'It's important for people to disconnect from work and get out in nature' Julie Longton, Associate Director (Grasshopper Communications)

Nature Wise for Business – ‘being outside and close to nature is crucial for wellbeing’

What is your job at Grasshopper Communications?

I’m a communications professional at Grasshopper, a communications agency with an office in Cardiff. Our work is all about social value, we create campaigns that change attitudes and actions in positive, lasting ways. We partner with like-minded organisations, such as renewable energy companies, environment agencies and local and Welsh Government, supporting campaigns on active travel, regeneration, net zero and conservation.  

What are the best things about nature for you? 

I work remotely and I’m usually in front of my laptop, so it’s critical I spend any free time out by the beach, or in the woods walking with my kids and spotting birds and beetles. 

I want to bring my children up so that they’re really fond of nature. Our local beach, Maenporth (near Falmouth), has lots of craggy rocks and little tunnels which kids love. We can go whatever the weather – they just love it! 

How important is nature to your sector? 

I think that for communications – for most industries – people have realised that the environment is important for staff wellbeing. The pandemic was a bit of a turning point, when we realised that we need human connection but also that being outside and close to nature is crucial for wellbeing.  

Why is nature important to you and the business? 

Personally, being closer to nature was part of the motivation for moving with my family from London to Cornwall. I wanted my children to be close to the woods and the beach, to have more work-life balance and be closer to wildlife.  

As for Grasshopper, wellbeing is a real focus for us – it’s part of our culture. It’s important for people to disconnect from work and get out in nature. In fact, this year we’re hopefully starting some team voluntary work to support a local conservation charity.  

Grasshopper Communications team on a wellbeing day.

Why did you do the Nature Wise course? 

I was keen to do it because at the time I was putting together a communications strategy for a project for Natural Resources Wales, called Natur Am Byth. The aim is to bring people closer to nature and protect endangered species. So Nature Wise was really helpful for that role, particularly for the work I was doing on how to inspire people. 

How did you find the course? 

I thought it was brilliant. The trainers were really good and it really was a two-way course with lots of discussion. Doing it over two days meant you could go away and digest it before coming back to the next phase. 

What would you say to others about doing Nature Wise?  

Go for it! Whether you’re a junior member of staff or a senior manager, it’s relevant for anyone with an interest in the environment who wants to take a more active role. 


Nabod Natur – Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help individuals to understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provide the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

Save our Wild Isles

The experience was organised by WWF Cymru, RSPB Cymru and National Trust Cymru together with experts from the Open University that brought to life the Save Our Wild Isles campaign and television series, demanding an immediate halt to the destruction of nature here in the UK and urgent action for its recovery.

The event outlined the challenges facing us and how everyone has a part to play in supporting this recovery – something Sylvia and Jason know first-hand from their experience teaching Cynnal Cymru’s Nature Wise | Nabod Natur course. It brought together nature ambassadors advocating on behalf of our precious grasslands, freshwater areas, woodlands and oceans in a combination of film screenings, panel discussions and interpretation boards, all accompanied by a delicious sustainable vegan meal provided by local caterers Wild Thing Cardiff.

This fantastic opportunity to network and share experiences with others working in the sustainability sector did, however, make clear just how much work still needs to be done. The statistics are deeply worrying: 30 million birds have vanished from our skies over the last 50 years and as many as 1 in 6 species is at risk of extinction here in Wales. And this is something humanity has caused: in the words of Sir David Attenborough, “this starts and ends with us”.

But all is not lost – part of the event was to promote the People’s Plan for Nature created by thousands of people across the UK in an inclusive participatory process calling for “urgent, immediate action from everyone to protect and restore nature for future generations”. The Plan is an ambitious vision which aims to bring the nature crisis and nature conservation to the forefront of decision making while maintaining the delicate balance between human and non-human needs. Add your voice now to the People’s Plan for Nature and make it too big to ignore any longer.

Nature Wise for Business – Working in harmony with nature

What is your role at Arup?

