learn more here

*NEW* Sustainability Guides for SMEs Read More »

Wales in 2051: Agricultural healing and indigenous knowledge

Wales in 2051

Our previous story was about Luke, who told us how he remodelled ways the private sector work collaboratively to address pressing challenges. This week, our journalist turns his lens to a community farmer, Aman, a former refugee who shares his experience of developing a food cooperative with little prior knowledge in farming.

A day in the life of Aman

Just as the journalist was about to leave the hub, Aman, one of its members, arrived for an event and a brainstorming session with other growers and innovators. Luke insisted that Aman take the journalist to see his cooperative farm, which Aman was more than thrilled to do. They decided to meet the following day for a full tour of the farm.

In the morning, Aman arrived with a freshly brewed local alternative to coffee, a malted and roasted wheat coffee, which Polish people popularised in Wales. “You see,” Aman said, “when coffee plantations were no longer suitable for producing coffee at scale, we turned to alternatives. It was really difficult at the beginning because coffee means so much to me, but if it were not for the intercultural exchange we have here in Wales, I would have never discovered the weird and wonderful alternatives that were at our doorsteps.” While sipping this delicious hot beverage, Aman showed pictures of the founding members of the cooperative, which, from the journalist’s view was a stack of photos full of smiling people in the field. .  “They, like me, lost all they had due to a lack of adaption in the places where they grew up, and ended up here. Over time, as we began sharing our stories, we realised that we have all been through similar forms of pain and loss. This is why we formed this cooperative to ensure neither of us has to suffer alone. So while we slowly worked to heal the damaged soil that was eroded from decades use of toxic pesticides and herbicides, we managed to heal some of our traumas through sharing our stories and re-building together.” What makes our cooperative unique is not just our innovative agricultural practices but also our shared experiences and the sense of community we’ve built.

Multi-cultural learning and collective effort

Aman waved at the journalist as if saying “follow me” and so he got up and followed. The journalist was not prepared for what he was about to see next.  Stunning landscape, animals, people, sounds of birds, colours, ponds, trees, and sound of folk song sung by a group of women. This was quite remarkable, and appeared as a safe haven for people, wildlife and nature alike. But how was that even possible? Haven’t all agricultural skills been lost by now because of the mechanisation and automation, not to mention soil degradation and extreme weather conditions that make traditional farming in soil unsuitable? Clearly not here. The unexpected beauty and vibrancy of the farm left the journalist in awe, challenging his preconceived notions about modern agriculture.

So when asked about it Aman said, “I was lucky. When I arrived in Wales, I was an asylum seeker but the Welsh Government was keen on keeping skills like farming going, and so, like many other asylum seekers, I went to college and alongside English classes, I was learning about farming here. But also I was able to reflect on how we, back in my country, used to grow things. This was encouraged as part of the multicultural exchange, and it was difficult at first, but over time, I was able to heal some of the wounds and difficult memories about the journey of leaving my home.

I was not the only one. Many other farmers worldwide participated in this programme, and we formed a little after-college club. Initially, we used the knowledge we had gained from the programme to grew food at the local charity simply as a collective and social hobby. We tried multiple different farming methods and we saw that some was largely unsuccessful while others were incredibly fruitful. A common denominator for the successful farming methods involved nurturing the soil and rebuilding healthy soil bacteria and fungi to create essential growing grounds for produce. So by trying, failing, experimenting and succeeding, we learned which methods worked well for the local land and once this happened we started producing a lot of good-looking fruits and vegetable. This gave us the confidence to seek a bigger plot of land to grow even more food.  With the help of volunteers, we joined a community growing place in Cardiff, and again, we saw that urban centres with the right farming methods can produce food. Interestingly, an environmental researcher found that our farming practices enabled great drought and flooding resistance, which has since encouraged other local and distance farmers around Wales to try our mixed methods. Together, we learned how to grow food in harsh weather conditions, and doing so gave us hope and became a metaphor for our own lives.  We promised to each other that whoever gets granted a leave to remain status, will open a cooperative.”

