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Where does the recovery begin? Thoughts from Cynnal Cymru

Many have noted that, if there is any silver lining to the global Covid-19 pandemic, it has been the way it has legitimised the desire for a radical re-haul of Welsh society to better meet the needs of current and future generations. The invitations to share ideas and work towards a better future have come from citizens and government alike. As a membership organisation that exists to accelerate progress towards sustainable development, the opportunities to ‘build back better’ – and avert the impending climate and ecological catastrophes – are things that the Cynnal Cymru team has been thinking about for a long while. When asked to decide on our top actions for the green recovery, we prioritised the following for government, public bodies, anchor institutions, organisations and thought-leaders everywhere. As our last point emphasises, this list is not exhaustive and is designed to sit alongside the asks from other expert fora to ensure that the recovery is not just green but restorative and just.

1. Make the emergency real

We echo the calls of Extinction Rebellion for public bodies to ‘tell the truth’. The scale of the climate and nature emergencies is hard to comprehend even for those of us working in the sector. The Future Generations Report calls for Wales to be an eco-literate country. We endorse this, particularly as there is now extensive evidence that peer-education of Carbon Literacy results in tangible individual and organisational change. Cynnal is currently pioneering development of a similar Eco-literacy course designed to make the science behind both these emergencies understandable and relatable to everyday actions. It provides learners with the tools to identify and implement actions they can take to protect and enhance natural systems and the confidence to help others understand and feel motivated to do so also. However, this sense of literacy cannot come just from the bottom. It needs to be exemplified from the top so that citizens feel that their actions have been validated and there is a collective will and effort.

Government, public bodies and other leading actors need to be bold in reiterating the scale of these challenges and ensuring that every action and investment is viewed through a climate and ecological resilience lens. This requires frequent, clear and consistent communication on a par with – and with the same level of urgency as – Covid-19 messaging and visibility.

2. Define and measure progress

There are many demands to build back better and there is robust research from CAT and others that a shifting of investment towards the well-being economy will meet multiple goals. The Well-being of Future Generations Act and Welsh Government’s recent membership of the Well-Being Economy Governmental Alliance, together with movements such as Extinction Rebellion, Citizens Cymru and WCVA’s recent think-pieces, provide the political, legislative and ‘people’s’ mandate to do this. Frequent reference is made to Wales’s pioneering WFG Act but work on how we measure if we are actually delivering well-being better since 2015 seems to have stalled. The Carnegie Trust recently published a series of blog posts on Wellbeing around the World with several posts on effectively measuring improvements in Wellbeing.

There is an urgent need to bring the national Well-Being Indicators back into public prominence and to use the literature on effective measurement of Wellbeing to set Milestones against these so that the public has a clear sense of direction as to where Wales is heading and a mechanism by which politicians can be held accountable.

3. Enforce the conservation hierarchy

In line with point 1, we urge a radical re-education of public bodies and others as to the benefits of mature green infrastructure and designated sites and the redirection of resource towards protecting, restoring and maintaining what exists before creating new. This particularly applies to the messaging around Wales’s national forest. Progress reports and campaigns must not just focus on creation of the new, as there is a danger that this will suggest that mature tree loss and new tree planting is replacing like for like.

Progress reports that instead focus on protecting and enhancing our national forest therefore may be more effective in reinforcing understanding of the benefits that existing mature trees provide and the cost-savings that are lost when they are removed. Before approving removal of mature trees, decision-makers must factor in the costs of:

loss of immediate ecosystem services 

planting and maintenance of compensatory planting up and until the point where this planting provides an equivalent level of ecosystem services plus

the costs of reduced ecosystem services provided by new planting in the interim

This could be done by implementing the recommendations in the Woodland Trust Manifesto:

I-tree reports for every urban area, showing the full lifetime value and benefits of existing trees, especially mature trees.

Update and improve tree protection legislation as part of a new Welsh Planning Act.

Stop council planning committees allowing developers to remove healthy mature trees.

Strengthen planning regulatory oversight to protect green space and irreplaceable habitat such as ancient woodland and veteran trees 

This would also support the recommendation in the Future Generations 2020 Report that Welsh Government work with Public Services Boards to deliver 20% tree canopy cover in every town and city in Wales by 2030.

4. Build capacity of community organisations

A voluntary contribution of 1% of profits for the planet has been suggested for private businesses and is a growing global movement. This contribution need not be financial but could also be in pro bono support.

The Skyline Project aimed to demonstrate the viability of communities managing local assets e.g. NRW woodlands to generate an income. We contributed to that project. The same principle has come up during our management of the Sylfaen project – three of the six project beneficiaries are aiming to manage local green resources for the dual outcomes of biodiversity and profit. We have found that a core missing element in this concept is that communities lack the governance skills to set up and run a suitable vehicle.