My focus is on two projects with Welsh Water, helping them maintain and improve sewer systems. My job includes sending out survey crews and coming up with ways to make sure the system works properly.

Is there anything you think is particularly special about nature in Wales?

I grew up in west Wales and we have fantastic beaches there – one of my favourite spots is Tresaith (in Ceredigion). I love seeing birds, seals and dolphins. Since moving to the valleys I really appreciate the waterfalls and forests, and I like walking at Garwnant (in the Brecon Beacons, near Merthyr Tydfil).

Why did you take the Nature Wise course?

I was interested because I saw it as an opportunity to link my work with my interest in nature. I like spending time outdoors, doing walking and cycling in the Brecon Beacons, so I often think about how to improve the environment.

How useful did you find the course?

It was very helpful to focus on what you can do as an individual, how I can think in a more eco-friendly way and talk to others about preserving nature for future generations. I really liked hearing success stories like the recovery of the red kite.

Why should someone do Nature Wise?

It’s great for beginners, as it explains why it’s important to look after the natural environment, sets out the problem and lays out solutions. For those with more knowledge it’s a refresher. We need policy makers to have these attitudes embedded.

What have you been doing to help nature since doing the course?

Arup’s very good at considering the impact of its actions, but I have presented what I learnt to my colleagues and that’s been a useful reminder.

Personally, I’ve been working on my garden and had been planning to dig up the tree stumps. I’ve now realised they’re a vital habitat that’s being lost. I’ve explained this to my children – it’s a good teaching opportunity! Another thing in my plan is to try to have more native plants.

What about the future?

I hope construction will use more nature-based solutions, like using wetlands. And I hope that will filter through into the general population and people will realise how important nature is, and have more of a connection.

What is your message to other engineers?

I’d say that the more we involve nature in solutions, the more durable that project will be. So let’s work with nature rather than fight against it!


Nabod Natur – Nature Wise is a science-based, action-focused course to help individuals to understand the relationships between people and natural systems. It shares knowledge, builds understanding and provide the tools to motivate and catalyse action. 

A laptop with online meeting in a backround and a plant

Try the hybrid way for the planet and people

When organisations grow, it is a cause for celebration. New staff members, new clients, and crowded offices! The obvious response is to move to a bigger place, upgrade the current space or make the leap from renting to buying an office! After all, staff productivity and healthy working places make a huge difference to businesses and their staff, as many tech companies confirm. But since the pandemic, and because of commitments to reducing impacts on climate, investing in offices and buildings is not the only viable solution.

The great shift

During the COVID-19 pandemic, like millions of other people who were not working in core services such as health care, transport or food retail, our Cynnal Cymru team (at that time just five people) left their shared office space unsure when they would come back. But as time went on, our team adapted to working online, and stopped printing material, travelling for meetings and to work, and ordering stationery for everyday use and events. As we got more used to working remotely, we also developed new habits and ways of working, which resulted in us creating new training products that addressed the newly emerging need for remote learning.

The new way of working spurred innovation and made us realise we can forego business travel, stop printing documents and buying office stationery, stop using business cards and give up commuting for good. We realised we can grow without having all the things every service-based organisation thought it needed.

With that came savings and a reduction in Scope 2 carbon emissions – that is, emissions associated with the use of electricity. Because we weren’t using an office, our emissions fell from 5.25 tonnes of CO2e to zero. We did not use gas for heating and we had no company cars, so this showed no change (we stayed at 0 tonnes of CO2e). There was also a change in some of the categories of emissions in Scope 3 (that is, emissions from everything but the use of gas and fuel (scope 1) and electricity (scope 2)). Our emissions from business travel went down from 1.9 tCO2e to zero, and likewise, staff commuting changed from 0.2 tCO2e to zero.