“And we did open a cooperative! I was first to get granted permanent settlement and then other men and women, who like me, once with the status, could get further training for entrepreneurial refugees! It was a lot of learning! I was close to quitting, but I had made a promise to my follow farming buddies, and I could not back down! So, I continued, and I am glad I did not give up. So, where you are standing is the first plot we all worked on as a farming cooperative run by refugees for the whole community here. We distribute most of the food to local schools and nearby hospitals. We also get lots of volunteers and we organise excursion days where school students can come and learn how we manage food.”

Exploring different farming practices to accommodate biodiversity

While the journalist was scribbling notes, Aman moved to another plot, which, as he explained, “has been written about by scholars!” And so he began describing how a few decades back, a team of researchers unearthed this medieval method called the Vile which is a rare example of the open-field system: a technique of communal agriculture once practised across Europe. Under this system, each farmer attended his own strip of land, with the village members coming together more widely to cooperate and plan a healthy harvest.  In the nooks and crannies of medieval farms, like the Vile, many plants and animals would have found the conditions they needed to survive. Ground-nesting birds could find cover and camouflage in the fields left fallow – something done every few years to allow the soil to recover. Baulks offered safe passage to small mammals as they navigated the cultivated land.”

“So we replicated it, and we also used other methods from Spain, like communal watering, like the Kenyan dry weather method of growing from seeds, called “bunds”. These ideas were all locked in peoples’ memories, sometimes in books, stories that have been passed down through generation containing practices of how people used to tend to the soil to nourish it. So, through attending to each other’s cultural background and spending time together, we not only healed wounds but also created this place.

Besides farming in soil, Aman moved on to show another large area of farming quite distinct from the remaining as tall vertical tubes placed in a circular formation with a diversity of colours from different plants and vegetables growing out of openings in the tubes. They towered high over the journalist, who considered himself to be of above-average height, and he wondered how they would conveniently harvest all the high-growing broccoli and kale. Aman explained that these were their aquaponic systems with fish floating around in water-filled tanks connected to tubes. The fish waste offered nourishment for the plants in an almost closed-loop system. Aman added, “It is quite an ancient system originating in Japan, but over the last few decades, it has adapted to other countries. I am just lucky, the knowledge was already developed decades before, but we all needed to bring ourselves up to speed. Not many of us knew how to look after fish, plants, water, nutrients and bacteria all at once! But look at this now!”

“We don’t just use multicultural and ancient farming practices, we also use technology to help us prepare for the changing climate. We work with the hub’s researchers and innovators who help us identify suitable land for both nature and agriculture. We learned our lesson, use local and indigenous knowledge and science together, not apart”.

Follow next week’s story about Cleo, a doctor in rural Wales who practices preventative care and explores the root causes of people’s ailments rather than treating the symptoms with medicine. 

How can we develop and use our skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of?

Have a look at our range of advice and training services.

Did you like this story? How did it make you feel? What aspects of the story provoked you the most? Email us your response on

Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

Wales in 2051: Agricultural healing and indigenous knowledge Read More »

Wales in 2051: Collaborative hubs for the private sector that improve efficiency

Our previous story was about 11-year-old Cameron, who tells the journalist about his education system and the way it prepares students for skills needed to tackle relevant societal challenges. After hearing Cameron’s story, our journalist seizes the opportunity to interview Cameron’s father, Luke, who is an innovative business developer that has restructured the way business operates in Swansea in 2051.   