Dwr Cymru have piloted the idea that corporations and private companies can contribute to their CSR outcomes by not just sending workers on litter picks etc. but by donating time of senior managers such as finance, HR and marketing to help communities set up Community Interest Companies, Co-operatives etc. that are robust, accountable and effective. When such vehicles exist, with ongoing support from responsible businesses, then they have a better chance of successfully managing local natural assets and it helps avoid burn-out of trustees or volunteers taking responsibility for high-level and very time-consuming decisions, on top of other responsibilities.

We are suggesting that there is a nationwide, systematic programme to link larger private companies with community initiatives with the specific goal of managing natural assets to generate income, skills and biodiversity.

This could be complemented by requirements in public sector contracts to allow staff up to 2 days/month of employer-supported volunteering and/or time to share insights and learning via Community of Practice mechanisms.

5. Promote shared responsibility

In line with the Polluter Pays principle, we suggest structured mechanisms by which those that minimise or negate pollution don’t pay. It is not always obvious how and where the costs of pollution are met e.g. in cleaning drinking water or cleaning up litter. If it is possible to identify areas of higher or lower pollution prevalence, can these areas be rewarded either with lower charges or a proportion of the cost-saving to be allocated as a community pot. This would require a structured programme by which ‘the offer’ is well-publicised to areas or communities and there is timely and transparent measuring and reporting.

We also recommend exploring non-monetary currencies here such as time-credits whereby those that formally or informally volunteer for the environment can have this contribution to cost-savings recognised e.g. through reductions in Council Tax, the option to donate an hour of an expert’s time to a chosen charity (linked to 4. above) or another mechanism. There concepts may sound challenging but there are many skilled individuals that could help devise suitable mechanisms – no one organisation, public body or government needs to figure this out alone.

6. Set the ambition for Wales to be known as the ‘country of green careers’

With rises in unemployment predicted, particularly among the young, there is an opportunity to implement career pathways and a skills and training framework for conservation managers, woodland rangers, and enforcement officers to ensure there is the capacity and expertise to build ecosystem resilience.

There is a growing proliferation of apps to engage the public as citizen scientists to manage invasive species, report environmental crime, record iconic wildlife etc. It is time to also build capacity within regulatory bodies, industry and the utility companies to capitalise on this interest and to benefit from the cost-savings that would be enabled.

An investment in green jobs and career paths will show commitment to tackling the next crisis (point 1) as well as contributing significantly to the prevention agenda and the green economy. The TUC has written more about the need to ensure any new ‘green’ jobs are also fair jobs in this recently published report ‘A green recovery and a just transition’.

7. Understand the ‘disconnect’

We are drawn to nature but the litter in beauty spots, camping detritus in woodlands and sensitive flora trampled by walkers or mountain bikers suggest that we do not (know how to) tread lightly. Understanding what is behind this tendency – to be drawn to nature but then not care about trashing it – could help to address it, perhaps using insights from the  Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation  or other behaviour change expertise at other universities.

We also believe that our other suggestions – such as Eco-Literacy, the reframing of the natural environment as a credible, accessible future career prospect; and an increased presence of wardens, rangers, conservation managers etc – could lead to not only greater experience of nature but a cultural shift in thinking about how we value it.

8. Enable access

In line with a More Equal Wales, any strategy needs to ensure that there is equal access to the benefits that nature provides across our communities. We note the recent geospatial research by the University of Warwick, Newcastle University and the University of Sheffield suggesting that living within 300m of urban green space is associated with greater happiness, a sense of worth and life satisfaction, reiterated by the recommendation in the Future Generations report 2020 that there are standards to ensure people can access natural green space within 300 m of their home. Again this could link with the green jobs recovery for wardens, horticulturalists, local growers, natural play workers and therapists, social prescribing etc.

9. Cast a fresh eye on existing technology and innovation

In the search for new ideas, existing – and potentially scalable – innovations risk being overlooked. As CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain Report makes clear, ‘we already have the tools and technology needed to efficiently power the UK with 100% renewable energy, to feed ourselves sustainably and so to play our part in leaving a safe and habitable climate for our children and future generations.’

There is a wealth of information already within our institutions, networks and public bodies that may not be badged as a ‘sustainable and environmentally sound post-global pandemic recovery response’ but could nonetheless yield the same desired outcomes.

Examples of product innovation from Cynnal Cymru’s membership include BIPVCo’s thin-film solar cells or  BSB International’s Fire Dragon eco-friendly solid fuel – produced in Llanelli from 100% UK sourced ethanol. At the same time, we have many examples from members working in accordance with the ways of working in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, from Grasshopper Communications and its work to involve and engage communities to the housing associations coming together to accelerate decarbonisation of the social housing sector and the work of organisations like Dŵr Cymru and Wales and West Utilities to embody the stakeholder economy, for example with regard to vulnerable customers.

