Wellbeing of Future Generations Act

What can a just and fair net zero transition look like? 

What can a just and fair net zero transition look like?

What can a just and fair net zero transition look like? It’s a topic that has been on my mind a lot since joining Cynnal Cymru in February as the Senior Programme and Policy Lead, leading our Fair Work and Living Wage team. Unsurprisingly for a charity called ‘Sustain Wales’, we’ve always been a sustainability charity first and foremost. But for a few years now, we’ve worked on developing our aims on ‘just transition’, and that has included embedding the fair work agenda outlined in the Fair Work Wales report in 2019 into our aims. That has meant working with trade unions, writing policy papers on spreading fair work principles throughout existing government programmes, and sitting on the Welsh Government’s group aimed at tackling modern slavery.  

We’re also the Living Wage Foundation’s accreditation partner for Wales, meaning we essentially host Living Wage Wales in house. Living Wage Wales has delivered over 22,000 pay rises for low-paid workers across Wales through this work, including 5,575 in 2023 alone – making a direct contribution to tackling the cost of living crisis. This fits with another key Cynnal Cymru principle – focus on action, not just words. 

This is what myself and my colleagues on the Fair Work and Living Wage team work on – but what does it have to do with sustainability? I’d say it has a huge contribution to make. We should be honest about the fact that there are vested interests who are opposed to carbon reduction and nature-positive actions, particularly at the scale we know these need to happen at. It barely needs saying, but profit motives very often run against sustainability aims. A tree can be a project stewarded by communities over hundreds of years that provides space for nature and clean air for people, or it can be a blocker to a new car park. At time of writing, it was only yesterday that we heard the UAE government plans to use COP28 to make oil deals.  

There are often efforts to protect private profit motives via leveraging the jobs business creates, to bind the inexorable destruction of the natural world to the interests of working people. In this framing, environmentalists and their causes are painted as cloistered from the demands of the real world that most people have to deal with. There’s no hiding from the fact that this can be an emotive and powerful dividing line, carving the people whose world is being worsened away from efforts to protect it. We saw in the recent Uxbridge by-election how action on emissions, in this case Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), can be utilised for political gain. 

Focus on action – not just words.

For me, then, a just and fair transition isn’t just a slogan. It is a vital tool in our efforts towards carbon reduction and nature restoration. If our sustainability efforts are questioned, we can very happily point to the work we do to ensure that people have access to fair working conditions and boosting the pay of those in the lowest-paid jobs so that they can afford to live and not just exist. Work on a fair and just transition can bind working people to the cause of sustainability – not an inconvenience for people, but an opportunity. At a legislative level in Wales, the recent Social Partnership and Public Procurement Act has amended the Well-being of Future Generations Act to include ‘fair work’, and our well-being indicators include payment of the real Living Wage and trade union membership. This binds the cause of working people even closer to the task of saving our planet. 

If we get it right, the green transition gives us the opportunity to repair many of the broken elements of our economy. It can mean high-quality, unionised, green jobs spread across communities that have seen unfair working practices and low pay proliferate. Green skills training programmes that prepare our workforce for the future can contribute to bringing an end to the gender and racial inequities we see today. And of course, it can mean the avoidance of the road to disaster our climate and natural world are currently on.

So, as we look at Wales Climate Week and COP28, let’s keep the things that are important to people – their livelihoods, incomes, and their everyday lives – at the forefront of our minds. That’s what a just and fair transition is all about. 


Harry Thompson is Cynnal Cymru’s Senior Programmes and Policy Lead. He manages the Fair Work and Living Wage team, which work towards Cynnal Cymru’s strategic goal of a fair and just society. He comes from an economic policy background, having led projects on topics such as empowering trade unions, the Welsh Government’s fiscal framework, and community empowerment.

He is also our Equality and Diversity lead.

What can a just and fair net zero transition look like?  Read More »

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.

The role of business in supporting future generations Read More »

The Well-being Goals and business

At Cynnal Cymru, we turn sustainability aims into action and accelerate positive impacts towards a low carbon economy, a thriving natural environment and a fair and just society through the provision of advice, training and connections.

Earlier this year, we worked with the Future Generation’s Commissioners Office to identify how the Well-being Act was understood and being used as a sustainable development framework for some large private sector organisations in South Wales. Hafren Dyfrydwy, a provider of water and wastewater treatment services in North East and Mid Wales, invited us to discuss their ongoing contribution to the Well-being Goals at their Board Strategy Day.  Keen to work with leading organisations in Wales, we jumped at the chance.

On 4 October, Karolina and Sarah travelled to Hafren Dyfrdwy to participate in a dedicated workshop built around Hafren Dyfrdwy’s ongoing contribution to the Act; its relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Company’s PR24 planning.  The Board also discussed approaches taken by other large companies in Wales to align their approaches to the Act.

The session was informative, as well as interactive and energetic. For example, we used the Future Generations Prompts as an catalyst to spark the Board’s strategic thinking and group brainstorming activities to map out future strategic activity and progress against each goal.

The workshop highlighted the excellent programme of activity that Hafren Dyfrdwy already does to contribute towards the Well-being Goals and prompted discussion around further opportunities to support their ongoing positive social and environmental impact. 

“Massive thank you to Sarah and Karolina for running a fantastic, creative and energetic session on the Well-being of Future Generations Act at our recent Board Strategy Day. It gave us real food for thought in terms of how we better bring to life our existing activities that supports the Act’s goals, and helped us think more broadly about areas where we can go further. Thank you again.”

(Tom Perry, Strategy Manager)

Dr Karolina Rucinska is our Sustainability advisor who often uses facilitation, research and workshopping methods in work with our clients. Sarah Hopkins is the director of Cynnal Cymru, with an expertise in fair work and sustainability in global supply chains and a firm understanding of the public and private sectors.

If you are interested in finding out more about our work, please contact us at shwmae@cynnalcymru.com to let us know how we can help.

The Well-being Goals and business Read More »

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