A day in life of Luke

Just as Luke was ready to bid farewell to the journalist, Adi said, “I think you should show him what you do.” And so, just like that, Luke agreed to take the journalist around and explain how he became a business owner. He hesitated because he felt his business was nothing special.  But contrary to Luke’s sentiment, his business structure had tried a different operating method than traditional shareholder value driven businesses. So, the next day, Luke and the journalist met on the outskirts of Swansea in a circular business hub, which was a sight to behold. There is lots of greenery, bike lanes, an occasional EV delivery truck, a beat of music and lots of art.  The journalist stopped and said to Luke, “Wait, I did not know you were a musician”.  “I am not, I am a circular economy coordinator, and this is the beating hub of the region”.  The journalist murmured something, trying to make an impression indicating that he knew what Luke meant, but in fact, he could not put one and one together. If this is something of an industrial estate, he thought to himself, then why does it have a vibe of a festival?  

Luke, in a matter-of-fact way, pointed to a bird sanctuary, to a vertical farm, playground for both adults and their children, to a canteen full of colourful produce, a walkway up in the sky, a stream; and rows of warehouses with green walls, containers with solar panels on; and what looked like a shop. 

It looked like something well-to-do neighbourhoods used to have, but in 2051, it is an industrial estate.  

At this point the journalist had to admit he knew nothing about this hub and so Luke decided to tell him how it came about, what is being produced here and how it benefits everyone. 

Luke’s humble entry as a social enterpriser 

“It might surprise you” said Luke, “but I was not into this at all.  I was 19 when the world started falling apart and I realised this is just temporary. Neither my parents, nor my mates believed that climate change is going to affect us; and I certainly thought I would be back renovating houses for well-off people and retire at the age of 40 to travel the world, and maybe settle down. But, a year passed, and another and I began to panic. I blamed everyone and yet I kept on disputing facts; listened to the populist media channels, and followed influencers who had more wealth than two continents combined. I was in a really dark place and all I wanted was insane wealth so I can run away from the city I loved. I did not connect my desire for wealth with the destruction of my community, let alone the world. And how could I? Nobody around me said anything, and I was told I am not academic enough to be able to voice the nagging feeling that something is not right. 

But, one day I was placed onto a 6-months programme with a local enterprise that combined learning a new trade with building confidence to sell new skills. I did not know that the training programme was about learning to renovate houses with climate in mind and acquiring a new business acumen through self-discovery. I was 21 at the time of the programme, and oh boy, I hated the first month. I was ready to abandon the scholarship, which was well-paid, with boarding and a guaranteed job at the end. 

So, I stayed. I was probably the worst student in the first month, but by month five, I was second, and in the end, I was a top student and felt like Leonardo Da Vinci. OK, maybe I was not able to paint portraits, but I was able to think across disciplines, connect the dots, learn climate science, understand behaviour change science, learn from nature and anthropology how houses used to be built, and circulate materials in a closed-loop system.  

The key that unlocked that knowledge, well, two keys really, were the tutors and the hands-on learning. Our tutors were blokes like me who were told they would amount to nothing but who had immense hunger for change but could not articulate it any other way than living up to the power and wealth hungry masculine role models represented in social media. These lads were innovators, artists, and young fathers who had lost more than gained trying to live up to the standard of living that did not deliver on the fundamental front: belonging. 

Connecting the dots to learning, practice, and funding 

Luke continued with his monologue, “These tutors knew exactly what men go through, and they knew they could only instil a sense of belonging by showing a path where success meets belonging and emotional stability. This is how the second key to my transformation came in: we were placed onto renovation projects alongside anthropologists, scientists, electricians, builders; and innovators. We were not just to fix things, but unlearn what we knew about houses, cities, nature, people and so forth. We had compulsory classes in nature and climate; but also on circular economy and materials science.  

Because I had an exposure to renovation of houses, it all clicked. I could understand how to build without waste; how to work with nature to reduce use of artificial lighting; how to change design of our houses to use rainwater and so on. Often, we had to draw on ancient literature.” 

The journalist asked how funding was made possible and so Luke explained that the Government in Wales realised that they could unlock sustainability by investing in such training and this was done on a massive scale across industries. The model however worked such that when students gained jobs or opened their businesses, they would sponsor another student and so this virtuous cycle grew bigger and bigger over time, with government eventually stepping back. There was a clear understanding that only by investing in those without jobs, and those who lost them due to unplanned transition, and young people who barely made a dent on economy, Wales will be able to deliver on its sustainable commitments. 

