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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.

Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly

In March 2021, it will bring together 50 people from the Blaenau Gwent area to address the question:

What should we do in Blaenau Gwent to tackle the climate crisis in a way that is fair and improves living standards for everyone?

The participants will hear evidence, discuss the issues, and produce recommendations for what local public service organisations, communities and individuals can do to address the climate crisis. The recommendations made will be considered by organisations including Blaenau Gwent Council and will help to shape the climate plans of local housing associations.

The Climate Assembly will explore the overarching question through learning about, and discussion of related sub-themes including housing, nature / green space and transport.

Lead Experts will present information on climate change and the sub-themes to provide context for the discussions.

The Assembly is being organised by four housing associations in Blaenau Gwent in collaboration with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, Electoral Reform Society, Cynnal Cymru.

A Steering Group has been established to oversee the organisation and format of the Assembly.

Find out more >>

The Carbon Literacy Project

The Award-winning Carbon Literacy Project aims to ensure that every citizen receives at least one day’s worth of learning so that they understand the links between human activity and climate change while empowering individuals, communities and organisations to take action to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Official partner of the Carbon Literacy Project in Wales

Cynnal Cymru is the official partner of the Carbon Literacy Project in Wales and our principal trainer, Rhodri Thomas, was also the first resident Welsh certified Carbon Literacy trainer in Wales. To date he has trained over 450 people and has seen the concept take hold across Wales.

We have been working with the Carbon Literacy Project since 2017 to help accelerate action on climate change, by providing organisations with the training and support needed to reduce their carbon emissions.

Our achievements to date include:

  • Training the Sustainable Development forum of Museum Wales, supporting initial efforts by the whole museum sector to develop bespoke Carbon Literacy training.
  • Co-founding Carbon Literacy Cartrefi Cymru – a consortium of twenty seven housing associations and overseeing the training of around 140 staff including a ‘Train the Trainer’ programme as well as the development of a dedicated Carbon Literacy course for the social housing sector. Our partners in the consortium are launching a cascade of peer to peer training using their own course.
  • Funded by National Resources Wales, we worked with Manchester Metropolitan University and Great Places Housing group to train over 200 leaders and influencers from the organisations that make up the five Gwent Public Service Boards.
  • Trained the whole cabinet and executive management team of Newport City Council.
  • Developed an introduction to climate change e-learning course for Denbighshire County Council staff that will accompany their Carbon Literacy training.
  • Designed a Carbon Literacy for Engineers course in collaboration with the Flexis programme.
  • Trained and supported Cardiff Council colleagues and cabinet members enabling them to apply for the Bronze Carbon Literacy Organisation accreditation.
  • Regularly provide training for staff at The National Lottery
  • Trained the environmental champions of Sinclair Group
  • Continue to run monthly open courses online for people from all over the world.

We are aiming to develop Carbon Literacy courses for new sectors such as finance and law. This September we launch our ‘Train The Trainer’ course to enable people to run their own courses and an e-learn “introduction to Climate Change” that will support an organisation’s Carbon Literacy programme.

The Carbon Literacy Project

The Carbon Literacy Project is wholly owned by The Carbon Literacy Trust, a registered charity (No 1156722) established in 2013 to take responsibility for The Project in perpetuity, for the public good.

The Project delivers no training directly, but works with a host of people and organisations from all walks of life, that all deliver training that is accredited against the Carbon Literacy Standard. The Project then assesses participant’s and certifies successful candidates with their own uniquely numbered Carbon Literacy certificate.

Due to this ‘crowdsourced’ approach, working with everyone, from all walks of life, The Carbon Literacy Project is globally unique – there is nothing else quite like it anywhere. This was recognised by the United Nations at the UN climate negotiations, COP21, in Paris in 2015, where the Project was awarded TAP100 status, – one of 100 projects worldwide recognised as Transformative Action Programmes, that could materially change the way we deal with climate change.

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.

Cynnal Cymru works in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation and other leading organisations in Wales to support employers with accreditation and work towards achieving the Living Wage for all workers in Wales.

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


Project Sylfaen

In 2019, Cynnal Cymru, in partnership with Wales Co-operative Centre, won funding from the Co-op Foundation to take six community-led environmental organisations in Wales on a development journey. The aim was to deliver a bespoke programme of capacity-building support to help enhance the engagement, governance, business planning, income generation and other skills needed to sustain a successful community venture.

The six organisations that joined the programme were:

Each received a root and branch review of their skills and development needs. These identified common challenges around things like governance structures and resisting mission-drift amid pressure to generate income.

These insights were used to create a tailored 12 month programme of development support, complemented by virtual gatherings to share learning and experience. Sessions ranged from covering the basics – Financial Planning and Record-keeping – to the exploratory and aspirational – Rethinking Income Streams and Enterprising Leadership. Other topics included marketing, safeguarding, strengths mapping and business planning.

In order to maximise the benefits of the programme, each of the six ‘core beneficiaries’ were invited to bring along there other local community environmental partners to training and networking sessions. As a result, 15 other organisations were able to share in these capacity-building sessions with 102 training places being taken up by 40 staff members, councillors, project volunteers and trustees.

Although almost all of the programme had been expected to be face-to-face pre-Covid, inevitably the majority of the training, peer-learning and networking activities moved online. Some project visits and Open Days – the most eagerly-anticipated aspects of the Sylfaen programme – did take place however towards the end of the project.