10. Create a more just society

Whilst a rapid transition to living within environmental limits and restoring healthy ecosystems will go a long way towards delivering sustainable development, we will only succeed if we also seek to recognise and integrate social and global justice. We know from our partners and members, and from our own work as the Living Wage accrediting body for Wales, that issues around social mobility, Fair Work, poverty and systemic discrimination also need to be addressed. This is as much a part of the ‘green’ as any other recovery package and links to other expert sectors, work programmes and strategies are essential to ensuring that our gains in one area are not undone by losses in another.

For several years now, the Sustainable Academy Awards have highlighted some of the most innovative projects and organisations in Wales accelerating progress towards a more sustainable future. The 2019 winners show that there are people in Wales that are already taking action to simultaneously tackle environmental issues and create a more just society

Next steps

We exist to accelerate progress on sustainable development in Wales so we are conscious that we need to back our words with action. Some of our next steps on the green recovery are:

Finishing the creation of an eco-literacy course and getting it out to consultation

Consulting with stakeholders about how to best measure progress and developing our advice

Linking the green recovery discussions to the Foundational Economy

Supporting decarbonisation of the social housing sector through the CLCC and involvement in Communities of Practice

Supporting the development of community led environmental organisations

Continuing to highlight the work of our members and Awards winners who are already ushering in the practical, intellectual, technological and cultural shifts for a sustainable green and just recovery.

More Than A Pub – Community, Carbon Reduction and Covid-19

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The Plas Kynaston Canal Group (PKCG) is a longstanding member of Cynnal Cymru. The group meets regularly in the Holy Bush Inn that stands on a central position in the village of Cefn Mawr, Wrexham.

Dave Metcalfe, one of the founders of the PKCG, led a campaign to save the Holly Bush from demolition. His company bought the pub and it is now run as a free house and community resource. As well as the bar and lounge, the pub has space for community groups to meet.

Post-industrial villages like Cefn Mawr (of which there are many in Wales) have undergone enormous change that has been driven not only be the immediate contraction of employment in their area, but by wider cultural changes that have evolved over decades. Large scale retail (which is most conveniently accessed by private car), online shopping, and the growth of internet services have led to an atomisation of communities: families eat, drink and access entertainment alone. The great communal experience that created and defined these villages has been replaced. The villages themselves have become hollowed out dormitories for workers who travel into the nearest city. Pubs like the Holly Bush are now sadly the exception.

Dave Metcalfe however has a vision. He believes that our industrial villages should and can revive and that in doing so, they would be physical manifestations of the vision described in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Will the experience of lockdown, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, cause people to re-evaluate their local services? We are getting anecdotal evidence that affirms this through our delivery of Carbon Literacy training. People’s worlds have been forced to shrink by the virus but many are reporting a new found joy and convenience in the use of local assets such as green space and food shops.

As we emerge from lockdown however, we risk losing this. Even as we urgently restart the economy however, Dave’s vision becomes more pertinent than before. He points out that thousands of tons of CO2 could be saved every year simply by getting people back in their local, drinking out of pint glasses instead of buying it from the supermarkets in cans and bottles.

“A truly green approach would be to get people back in their local, drinking beer from glasses that are simply washed and refilled from barrels refilled by the breweries, no waste and no unnecessary CO2.”

Thousands of tons of glass and aluminium are used every year in the manufacture of drinks for the off-licence market. These products are then transported and presented for sale. What is the carbon footprint of all this? Greenhouse gasses are subsequently produced in the recycling of the empty drinks containers while some are lost forever to landfill.  Furthermore, with the correct soda machines installed, big savings can be made on plastics as no plastic bottles would be required for soft drinks. We know that some cafes around Wales have removed plastic bottled soft drinks from their menus.

On the other hand, pubs need to be heated and lighted and the drinks kept chilled. There is nothing to stop a landlord however from using a green tariff or even on-site renewables to meet the pub’s energy demand.

We think Dave has a point here and would like to investigate further. We know that the international drinks industry takes their carbon footprint seriously and is engaged in efforts to reduce emissions and other harmful environmental impacts. See the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable as an example – BIER

Mike Berners-Lee (author of “How Bad Are Bananas – the Carbon Footprint of Everything”) as calculated the carbon footprint of your favourite pint as follows;

 

The carbon footprint of a pint of beer:

300g CO2e: locally brewed cask ale at the pub

500g CO2e: local bottled beer from a shop or foreign beer in a pub

900g CO2e: bottled beer from the shop, extensively transported

 

You can read more about this in Mike’s Guardian blog here.

 

As Dave says himself, “A truly green approach would be to get people back in their local, drinking beer from glasses that are simply washed and refilled from barrels refilled by the breweries, no waste and no unnecessary CO2.” Monitored by their friends and the pub staff, perhaps they would drink less than when pouring their own measures at home. The social interaction would build community as it used to before Covid-19 and the atomisation of society. It is a long-established argument of sustainability that small is beautiful and local is better. To make this cultural shift happen however, perhaps we need to restrict sales of alcohol in supermarkets and invest in our villages and town centres. Much to think about and much to discuss….[:]

Icon Creative’s Approach to Sustainably Sourced Printed Marketing Materials for Black Mountains College

[:en]The aptly named ‘Black Mountains College’ (BMC) in Talgarth is a forward-thinking education organisation, offering immersive teaching experiences through seminars in a range of subjects with the goal of preparing students for the coming effects of climate change. The brainchild of Owen Sheers (Welsh writer and director) and British acclaimed Human Rights Watch Researcher Ben Rawlence, the college uses Brecon Beacons National Park as it’s classroom.