So far so good, but the team began to grow during the pandemic, which meant that if we returned to office working, we would need more space – and in the meantime, we needed new laptops. That alone meant our Scope 3 emissions increased from 2.96tCO2e before the pandemic to 3.84tCO2e – mainly due to the purchase of our new laptops! We were also still paying costs on our now-empty office, and although our bills were included in the rent, the space we occupied was heated by gas over which we had no control. If we were to continue this way, without making any changes, our emissions would continue to rise and we would not achieve our decarbonisation target. In fact, because of the increase in our staff numbers, we didn’t meet our target, but a change was clearly needed to our office situation. Our carbon footprint results for the post-pandemic year were not dissimilar to those of comparable organisations around the world, as during the pandemic, emissions were lower in areas such as business travel and commuting, but shifted to household energy use and logistics of goods. Moreover, many offices that were empty of workers during the pandemic were still operating, wasting the energy that powered them. The reductions seen during the pandemic turned out to be temporary, and in 2022, when the lockdown restrictions started to be phased out, the emissions rebounded.

Becoming hybrid

To have an office or not? That was the question we had to grapple with. By the end of 2022, Cynnal Cymru had twelve staff members but only three office-loving regulars. We had begun travelling for work again, and meeting in person. Events were back on the agenda. All of this was great for staff morale, but not so great for the planet.

Keeping low-carbon lifestyles at home seemed to be the way forward. However, a study by the Office of National Statistics shows that it is not that straightforward. Working from home means that during a cold season, heating will be left on for a few more hours a day than usual. Electrical equipment such as laptops will be left on. Between 2019 and 2020, household emissions that were not related to travel, which is mostly heating emissions, increased by 1.5% from 80 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to 81 million tonnes[1]. While emissions from travel to work fell significantly, many households continued to purchase goods online, increasing the demand for home deliveries.

We were also mindful of the fact that if we were to become a fully remote organisation, we would need to address a mix of negative and positive impacts on staff and the organisation. According to a POST brief on the impact of remote and hybrid working on workers and organisations, working from home can increase well-being, self-reported productivity and work satisfaction, reduce work-life conflict, and introduce new ways to collaborate and more inclusive ways of working through the use of technology. However, the challenges can include increased work intensity, longer working hours, more distractions, potential health issues, decreased social interactions, fewer promotion and learning opportunities and an inability to disconnect from work.

All that being said, we took a leap of faith and decided to go for the third option – become a hybrid organisation with a combination of office-based and remote arrangements. We did not want to own or rent a whole office in which we had to store office items we do not use, but at the same time, we did not want to lose a place where we could meet with each other and our clients.

Definitions


Hybrid’ working refers to a combination of office-remote arrangements.

Flexible working describes working arrangements that give people a degree of flexibility over where, when and how they work.

Remote working refers to a type of flexible working based on location, where workers work at home or a location other than the traditional workspace where the employer is based.

Source: POST Brief No.0049

We found a co-working space in a building that meets the BREEAM standard, meaning that energy and water saving measures are in place, waste is segregated into five streams, there are light and water sensors, and solar panels on the roof. In addition, the space we chose has secure bike sheds, storage for the things we absolutely need, plenty of spaces to relax, quiet booths for private meetings or focus time – and a sustainable cafeteria! In other words, lots of facilities that a modern and sustainable office space needs!

We chose to rent two permanent desks, with access to hot-desking, meeting rooms and events spaces, which removed the need for us to buy equipment such as desks, chairs, banners, or office stationery. It gives us flexibility and a quality standard which as a small organisation we would not have been able to afford in our own office. Staff who want to work from home can continue to do so, but we have the option of a co-working space for anyone who wants to come into the office to work, or when we have a staff get-together. From the perspective of our emissions, it was a great choice as we have staff members based across Wales and England, so the less commuting the better for their pockets and our decarbonisation plan.

We are only a few months into our new way of working, and the impact of this move, both negative and positive, has yet to become fully clear. In terms of our carbon emissions, our next carbon report will show whether it made a real difference because in 2022/2023 our staff numbers increased yet again!

One of the biggest benefits of moving to a co-working space is collaboration. We sit side by side with many organisations with whom we have worked over the years, as they too have made a move, and so a spontaneous chat over a coffee can lead to discussions that are hard to replicate remotely.