Whilst feedback about the whole programme has been positive, The response to these visits has been the most inspirational, highlighting the importance of connecting environmental visionaries with others striving for similar aims and experiencing similar barriers.

“Thank you, Cynnal Cymru. I think it is a truly worthwhile project and one that I feel needs to continue.”

Robbie Bowman, Coed Dylan

For these organisations, Sylfaen provided not only “..a renewed faith in humanity” (Melissa Dhillon, Llyn Parc Mawr Community Woodland) but “.. a sense that we are part of a larger group” which makes “travelling this, sometimes lonely, road a nicer experience.” (Robbie Bowman, Coed Dylan)

This joining-up of minds and actions is something that Cynnal Cymru routinely enables – whether it’s through our awards, newsletters, summits or networking events. This is because, as neatly summed up by another participant, “There are many people doing amazing things, often in isolation.”

Breaking new ground, undertaking pioneering projects, or even struggling to maintain tried and tested methods in the face of austerity can be daunting. Bringing people together, not only to share ideas but to remind them that they are not alone, generates a tremendous energy and refreshes the determination to continue. Cynnal Cymru has been delighted to be a part of the Sylfaen programme because, as another participant shares, it is initiatives like this that boost not only individual projects but progress towards sustainability at a national scale.

“One of the best aspects of the Sylfaen project is finding out about other projects across Wales that are contributing to sustainable development and meeting the people who are behind them.

If there is to be a greater movement across Wales towards sustainability, it is important that initiatives like Sylfaen continue to facilitate this bringing together of people … to work collaboratively towards a sustainable future.”

Mara Morris, Denmark Farm

You can read more reflections about the Sylfaen project in the Resources section below.

Carbon Literacy Cartrefi Cymru

The CLCC consortium came together in 2019 in order to increase Carbon Literacy within their organisations. By working together they were able to pool money and resources to increase capacity and knowledge across the consortium.

CLCC has worked with 29 different RSLs and currently has 22 members across Wales, representing over 113,000 homes.

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales runs the secretariat for CLCC, organising meetings, holding funds for use by the consortium, providing support around Carbon Literacy and facilitating Community of Practice sessions for CLCC trainers.

CLCC 2022-2023 members

Carbon Literacy is defined as a day’s worth of learning around the causes and consequences of climate change, action you can take on climate change and empowerment to make individual and group actions personally and professionally.

The Carbon Literacy Project has defined the standard of Carbon Literacy and accredits courses and learners.

29 different RSLs from around Wales have either worked with or are part of the consortium – demonstrating the motivation from the sector to collaborate to create change. The programme has increased the number of Carbon Literacy trainers in Wales from 1 to over 70.

The current Chair of CLCC is Nadine Davies, Community Decarbonisation Officer at Bron Afon.

“We’ve done the [Carbon Literacy] training, it’s raised awareness and as a consequence, this has now happened. Would we be looking at electrifying our fleet this year? No. But we are. Would we be looking at half a million-pound investment to kickstart our carbon reduction plan. No. But we are. We are now re-procuring our energy to go to green renewables.”

Richard Mann, Deputy Chief Executive and Group Director Operations, United Welsh.

CLCC history

In October 2019 representatives from 16 different RSLs around Wales came together to learn more about The Carbon Literacy Project and hear a proposal to create a Carbon Literacy consortium of RSLs in Wales.

The delegates of this meeting edited the proposal which went back out to all RSLs in Wales. In January 2020 a meeting surrounding this proposal led to the creation of a Carbon Literacy consortium of 27 Welsh RSLs. The consortium was named Carbon Literacy Cartrefi Cymru (CLCC).


  • February 2020 – Phase I: rounds of Carbon Literacy training for member organisations delivered by Cynnal Cymru.
  • March 2020 – Lockdown. Training continues remotely with a new online course and the whole CLCC programme is moved online. 65 member organisation employees receive training and became Carbon Literate.
  • May 2020 – Phase II: 5 training experts from within the consortium work with Cynnal Cymru and Manchester Metropolitan to develop a customisable Carbon Literacy course for Welsh social housing.
  • October 2020 – Phase III: Each member organisation will have at least 2 members of staff trained as Carbon Literacy trainers by Manchester Metropolitan. They will be trained to deliver the courses developed in Phase II.
  • 2020 – onwards: Member organisations use their trainers to deliver Carbon Literacy training internally to staff and embed Carbon Literacy into their induction process. Cynnal Cymru are supporting this with facilitated Community of Practice sessions for trainers providing a space for cross organisational learning, support and Carbon Literacy course development.
  • March 2022: Following feedback from consortium members and trainers, Version 2 of the Carbon Literacy course is completed in both English and Welsh, incorporating updated examples and a more streamlined and user-friendly format.
  • The future: CLCC are exploring collaboratively funding other projects to support decarbonisation, such as self-evaluation carbon footprint tools and a rollout of Carbon Literacy training for tenants

Journey of Carbon Literacy

  • Deliver Carbon Literacy course
  • Trainer facilitates achievable but ambitious actions
  • Learner evidence forms are sent to The Carbon Literacy Project
  • The Carbon Literacy Project assesses whether a learner is Carbon Literate based on their evidence form
  • Carbon Literacy Champions within CLCC organisations should follow up on actions
  • Organisational behaviour change on climate change is accelerated

If you would like to know more please contact:

Fiona Humphreys, Carbon Literacy Cartrefi Cymru (CLCC) secretariat: fiona@cynnalcymru.com

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