After this long monologue, Luke finally moved on to the topic of the hub and his role. “You see, when I finished my training, I began travelling around the training programmes in the agricultural sector, manufacturing, healthcare and so forth and came to the realisation that not only do we have the same mindsets across industries, but we also need each other to keep going. So instead of clustering around sectors, we clustered around challenges and opportunities. So, this hub is about food challenge: to grow all year round, no waste, no imports; no additives; nutritious; within the carbon and nature budgets; and accessible. So, my role is to  know what is being grown, who can take it, how can we distribute it without packaging that will create waste and how to create seasonal dishes without making people say this is boring!  So, we also have artists and chefs from around the world to make humble foods be fun, inspirational and healthy.” 

Learning from nature and working in partnership 

Without even being promoted, Luke started talking about the impact of the hub. “It has been a great success because everyone sees how they benefit from being in the ecosystem of a challenge and opportunity, rather than in an ecosystem of competition where the winner takes it all but eventually loses as the newbie will take over. So we are learning from nature to be symbiotic not parasitic! Which is why you see so much nature here. 

We apply the same principles to our processes, so we think before we reuse, or redesign and recycle, and so the system-thinking approach for us was the biggest game changer. Do not get me wrong, some people still want to have a more cushy lifestyle and want to keep the profit to themselves and they can but only after they paid their fair share to the hub, the tax office and to the training programme. We recognise that there are moments in business cycles where some things are doing better than others, and that can change due to the weather and things we cannot expect. Which is why we do not envy someone’s bumper year. We celebrate it knowing this will benefit us all in the long term and that when other businesses have a lean year, others will come to the rescue. This is because the collaboration and structure of working in the hub have made it evident that the businesses here are interdependent. So if one breaks down, the rest will struggle. So on balance, we all win. However, until we had a few cycles of ups and downs, we could not see the true value of this model. This is why it was so important that the government holds its promise to support the programme and the hubs until we reach that new balance and learn to adapt to change and embrace it. 

Our challenges are well predicted because we have climate models, and we know what effect they will have on us, so we plan years in advance. We have planning and strategy teams that work on new stuff while old stuff works perfectly fine. There are no questions as to why we plan for the future because we know this is what a smart business owner does, which is,  plan ahead of foreseeable future challenges with a positive, yet realistic outlook”.  

The journalist raised his eyebrows and wanted to say that perhaps this utopia will only work in Wales. But Luke got there first and said, “We use this model worldwide because we know collaboration yields more than competition. And look at us—we are all still giddy here in this hub. We work hard, but we know it is worth it for us, our children, our colleagues, and citizens worldwide. 

I love what I do and I wish everyone around the world see the point of it. I get to have time with my family, I have a great life, I live in a beautiful home, and I eat healthy food. I don’t need the stuff I used to want, because the stuff I have now is perfect, lasts and can be passed on. I do not need to chase after money to buy things that end up in the bin. My mates are the same and so we spend time outdoors here in beautiful Wales. It took time to restore it, but we got there in the end which is why we cherish what we have.” 

The journalist stood there speechless and for the first time had no more questions to ask. So instead went off for a wander soaking the hub’s atmosphere. 

Did you like this story? How did it make you feel? What aspects of the story provoked you the most? Email your response to

Follow next week’s story about Aman, a refugee and farmer from the horn of Africa  who uses his expertise in flood resilience to turn the farmlands at a community farm into a flourishing community hub. 

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for a free online Green Skills event on 28th May

And how about training in climate and nature? Even better, why not help us help you become a future-proof business? Take a look at our range of services.

Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

Wales in 2051: Collaborative hubs for the private sector that improve efficiency Read More »

A Wales that cares: People, planet, and green skills – A focus on sustainability and equality

At Cynnal Cymru, we recognise that we are not the only organisation in Wales working to make sustainability challenges, and their solutions, visible and relatable.