Challenged with heightening awareness for their unique education offerings in an environmentally sustainable way, Icon Creative worked with Black Mountains College to introduce sustainably sourced printed marketing materials that have been used in workshops, seminars and festivals since.

Icon Creative Design is a design agency based in the leafy suburb of Bassaleg. The design company works extensively with clients particularly in the education, regeneration, retail and sports sectors including Swansea University, Newcastle University, Ballet Cymru, Friars Walk and Specific. Working with clients to deliver one off pieces of print through to brand strategy and campaigns, the company has increasingly focused on sustainable and environmental approaches to support businesses in their marketing and communications.[:]

(Electric) Car Future Wales

In Wales, transport is a major (and growing) contributor to climate change. We need to clean up transport as fast as possible. BEIS figures for Wales (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 2017), show that transport accounted for around 25% of energy consumption in Wales during 2015 and 13% of all emissions. In the UK as a whole, BEIS data shows transport is responsible for about 26% of all emissions.

Decarbonising our transport sector is not only vital for the health of our planet, but also the well-being of citizens. Several areas in Wales suffer from dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution caused largely by road transport, with the most vulnerable in our society (including children and the elderly) particularly at risk. Air pollution contributes to around 2,000 deaths per year in Wales (6% of total deaths).

Electric vehicles (EVs) are part of the decarbonising solution but they still have pollution impacts. For example, a significant amount of particulate matter (airborne pollution particles) come from brake and tyre wear and EVs will contribute to this even though their direct emissions from fuel consumption are zero. There is also considerable embedded energy in the form of extracted minerals, steel, and plastic in each vehicle that needs to be recovered at the end of the vehicle’s working life. EVs can however make a significant contribution to lowering Wales’ carbon emissions, and improve air quality, if they are recharged from renewable energy sources.

Electric vehicles are not a panacea. Moving to a nation where ‘active travel’ is the default choice for all, followed by public transport, then shared mobility and finally, single occupancy car journeys, should be Wales’ main aim as this would deliver multiple benefits.

In a low carbon, healthier Wales, where there is greater equality of opportunity, EVs will be part of the transport mix, however. The growth in ownership of ultra-low emission vehicles in Wales currently lags behind other parts of the UK but is comparable to other rural and post-industrial areas. With any new technology, uptake is initially slow and a minority of enthusiastic pioneers struggle to operate it when there is minimal support infrastructure. This has certainly been true of the electric car in Wales. Owners of electric cars are motivated by a commitment to low carbon, or by possession of the means to make the technology pay (or both). It makes sense for example, for a family on higher than average income with cash to spare, living in a detached house with a drive, to put solar PV on the roof and a charge point on the drive. There is less motivation for anyone living in a terraced house with no means of installing an on-street charger, assuming they could afford the roof PV panels and higher upfront purchase/rental costs of the vehicle in the first place.

The Welsh Government has committed a small but significant sum of £2 million to enable a network of electric charging points along main roads throughout Wales. The focus of the £2 million is to help provide a charging network along/near Wales’ trunk road network. These include roads not registered as part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) – in other words, a more far-reaching impact. At Cynnal Cymru’s Car Futures Wales conference in February 2018, there was consensus that public money should be spent where it will produce a net economic benefit: a charging network should therefore support the Government’s aims on active travel, decarbonisation, health, and equality of opportunity. As a nation, we should see electric cars as one of many tools to help us deliver the Well-being Goals. In practice, this would mean public charging infrastructure at park and rides, hospitals, rail heads, and tourist destinations.

The recent Economic Action Plan committed to making all taxis and buses in Wales zero-carbon within 10 years. This is a great start, but, given the lower running costs of EVs, why not electrify the entire public sector fleet? This has the additional benefit of making people more familiar with EVs, and more likely to switch themselves. Swansea council has recently taken the plunge by purchasing 40 Peugeot electric vans and installing 18 charge points.

Mid and West Wales Fire Service has two hydrogen cars and twelve electric vehicles with seventeen charge points. They are working with Natural Resources Wales and others to share charging infrastructure. Such confident investment in low carbon transport is rare however. Local authorities have to make bolder decisions about electric vehicles and work with the Government or else Wales risks falling behind other parts of the UK as the economy transitions to an electric fleet.