Unsure where to start? Here is what you can do

With the rise of flexible, remote and hybrid working, organisations need to rethink their strategy to ensure that it benefits people and the planet. Here are a few things to get you started:

1. Calculate emissions and compare emissions before and after the pandemic

A carbon report will give you a great understanding of what areas you need to tackle. If, for example, the report before the pandemic shows high emissions from your use of offices which are not often staffed, this is something that needs to be tackled first in your decarbonisation strategy.

2. Survey your staff

Given that every organisation is different, there is no one size fits all, but the trend in the UK and around the world points towards flexibility. One of the biggest benefits to offering staff an option to work from home is retaining and attracting talent. But, to understand what your team needs in terms of work arrangements, it is best to devote time to a conversation before any big decisions are made.

3. Learn from others

Whichever option you choose, it will have some impact on your organization, so have a chat with other organisations that had gone through the same process. Our Sustainability Adviser talked to IEMA about their decisions, experience, and the benefits of becoming a remote organisation, which helped her better understand the practicalities of a big shift. As noted earlier, just because there is no office, it does not mean that emissions vanish completely.

4.  Adopt a circular mindset

Whether you forego an office altogether or downsize, remember to do it with as little impact as possible on the environment. In preparation from our move, we didn’t simply order a skip and chuck everything in! Instead, everything was sorted into four piles: things to give away, things to sell, things to keep, and things to recycle – which left us with a small pile of items that had to be disposed of.

5. Focus on staff and emissions from home

Whether you decide to go fully remote, hybrid, or offer greater flexibility, you need to think about staff engagement as a priority going forward. Consider using the saving you made from selling or moving out of your office to invest in better remote procedures (automation), staff activities and get to-togethers, as well as well-being offers. If you are downsizing or reducing office hours, consider investing in low-carbon solutions both at work and at home. Use this resource to understand the impact of homeworking.

Here is how we can help

Training

We can help you build knowledge and an empowered workforce through our courses and training programmes

Membership

Join a growing network of sustainability leaders and connect with like-minded organisations.

Advice

We help you to identify your organisation’s impacts on people and the environment,.


[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/covid19restrictionscuthouseholdemissions/2021-09-21

Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group Launches First Challenge: How could Wales feed itself by 2035?

The world is experiencing the disastrous impacts of the climate crisis and is currently off track to avert further impacts.  Leading scientists recently issued what they called “our final warning”. The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have jointly invited an independent group to explore how the country can speed up its transition to net zero, and how amending its target to 2035 from 2050 could be made possible. 

The ‘Group’, led by former Environment Minister Jane Davidson, is tasked with: 

  • finding the best examples of transformative change from Wales and around the world and bringing them to Wales; 
  • challenging the Welsh government and Senedd (Welsh Parliament) to go further and faster; 
  • imagining what a fairer, more sustainable future looks like for the Welsh nation. 

Will Evans, 10th generation farmer from Wrexham and member of the Group said: 

“I am deeply concerned about the impact of climate change on farming in the UK and across the world, that’s why I am proud and excited to be part of this national conversation on how Wales can blaze a trail for action and adaptation to safeguard a future for our children.” 

10th generation farmer Will Evans, is proud of his work. Yet he has grave concerns about the future of farming in Wales and the future for his daughters in the face of climate change. He is aware that farming needs to change and this provides a huge opportunity. He has recently joined the newly formed Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group, chaired by ex-environment minister Jane Davidson to help ensure farming and the food system in Wales is fit for the future. The Group is formally launching its work today, with a first challenge to explore how Wales could feed itself by 2035

Jane Davidson, Chair, said: 

“Setting up the challenge group shows that the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru “get” the graveness of our global situation and are serious about how we can lessen the impacts and prepare for the future.” 

The Group is looking for the most imaginative solutions to inform 10-year deliverable plans from 2025 to 2035.  