Engaging with others is a key part of what we do and what we learn we try to share – through our advice and action planning, training – and posts like these.

We recently participated in an event organised by the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) and Oxfam Cymru which highlighted the importance of acknowledging and valuing unpaid (or poorly paid) labour, a form of work that is predominantly undertaken by women across the globe and is often unrecognised.

This intersection of work and justice is close to our hearts. Cynnal Cymru is the Living Wage accreditation partner for Wales and we see Fair Work as a critical cornerstone of any equitable society and economy.

If this issue also touches you, please read on for more insights from the event from our Sustainability Strategist Karolina and further resources around the care economy, alternative economic models, inequality and climate.

A Wales that cares: People, planet, and green skills – A focus on sustainability and equality – IWA and Oxfam Cymru April 2024

I was curious and excited to attend this event and to explore how a Wales that prioritises people and the planet could be constructed. A key takeaway was that this cannot be done without first recognising and fairly rewarding unpaid (or poorly paid) labour, a form of work that is predominantly undertaken by women and is often unrecognised.

The event featured a series of debates and conversations, ignited by thought-provoking presentations by:

  • Anam Parvez , Head of Research, Oxfam GB, on care, climate justice and inequality – a perspective from the UK
  • Leah Payud, Portfolio Manager, Oxfam Philippines, on care, climate justice and gendered dimensions – a perspective from the global South.
  • Erinch Sahan, Business and Enterprise Lead, DEAL, on doughnut economics and alternative economic models
  • Helen Lucocq, Head of Strategy and Policy, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority, on doughnut economics and alternative economic models in Wales.

The takeaways that we’d like to share, including resources from the event or found subsequently, are:

Necessity of a Paradigm Shift:

It’s crucial that we progress beyond using GDP as the only indicator of success. This measure has shown to be patriarchal and has been globally implemented with devastating consequences. To truly understand its impact on our climate, it’s worth listening to Mia Motely’s discussion on the imperative need for systemic change and a compelling story from Gabon.

Significance of the Care Economy:

It’s undeniable that women bear a disproportionate burden of caregiving duties. For a just transition to occur, it’s essential to recognise and appreciate these contributions. During periods of transition, it’s crucial to consider all forms of paid and unpaid labour, as the most overlooked types are often the most affected and necessary. To gain a deeper understanding, visit Oxfam’s website dedicated to care in the UK and listen to these two insightful podcasts here and here, plus an episode about the staggering amount of money women in the care sector send back home.

Making change in Wales:

If you are in a position where you can help reset this balance in Wales you can watch how one social care provider became a Living Wage employer here.

Interconnection of Climate and Inequality:

Climate change tends to exacerbate existing social inequalities, with minority groups often bearing the brunt. Those burdened with caring responsibilities are often left to protect and rebuild with little or no external support. Thus, climate action and disaster preparedness plans should be inclusive, considering those with caring responsibilities and people with disabilities. In this regard, developing nations have made significant strides, providing valuable lessons for developed nations. For further information, you can read stories of preparedness with gender in mind, about the impact of climate on women in rural areas, listen to the episode about preparedness in Bangladesh, heartbreaking stories about the impact on women due to climate; and about the lack of consideration for people with disabilities in action plans.

The Doughnut Model – A New Business Paradigm:

The Doughnut Model is an innovative framework for redesigning businesses to address both environmental and social needs. System thinking skills are indispensable for facilitating this transition. To learn more, visit the Doughnut Lab.

Green Jobs & Just Transition Across All Sectors, Including Care:

The definition of green skills needs to be broadened to prevent exacerbating existing social inequalities.

Real Stories of Possibility:

There are countless solutions out there; they encompass technology, politics, socio-cultural changes, and are entirely achievable. Let’s make sure to share these inspiring stories! For a wealth of uplifting and inspiring stories, I recommend People Fixing the World.