Given the current financial constraints faced by local authorities, a council may wish to consider a variety of ways that it can support a transition to low carbon road transport. The following were suggested by delegates at the Car Futures Wales conference;

  • Congestion charges and differentiated road access: for example, EVs could be permitted to use bus lanes or introduce Low Emissions Zones where polluting vehicles would be banned or fined.
  • Workplace parking levies with concessions for ultra-low emission vehicles.
  • Building standards and planning: the Welsh Government/Councils could require all new housing developments and shopping centres to have EV charge points designed in.
  • Investment in charging infrastructure: this should focus on the current black spots in mid Wales which make traveling north-south very difficult. This could alleviate range anxiety.
  • The Scottish Government is introducing a special innovation fund, designed to find solutions to charging for people living in tenement blocks or high rises. Welsh Government needs to find a similar way to ensure people who live in terraces and flats are also supported to switch to EVs.
  • It also makes sense to install charge points at modal interchanges (e.g. train stations, park and rides) to connect with public transport.
  • Public charging bays are vulnerable to being blocked by vehicles that stay beyond the charge period, or even by non-electric vehicles using them as parking bays. We will need to create a new regime of by-laws, and evolve a new culture of road etiquette

Charging availability is likely to affect vehicle purchase decisions and could be a catalyst for a market change. Visible infrastructure also supports a wider debate around sustainability, air quality and decarbonisation. Many local authorities in the UK are currently grappling with the challenge of improving air quality through a charging system for access to urban centres. Providing free entry or similarly, free parking to EVs is a provocative statement. Ultimately however, no authority wants to replace congestion by one type of vehicle with congestion by another so such concessions to EVs are likely to be a short-term response to the specific issue of air quality. The IWA report “Decarbonising Transport in Wales” calls for a change in the culture of Wales and a move away from reliance on the car; although it accepts that electric cars will still have a role to play in rural communities where local, community-owned renewables could be linked to charging infrastructure. The report argues that reducing the numbers of cars on the road should be a priority for all levels of government.

Limits on residential charging infrastructure, EV congestion and the high up-front cost of ownership may slow the uptake of private electric cars in Wales even as legislation makes owning a fossil fuel vehicle more expensive. Mobility as a service may then become an increasingly attractive alternative. In this model, private citizens choose not to own a car but instead have a contract or service agreement with a supplier such as a car club or taxi on demand. There are signs that mobility as a service is growing in popularity in cities and amongst young adults. With its wealth of renewable energy sources and a modest growth in community-owned renewable energy supply, Wales has an opportunity to link the need for mobility to a social business model and the equality of opportunity this offers. Specifically, this means that communities that own their own energy supply could also operate a not-for-profit car club. This could prove significant in rural towns and villages if changes in urban centres, driven by the necessity to improve air quality, push the market against diesel and older petrol vehicles.

Energy suppliers such as SP Energy Networks (SPEN) caution that we need to think about new ways of storing and moving energy. They ask us to consider what would happen if every one of 1.4 million domestic customers in their region plugged in an electric vehicle when they got home from work. While this may seem far-fetched, the forecasted growth in global EV ownership has increased by 500% in one year. Addressing the Car Futures Wales conference in February 2018, Liam O’Sullivan, SP Energy Networks District Manager for North Wales, shared SPEN’s estimate that investment of between £300 million to £2.2 billion is required to facilitate a 100% EV uptake across the Scottish Power Manweb area, depending on which scenario becomes the reality.

Momentum is growing for a rapid decarbonisation of transport in Wales. From analysis by the IWA to an increasing frequency of events held by Cynnal Cymru, local government, The Automotive Forum and the Welsh Government, the message is clear: decarbonisation of transport is essential, possible, and replete with opportunity. On the 7th and 21st of February 2019, Jacobs, with the support of Cynnal Cymru will stage two major conferences for the public sector on behalf of the Welsh Government. At these events, we will dispel myths, provide details on funding, present examples of ‘how to do it’ and give public sector professionals the opportunity to learn from each other and make important connections with industry specialists. “Your next car will be electric,” is an increasingly used phrase but while we wait for the fruits of the collaboration between Transport For Wales and the new rail franchisee, and initiatives such as the Cardiff Council transport green paper, perhaps we should start using the phrase, “this is the last car I’ll own!”

Developing a sustainable transport approach for Cardiff

We have been very pleased to have been of service to Cardiff Council this year and have learned a great deal from the work, helping us to hone our skills and broaden our knowledge.

In February 2018 we facilitated a workshop for stakeholders of the Council’s transport team. They needed to consult with city centre businesses and citizen’s groups on proposed changes to the street scene and traffic flow in central Cardiff.

We helped our client develop a workshop approach to obtain the information they required, promoted the event to targeted individuals and organisations, and managed the task groups and discussions during the three hour long session in Cardiff’s Central Library. The team took the data gathered to help them design costed project work and reported that they were very happy with the level of stakeholder engagement, the workshop process and our management of time and discussion.