It will be seeking views from Wales and the world; making draft conclusions public to openly put them to the test in Wales and beyond, before making recommendations to the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru in summer 2024.  

Jane Davidson added:

“I challenge anybody with big ideas about how to reach net zero by 2035 – whilst also making sure that we support communities in Wales and deliver better outcomes for nature – to respond to our calls for evidence.” 

The Group will be wanting to hear from people and communities across Wales and the world to listen to their experiences and ideas, across a range of key challenges. The first challenge, being launched today, is How could Wales feed itself by 2035? 

The first challenge’s call for views and evidence also launches today and is expected to run for two months, closing on the 30th June. The launch dates for further challenges will be announced in due course. The Group’s work is scheduled to run until summer 2024. 

The Group is made up of 25 independent, unpaid members and includes representatives from the Welsh Youth Parliament. 

The five Net Zero 2035 Challenges are: 

  1. How could Wales feed itself by 2035?  
  2. How could Wales meet energy needs by 2035 whilst phasing out fossil fuels?   
  3. How could Wales heat and build homes and workplaces by 2035?  
  4. How could people and places be connected across Wales by 2035?  
  5. What could education, jobs and work, look like across Wales by 2035? 

Visit the new website netzero2035.wales for more details >>

For more information, contact Stanley Townsend

Please follow the new Wales Net Zero for updates on their work at:
Twitter @WNZ2035
Mastodon @WNZ2035@toot.wales
Linkedin Wales Net Zero 2035

Logo of One Mind In Wales

Mind and Local Minds – linking mental health with sustainability

The challenge 

Mental health charities are increasingly interested in issues around climate change and are eager to know what role they can play and how they can positively contribute to the sustainable development goals, and the seven wellbeing goals here in Wales. However, as with many other organisations, local Minds in Wales do not always have in-house experts, sustainability professionals, or the appropriate capacity to help them integrate sustainability into their operations. As a result, there is often concern and worry about not knowing where to start and what to do.

The challenge was to create a shared understanding of what sustainability means to local Minds in Wales, so that as a federation they are all on the same page.  Local Minds in Wales are in the process of implementing their Network Strategy for 2023 to 2026, where plans around environmental sustainability feature within implementation plan tasks, and they have reached out to us for help.

The session came about from interest expressed by local Mind leaders to find out more about this subject area.

Our approach 

We find that the best way to approach such complex challenges is to make their everyday impacts relatable within our clients’ own experiences and areas of operation. Their concerns and frames of reference need to shape what we are delivering and have space to be aired and explored. That way the priorities or solutions that emerge are tangible and relevant rather than theoretical or out of touch. In this case, we chose to show Local Minds that the current crises their clients are facing are only going to be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. Since Local Minds are specialists in mental health, we approached the challenge by referring to emotions and lived experiences. That said, rather than showing statistics, we asked them to imagine what it is like to live in spaces affected by climate change and inequalities such as housing, access to public transport, costs of living, community spaces, and job insecurities – the structures that they and the people they work with are already having to navigate.   

To deliver this interactive session we relied on key reports: The Links Between the Environment and our Mental Health and What Europe Could Do About It; The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change; and Health and wellbeing impacts of climate change by Public Health Wales (pdf)  

How we helped 

The CEOs of local Minds in Wales already knew about the importance of green spaces, such as the role they played during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our presentation widened this understanding to the connection between the wider environment and mental health. Attendees left with a full understanding that the challenges that climate change poses to mental health are unlike any experienced to date. Some of the impacts of the climate crisis are already being experienced by Mind clients and people new to the organisations are also accessing their services due to climate anxiety. They also understood that they have a key role to play in society in advocating for climate action as a necessary component of preserving and protecting public mental health.

The impact   

The local Mind CEOs have already committed to integrated sustainability into their network strategy so that together they can take actions to lower their footprint on the environment, and make decisions that ultimately benefit the communities they operate in, their staff; their suppliers and contractors, and the environment.