The event spurred numerous questions:

  • What could these alternative metrics to GDP look like, and how can they be effectively implemented?
  • How can we ensure a just transition that benefits everyone, not just those with privilege?

We look forward to seeing these insightful discussions developed into a comprehensive position paper, which IWA should soon publish.

A Wales that cares: People, planet, and green skills – A focus on sustainability and equality Read More »

Wales in 2051: Learning environments that created curious minds

Our previous story was about Adi showing Swansea to a journalist who was eager to learn why Wales in 2051 is such a thriving nation. But, it is not the end of his travels. Having spent time with Adi cycling around the city, he is now introduced to Cameron, an 11-year old boy who Adi babysits.

A day in life of Cameron

Cameron swung the door open, his mother right behind him. He looked out to see Adi accompanied by an older man who introduced himself as the journalist there to interview Cameron and his parents about his school and his experience going there. Cameron’s face lit up with joy at the sight of Adi. Adi was more than just a neighbour and babysitter; she was his friend. At least, she had smiled warmly and said, “absolutely” when Cameron had once shyly asked if she would be his friend.

He was always happy to see Adi because she would play fun games with him and tell him about her work projects of retrofitting the city sustainably, which he liked to hear about. He tried to imagine a mini version of his local area in his head; similar but more intricate to the car road map carpet he had had when he was younger, which his brother now played with. He liked to imagine the landscape as miniature from a helicopter view so that he could mentally view all the changes to the city scape Adi was talking about. He liked maps and nature. He also liked that Adi didn’t just tell him about the new building projects, but she would explain how all the different aspects had been thought about – like accessibility for all people, the most suitable building materials to minimise ecosystem harm, how waste was recycled or repurposed and how homes for wildlife were built in. The wildlife cameras and sonar equipment were his favourite and Adi always let him listen to her recordings. He was learning many of these things in school, but listening to Adi, these things were becoming more real, and he was able to imagine the miniature landscape of the area more clearly.

Learning through others

After the standard formal introductions, they had gotten comfortable in the living room although Cameron felt slightly nervous to answer the questions. The first question was about what Cameron enjoyed most about his school. Cameron thought about the question and responded that he liked the buddy system, the volunteering days, the building modules, seeing his friends, and learning in general. He described the buddy system as a programme where all students get paired up with a student from the year above to offer help with learning, and fitting in to the new year. At his school, primary and secondary school was on the same school grounds, which meant that Cameron mentored a kid one year younger than him from primary school, but he also had his own mentor from the year above him. This was put in place to prevent bullying which worked in the past in other countries and was rolled out in Wales too. He also felt a big brotherly relationship with the kid he was teaching and a strong desire to help and protect him. Cameron had also become good friends with his own mentor whom he had now known for 3 years.

Learning with food

Next, Cameron described the volunteering days as four days spread over the year where all students would get involved in a project in their local area – most recently they had all gone to the local community farm that helped supply nutritious and organic food to the school’s cafeteria. They had spent the whole day there, and they had all helped harvest crops, feed the animals, learn what is required for farming, and how healthy soil is important for nutritious food. They had picked fruit and berries to eat and bring home.

Cameron had really enjoyed seeing how the food he ate every day ended up on his plate and he enjoyed learning in a more practical way. This was a fixed yearly volunteering day, but the remaining 3 days were suggested and collectively chosen by the students with the only requirement being that the project would be a positive social or environmental contribution to the local area. The next volunteering day would be a regeneration project where students would plant native pest-resistant tree species in parts of the city suffering from the new pathogens introduced as a result of the warmed climate. The project, also introduced for shading and cooling had been agreed in partnership with the Welsh Infrastructure Commissioners Office.

Learning by designing

Third, was the environmental construction modules which Cameron described as weekly lessons where his class were introduced to technical environmental skills and able to put them into practice. Projects ranged from building hydroponics to bird houses with green roofs, nature ponds, edible gardens and rainwater harvesting systems. It was still sometimes called Forest School by the older teachers even though, Cameron explained, all his friends called it EC, short for environmental construction. Cameron was excited about all of the projects and he felt encouraged with everything he was learning, as he would also be able to help his community thrive despite the difficult environmental challenges that all nations were facing.