From January to July we have been working intensively with the Council on their Transport and Clean Air Green Paper. We were tasked with conducting research to inform the drafting of the paper, and helping with consultation once it was published.

Desk-top research looked at reports compiled within the last five years, emerging trends in transport, and the activity in other cities around the world. Seminars and conferences included Cynnal Cymru’s 2016 “Future Car:diff” event, “Car Futures Wales”, and the Innovate UK “Transport Challenges” workshop. Interviews took place with Innovate UK’s Transport Systems Catapult, Arup, Jacobs, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Living Streets, and Cardiff Civic Society.

Early drafts concentrated on innovative practices that were not already included in the existing Council Transport Strategy or the Cycling Strategy.

As drafts progressed, a team of Council officers and Cynnal Cymru staff was formed under the leadership of Cabinet Member for Transport, Councillor Wild. This team began to blend existing Cardiff Council transport research and strategies – material that had informed the previous Transport Strategy and the Cycling Strategy for example – with new information gleaned from the research. The team included representatives from the Transport department, Economic Development, City Services, Shared Regulatory Services, Research and Customer Services, Policy, and Operations, and was chaired by Andrew Gregory Director of City Operations. The end result ensured innovative practices from other cities was combined with existing strategic and policy commitments and an awareness of emerging trends to meet the specific needs of Cardiff.

Following publication, we worked with the Transport Team, Customer Services, The Cardiff Research Centre and FOR Cardiff to undertake a variety of consultations events and communications. These included an event for businesses and targeted engagement of specific locations.

In May, we helped the Council’s policy team to stage a presentation by the leaders of Cardiff’s Public Service Board.

This was to mark the milestone of the Cardiff Well-being Plan’s publication and consultation. At a city centre event, the leader of Cardiff Council, Huw Thomas, was joined by Maria Battle – Chair of the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board – and South Wales Police Commissioner, Alun Michael. We secured the contribution of Cardiff citizens who spoke about their experiences and hopes for the future. These stories related to education, youth services, Living Wage, health and social care. We provided the compere role for the event and managed the Q&A session as well as leading on the promotion, invitations and social media.

What We Have Learned

We now have a much deeper understanding of the way that local authorities work, particularly the relationship between officers and elected members within a given policy portfolio. This work has enabled us to broaden our knowledge of the sustainable development aspects of transport, and the dynamic relationship between road use, air quality, carbon emissions, road safety, health, technology and the economy. We have consolidated research, facilitation, presentation and communication skills, adding valuable experience to our core offer. We would be confident to take on similar work for new clients, working with them as partners, as we are continuing to do with Dwr Cymru-Welsh Water and others.

If you have communication, consultation and engagement needs and feel that we could help then contact lynsey@cynnalcymru.com

If you want help with research, analysis, facilitation and presentation of data, then contact rhodri@cynnalcymru.com

Why “I’m not buying it” is a statement of power

We live in a circular system. When we throw something away, it comes right back at us. There is no “away.” Right now, thanks largely to the BBC and the one scientist that everyone listens to – David Attenborough – the world wants to do something about plastic. The focus is on cleaning up what’s already out there but also on eliminating the problem at source. How many environmental problems could be averted by pausing a moment before we buy or commission something? That’ll be long term thinking then? Yes and integration, consultation, involvement and prevention – all the elements of the Sustainability Principle enshrined in Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act.

On Thursday June the 7th, The Sustain Wales Summit will focus on the role of procurement in reducing and ultimately eliminating plastic waste.

The leader of Carmarthenshire Council will make an important announcement regarding the authority’s commitment to reducing plastic waste, we will hear from the Volvo Ocean Race about their high profile campaign, Wrap will reveal new research and Ecosurety will explain how market and B2B transactions can make a huge difference to the amount of plastic waste in circulation.

In 2017, the Welsh Government brought together a diverse range of stakeholders to develop the first Marine Litter Action Plan (MLAP) for Wales.

Organisations and stakeholders involved in the MLAP will come together in 2018 to officially form a ‘Clean Seas Wales Partnership’ with the aim of encouraging all sectors in Wales to take action on marine litter issues. The name and identity will be aligned with the global UN Clean Seas campaign where Wales can join the efforts of the many other countries who are taking action under the same banner.

The Marine Litter Action Plan for Wales is a comprehensive attempt to deal with the problem. One simple action that procurement managers and citizens can take to support this plan is to simply say “I’m not buying it.” The world is the way it is because enough of us accept what’s on offer. Any shop manager will tell you that if people don’t buy what you’re offering then you have to change. The power of procurement is largely dormant because none of us think in the long term. Concerned with short term needs, we avoid difficulty and buy the cheapest and most convenient option but just as there is no “away”, there is also no such thing as a free lunch. When we get something cheap and convenient, someone else is picking up the real cost, either down the road, on the other side of the world or in the generations of the future.