They also decided they needed another session with Cynnal Cymru to support them do achieve this.

It was great to have Karolina join us to provide her expert knowledge, understanding and expertise into environmental sustainability and its connection not only to the third sector and our work, but also the prominent links to mental health.

We have made a commitment to developing plans around environmental sustainability as part of our Strategic Plan, and will very much look forward to working with Karolina and the team at Cynnal Cymru to realise these plans. Simon Stephens, Head of Networks (Wales), Mind Cymru

To find out more about the local Mind network and how you can access support through one of our 18 local Minds in Wales, visit the Local Minds web page.

Nature Wise – Actions for all Seasons

SPRING is a good time for…

Spotting migratory birds – seasonal nature spectacles are highlighted by North Wales Wildlife Trust

Attaching a bell to cat collars to alert fledgelings and other baby animals


20 – 31 March

Getting active during the Sustrans Big Walk & Wheel Week 

24 – 30 April

Taking part in Wales Outdoor Learning Week (Natural Resources Wales)

No Mow May

Supporting our pollinators by leaving your mower in the shed (Plantlife)

3 May

Celebrating nature’s symphony by taking part in International Dawn Chorus Day (Wildlife Trusts)

1 – 7 May

Supporting our Hedgehog population during Hedgehog Awareness Week.

March – August

Looking after nesting birds in your garden (House Beautiful)

Getting outside and connecting with nature during Wales Nature Week (Biodiversity Wales)

SUMMER is a good time for…

Making sure there is a water source for wildlife – bird bath, pond, even an old saucer in the garden

Make space for nature and reverse nature loss. (Scotland’s Nature Agency)

Getting fit and healthy whilst enjoying the sunshine by making cycling or walking a part of your everyday routine (Sustrans)

Cleaning up your local area and discovering your local Litter Picking Hub (Keep Wales Tidy / Caru Cymru)


19 – 25 June

Celebrating all the little things that run the world during National Insect Week (Royal Entomological society)

14 July

Helping to assess the health of our environment by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count (Butterfly Conservation)

22 – 30 July

Getting outside and connecting with nature during Wales Nature Week (Biodiversity Wales)

AUTUMN is a good time for…

Allowing vegetation to dieback naturally, mowing less, and leaving seedheads for birds to feed on

Gathering leaves, hollow sticks, bark, dried grass and moss to build a bug hotel (Woodland Trust)

Planting bulbs (Gardeners World)

Creating a mini pond (RSPB)

Harvesting wildflower seeds ready for next year (Kew Grow Wild)


15 – 24 September

Organising or getting involved in a local beach clean Great British Beach Clean

September – October

Sowing wildlife- friendly flowers (RSPB)

October

Checking bonfires for hibernating animals such as hedgehogs, toads and animals. (British Hedgehog Preservation Society)

November to March

Planting a tree! Follow the guide from the Woodland Trust

WINTER is a good time for…

Ensuring you provide water and high-energy food for your garden birds (RSPB)

Taking care of your compost heaps – always check for hibernating wildlife before turning! (Wildlife Trusts)


25 November – 3 December

Join the conservation sector and volunteer groups during National Tree Week to plant thousands of trees to mark the start of tree planting season (The Tree Council)

January – April

Helping the local toad population cross the road by volunteering with your local Toad Patrol

Additional links

Natures Calendar (Wales Biodiversity Partnership)

RSPB’s Actions for nature seasonal calendar

Monthly guide to nature (RSPB)

Butterflies (North Wales Wildlife Trust)  

10 Ways to Help Hedgehogs (BBC Gardeners World Magazine)

Citizen Science for biodiversity | NatureScot

Heading for Net Zero? Our new partnership can help

We are seeing a growing demand for services not just to help organisations make sense of sustainable development, but more specifically to measure their impact relating to climate change and the Net Zero ambition.  Identifying robust and scientifically accurate data is a barrier to many organisations and so to assist with this challenge, Cynnal Cymru is joining forces with Compare Your Footprint to provide an enhanced carbon accounting consultancy.