Once finished answering the question, Cameron looked between his mother and Adi for validation that he had done a good job explaining. Both looked at him with immense pride. He looked down on the floor with a cheeky smile across his lips, feeling a mixture of shyness and encouragement. The journalist looked excitedly at everyone and said, “wow, that’s incredible”. His next question was about what Cameron learned in school.

Learning by connecting diverse knowledge

Again, Cameron took his time to think about the question before he finally answered that he learned about history from different perspectives around the world including Welsh folk traditions, maths and economics, where he was learning about different economic models and their impacts on people and planet. He had learned about many different models, including the old-fashioned ones that had only measured outputs around money and productivity. He explained that now, the economic system was more complicated and was also about nations’ well-being, security, and ability to deal with hard times. Cameron asked what the water scarcity indicator was when the correspondent was in school and seems bemused when he hears that in the correspondent’s day, no such thing existed. Cameron shrugged and explained that he also studied English, Welsh, geography, science and sustainability. Other subjects were arts, music, PE, nutrition and computing.

Cameron explained that in all the different modules he had, he learned about impacts on people and the planet. Almost everything they learned in in the classroom, they got to try in practice. Meanwhile, the community volunteering and his country’s progress in the green transition made him feel a great sense of passion, excitement and belonging while simultaneously learning about and embracing his Turkish heritage.

Learning by drawing on social skills and feedback

He also really enjoyed that the teachers taught ways of learning. For instance, they not only set tasks for groupwork but also taught strategies for groupwork to teach effective collaboration. This went for other soft skills as well, such as active listening, leadership, communication, analytical thinking, etc. ‘No wonder an 11-year old can speak so eloquently’, the correspondent thought. Cameron also really enjoyed that the teachers offered students choices about what and how they learned.

Cameron’s dad had returned to the living room and added that from a parents’ perspective, he was happy that aspects of the curriculum was reviewed at fixed intervals and co-constructed by learners’ continuous feedback and input from parents/carers, the local community, and experts who all contribute to curriculum development to ensure it remains relevant to local and global circumstances. Moreover, local and national schools share best practices with each other, which has enabled a faster reworking of the curriculum to the stage that it is at today. Many of these practices were proposed by the Health WellBeing (Hwb) group of the Welsh Government around 2020. Cameron’s mother adds that they also feel grateful for the mandate to keep education free of costs to make education accessible for everyone.

Learning by helping others

When the silence in the room indicated that it was time for a new question, the journalist asked Cameron what he was most excited about doing a year from now. This time, Cameron didn’t have to think. He already knew the answer as he had been waiting for this for a long time. He was most excited about the next year’s opportunity where his year would try and learn how to use the most up-to-date technology at the local tech centre. His year’s computer learning class would progress from basic learning to more detailed study by learning from tech professionals.

The journalist asked how this worked. Cameron’s mother added that some of the profits from the community’s renewable energy farm had been spent on a shared tech centre for all schools in the local area to stay on top of emerging trends. Cameron said that he was also excited about next year’s 1-week work placement. Noticing the journalists’ confused expression Cameron’s mother explains that over the past decades there has been much more emphasis on helping all children find careers that suit their skills and helping employers understand the range of talent available to them. Work experience nowadays started at a younger age and had become much more integrated within the education system. This built ties between business and communities and had generated many different but equally respected career paths. Cameron adds that he can’t wait to start his first placement – at Adi’s company. At that moment, Adi felt like a proud sister, and she couldn’t believe that her presence had led to so much inspiration for Cameron.

Follow next week’s story about Cameron’s dad Luke, who runs a business benefitting not just his family, but the entire region and the planet too!

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for a free online Green Skills event on 28th May

Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

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