It is another fundamental truth of the sustainable development paradigm that people who are secure, empowered, respected and well-resourced are more able to make long term decisions and adopt behaviour that reduces environmental harm. Therefore, as well as looking at plastic waste, the Sustain Wales Summit will also hear about best practice in contract management that opens up new employment opportunities and extends well-being actions along the supply chain and into communities. The activities of Melin Homes for example ensure that “waste” becomes “surplus” for community use and that large contracts are broken up to give opportunities for smaller local companies to compete. The similarities between this sort of approach and the mechanisms at work in robust, diverse and thriving natural ecosystems are highly noteworthy. “Biomimicry” is not just an aspiration for manufacturers and engineers: procurement managers could learn a lot from observing natural systems.

Procurement that is consistent with the Sustainability Principle enshrined in the Well-being of Future Generations Act, will ensure that money and resources circulate more often, delivering greater benefit and enriching local economies, cultures, societies and ecosystems.


Rhodri Thomas is the Principal Sustainability Consultant at Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales. He has a BSc. (Hons.) in Environmental Biology, an MSc. in Environmental Management and a PGCE in Adult Education & Training. Previously, he has worked for Forum for the Future where he was a Senior Sustainability Advisor with public sector clients; for Environment Agency Wales where he supported the executive on public relations and managed the Pride In Our Communities anti-flytipping project in the south west; and The University of Glamorgan where he was a lecturer and researcher in life sciences and sustainable development. For thirteen years he worked freelance in the performing arts as an actor, writer and producer. He worked extensively on radio, theatre, film and TV.[:]

Top 10 reasons why the environment should matter to businesses in Wales

Cynnal Cymru supports businesses to embrace sustainability and undertake their actions in a more responsible and environmentally friendly way. We believe it is vital for businesses to understand the importance of environment and why all actions should be taken with sustainability in mind.

Wales is unique as it is enshrined in UK law, that the Welsh Government has a legal duty to promote sustainable development. In 2015 the Welsh Government introduced word-leading sustainable development legislation – the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. This legislation requires all public bodies to undertake all actions in the interest of future generations and demonstrate what actions they are taking to care for the environment. For private sector organisations who want to work with the public sector in Wales, it is vital you can show what actions you are taking to reduce any negative impact on future generations.

However the public sector cannot achieve the mission of a low carbon society in the interest of Future Generations alone. It is vital that the private sector in Wales plays a role in caring for the environment. Wales has put in place ambitious targets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and by 40% by 2020. I want to ensure the business sector understand why it is important you play a role in reaching these targets and the reasons it will be beneficial to your organisation.

At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and aims to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change. We believe businesses need to play a role in ensuring we prevent this temperature rise.

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales are supporters of sustainable development and ecological modernisation and believe it is possible to have economic development whilst also protecting the environment. Ecological modernisation understands the importance of protecting the environment, because business ultimately depends on the health of the planet and the surrounding atmosphere. It is thus in industry’s interest to develop cleaner technology and act in different ways in order to protect the planet’s capacity to support human life, and provide resources so that the sustenance base itself is protected.

Research conducted by Cardiff Met University and Wales Online have found that in Wales there are more than 200,000 businesses – the majority of which are SME’s and small businesses. 20% of Wales’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the business sector. Actions taken to reduce these emissions will go a long way to meeting Wales’s emissions targets and reducing Wales’s impact on the environment. Reducing your environmental impact will also benefit your organisation in many ways. Listed below are the top 10 reasons why your business should undertake action in the name of reducing your environmental impact.

1. Cost savings

It makes financial sense to take action to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the big global brands have realised this. A new initiative by Tesco is expected to save 20 million euros a year just using energy efficiency measures to ensure their refrigerators are kept at the right temperature and McDonald’s believe they have saved around £10 million a year since they have introduced energy efficiency measures across their restaurants!

2. Government incentives

There are often government incentives for businesses to undertake measures to reduce their carbon footprint which in the long run will save energy and money. This carbon trust green fund is just one of the schemes available in Wales at the moment which provides direct funded support through energy assessments, training workshops, equipment procurement support and up to £10,000 capital contribution towards energy saving equipment purchases.

3. Employee Retention

Becoming an organisation which is more sustainable is also good for employee retention and recruitment. The results of a Green Workplace Survey show that 66% of employees at companies that are engaged in environmentally sustainable practices are likely to remain with those firms and almost half the workforce (42%) now want to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world. South East Wales loses more than 600 working age people from 16 – 44 year olds every year to England. It is important that Welsh companies acknowledge the importance of a responsible business that cares for the environment to maintain and recruit employees.

4. Consumer Demand

A study by Unilever has revealed that a third of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. An estimated €966 billion opportunity exists for brands that make their sustainability credentials clear. For example Energizer introduced the Recharge battery made with 4% recycled battery materials. 4% doesn’t sound like much, but it was a world first and they have committed to increasing these levels to 40% in the future. They have made a commitment to sustainability but know they are only at the start of the journey. Guess what? Energizer is the fastest growing brand in the battery market.