Compare Your Footprint is a B Corp based in the UK which provides the best quality tools to consultants and businesses; and expertise to support organisations to make a just transition to a sustainable future. Their carbon software will allow us to measure scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions and generate a comprehensive analysis of a company’s footprint. This in turn will allow us to work with clients to find the most appropriate and effective strategies to decarbonise.

Our license agreement kicks off in April 2023. Please look out for our carbon accounting service launch and if you think this service may be of value to you in the future please contact consultancy@cynnalcymru.com.

Partner Insight: Implementing circular economy principles, lessons from businesses in Wales

The project, funded by the Wales Innovation Network, identified businesses in Wales that have successfully implemented circular economy principles and content that can help businesses and public services develop their CE knowledge and skills.

The Circular Economy concept requires a new way of thinking, away from the traditional linear economy thinking, where products are bought, used, and thrown away. Put simply, the circular economy is a system in which resources such as materials and equipment are used, reused, and repurposed as effectively as possible, for as long as possible.

The WIN project, which ran from July to October 2022, was a joint project between Cardiff Metropolitan UniversityAberystwyth UniversityBangor UniversitySwansea UniversityCwmpas and Cynnal Cymru.

Partners have researched and written a report that outlines 21 case studies of Welsh businesses that have successfully implemented circular economy principles, including inspirational video clips, such as Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire or Celsa Steel UK in Cardiff.

Marten Lewis Head of Corporate Responsibility at Bluestone National Park Resort states “The circular economy programmes we have embedded in our operations have been very impactful, supporting need in the local community, creating positive engagement with staff, reducing our waste streams, and providing evidence of our lived brand values”.

Adele Williams founder of Green Wave Hair Workshop gathers hair donations and sews them into an absorbent mat which can be used to soak up oil spills in the ocean and on land commented on how circular economy practices have helped her business:

“Implementing circular economy practices within my business has attracted many more customers and helped to create goals, inspire, and create a sense of fulfilment for myself and Green Wave’s customers.”

Suzanne Wardell, CEO of Circular Economy Mid Wales, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to save waste from landfill explains

“Implementing circular economy principles is at the heart of what Circular Economy Mid Wales not only does, but it is what and who we are! Every aspect of our business is driven by recycle, reuse, repair – from the core business of reducing landfill to our partnerships with other social enterprises. Our aim is to turn a linear economy into a more circular one.”

The case studies provide ‘how to’ examples for practitioners to better understand circular economy principles and their implementation. The case studies also aim to encourage public service organisations and businesses to begin implementation of CE principles. The report disseminates some of the magnificent work ongoing in Wales and supports organisations to reduce their carbon footprint whilst moving to a CE business model.

capability development matrix provides a ‘road map’ which organises available resources into levels to enable organisations to develop appropriate knowledge and skills of individuals and groups. The level 1 content provides short videos and briefing notes that develop CE understanding, whereas level 7 content features intensive programmes that develop the knowledge and skills of practitioners to implement CE principles within their organisations.

A successful hybrid conference allowed partners from across Wales to participate, soft-launched the resources and findings in October 2022.

The WIN project follows the successful Cardiff Circular Economy Network Project, a pilot project working with businesses and schools in the Cardiff Council boundary which facilitated a series of workshops for practitioners and educators to come together, network and to develop a fuller understanding of circular economy principles.

Project Director Dr Gary Walpole commented on the importance of the research:

“The funding from WIN allowed us to develop a report and resources that will enable practitioners to fully understand the principles of the circular economy and embed them within their organisations. Implementing CE principles will enable clean growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).”

Nick Clifton, Professor of Economic Geography and Regional Development at Cardiff Metropolitan University explained:

“We need to transform our innovation ecosystems to deliver truly sustainable societal outcomes that go beyond narrowly defined measures of growth and development. Projects like WIN which brings together private, public and third sector actors to implement real-world solutions and share best practice, are vital to achieving this goal.”

Image to show the Future-proofing toolkit website.

The role of business in supporting future generations

It’s been 20 years since Cynnal Cymru began working on the sustainable development agenda for Wales, building consensus and catalysing change with government, businesses and individuals. From convening Wales’s first National Conversation on the ‘Wales We Want’ to providing one-to-one support to public bodies and enterprise, we played a major part in the ascent of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and continue to dedicate our efforts to making sustainability part of the everyday vocabulary.

In February 2023, Cynnal Cymru was delighted to join a project funded by the SMART Innovation team at the Welsh Government and led by Office of the Future Generations Commissioner to review a Future-Proofing toolkit aimed at the private sector.

What is the Well-being of Future Generations Act and why does it matter to business?

The Act, passed in 2015, is one-of-a-kind legislation as it places a legal duty on the 44 public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to work to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change from occurring, rather than just dealing with their consequences. The Act is unique to Wales, attracting interest from countries across the world as it offers a huge opportunity to make a long-lasting, positive change for current and future generations.  

Although the Act does not apply to the private sector, here in Wales large organisations such as Welsh Water began to align themselves with its overall purpose of improving Wales’s well-being in the broadest sense.  They saw the Act as a framework for talking about sustainability to stakeholders and wanted to show the public sector how they too can contribute to the seven Well-being Goals that the Act sets out. After all, the private sector supplies goods and services to the public sector, so it is important to demonstrate shared values. Moreover, given that the Act reflects the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), businesses in Wales, who have been working on the SDGs, understand the Act’s relevance.

Can the Act be a guide for all businesses?

Last year we got a chance to explore this much further. In partnership with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner we held a series of interviews with large organisations with a presence in Wales, as well as business networks who said that being able to “speak” the language of the Act would be of value to the private sector. However, in the absence of a readily available, comprehensive, and peer-reviewed guide to the Act and a framework to align with, businesses turn instead to global frameworks and the SDGs, which are more familiar to the private sector. The link between the SDGs and the Act in Wales is therefore missed.

On the back of this research, we suggested a framework for businesses to help them start making sense of the Act, which we are now trialling with larger companies. As further research we also ran a workshop with board members of Hafren Dyfrydwy (a subsidiary of Severn Trent Water) to help them realise how to contribute to the Act’s Goals.

Future-proofing smaller businesses 

While our research addressed the challenge that large businesses face, we felt that there was also an opportunity to engage smaller organisations with fewer staff and resources. 

Over the last two decades, we have noticed that small-profit and not-for-profit businesses want to contribute to sustainability but lack time, people, knowledge and money to take action. They want to sustain their operations and provide employment opportunities without causing damage to the environment, communities and economy for years to come. But they feel overwhelmed by the information about sustainability and confused when this is often presented as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must-have’ like HR, health and safety or finance. They are in need of clear advice and want to talk to someone with an understanding of their challenges. We also often hear that businesses want a one-stop shop where they can read and enquire about sustainability and find solutions that are relevant to their size or sector. And because most business owners feel that they are on their own, being part of a community is important to them too.

This is why we were excited to join Matt Appleby, Annabel Lloyd and Jonathan Tench in a project commissioned by Business Wales in conjunction with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner to review the existing Future-Proofing toolkit and expand it to make it more relevant and helpful to SMEs. 

The toolkit aims to support businesses to play their part in Wales’s journey to the Act’s seven Well-being Goals. It is free of charge, available in the public domain and most importantly, is written from the perspective of businesses and their sustainability priorities.

We recognise, however, that to increase its relevance and effectiveness, the toolkit can be enhanced with more tools, examples and case studies to help businesses future-proof their operations. This is the next stage of our work and we are excited to use the knowledge and insights we have gained from working with our members and others to inform this.

We hope the toolkit will act as a guide to sustainable development as described in the Act, and as a hub of knowledge for businesses seeking ideas and solutions. 

Can you help test this toolkit to meet business needs?

If you are an SME and you’d like to help test this toolkit, please get in contact.

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