5. Brand Reputation and Publicity

It is good for your reputation to be a business who cares about the environment. The 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%. We are proud of our members and the brilliant reputation they have for embracing sustainability. Find out more about our members and joining our network here.

6. Leadership

We want Wales to be the place people look to when they think of a country that has embraced sustainability, with businesses taking the lead. At the moment that place may be Sweden or the Netherlands with brands like Ikea taking the lead. Being a world leader in environmental sustainability can have many benefits. I want to highlight one of Cynnal Cymru’s premium members – the Principality Stadium (or the National Stadium of Wales) which will be hosting the Champions League final in a couple of weeks. The Principality Stadium in Cardiff was the UK’s first certified sustainable event stadium, first to gain the ISO 20121. They have since been doing a lot to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency and are in the process of looking in to trying to go “off grid” and put solar PV on the roof. They are a world leading business, with a great reputation for CSR and environmental management and we are proud to call them our members.

7. Keeping up with the competition

Many of the global companies – Ikea, Unileaver, O2, Coca Cola have some of the best sustainability reports in the world. We want Welsh companies to be the companies with the best environmental management plans and leading the way. It is vital not to be left behind in transforming office space and reducing the environmental impact of products you make or services you provide. We can help you with creating an integrated sustainability report – find out more here.

There are also a range of awards that highlight the best companies for sustainability. We host the Sustain Wales Awards in November of each year to encourage businesses to compete amongst each other at being the most sustainable. This is an opportunity to celebrate those businesses doing well. Applications open soon – find out more here.

8. Risk Mitigation

It is also within your interest to prepare your organisation for a warming climate and the consequences of climate change. There is a growing understanding from businesses that climate change presents risks that could significantly impact on your operations, revenue, or expenditures. Things like defending your premises against flooding, ensuring in the long term your resources will be available to develop products or looking in to sourcing more sustainable products will benefit your organisation in the long run. Perhaps you could look in to creating your own energy so you are not reliant on energy from the grid and developing a long term strategy for your business with climate change in mind?

9. Resource Limitations

On this note of reducing risk to your business, it is important you prepare for the future as the resources you may use in your business are limited. The UK government has released a report that shows the materials deemed insecure and at risk. Finding viable alternatives such as working with WRAP Cymru to reuse and recycle resources will be in your interest and good for the environment.

10. New Revenue Opportunities

Dealing with climate change and the challenges associated provides so many opportunities for new revenue streams and the development of new innovative technologies. Innovate UK regularly announce funding for the development of new sustainable businesses and technologies which aim to reduce the environmental impact of products or services. It is also an opportunity for current businesses to diversify and develop new products. Ikea have recognised this opportunity and over the past few years worked with their manufacturing partners to make much more affordable LED lightbulbs to sell to the public which have been hugely popular.

So those are the top 10 reason why the environment should matter to business in Wales. How can you take the first step to becoming a more sustainable organisation? Have a look on the Cynnal Cymru website and contact megan@cynnalcymru.com so we can talk to you about how we can help your businesses become more sustainable through our training and consultancy and working with other Cynnal Cymru members.[:]

Frank O connor presenting to group

Frank O Connor – ‘Too Much Stuff’

We over consume, from food and drink through to consumer products and clothing. With current consumption patterns it is estimated that we need anywhere between 3 and 5 planets to sustain us. We clearly need a radical shift in life style and behaviour to move to one planet living.

As a global citizen here are five relatively simple steps to start.

Buy less stuff:

We buy too much stuff, 98% which is thrown away within 6 months. When we need to purchase stuff, we could choose durable long-life products that are non-toxic and have been designed for circularity (i.e. can be reused, remanufactured, repaired, upgraded, recycled, etc.).

Own less stuff:

We own too much stuff, 80% of which is used less than once a month. We could explore sharing as an alternative to individual ownership. We could then access durable long-life products through sharing models, e.g. cars, bikes, clothes, etc.

Repair more stuff:

We throw away so much stuff that can be repaired. We could explore either repairing stuff ourselves and there are lots of support communities out there to help us, or we could support service providers who could do the repair work for us, thus extending the life of the stuff we own.

Buy the food you actually need:

We throw away so much food every week. The statistics are frightening. We could make a pledge to buy what we need, supporting local producers, preferably organic, that sell in suitable portions.

Choose stuff wisely:

We support too many irresponsible companies that do not take into account the true cost of the stuff they produce and sell, e.g. pollution, toxicity, resource scarcity, waste, employee health and wellbeing, etc. We could ask questions of businesses on their values and ethics, using tools such as social media to uncover the truth of their activities. This would help inform us (and others) of which businesses we should support and why. We could also look to purchase secondhand goods thus extending their life.

Frank O Connor

Frank is a passionate, authentic, creative and values-led sustainable designer and social entrepreneur.  Working on something he believes in has taken him to Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and Americas, collaborating with individuals and all types & sizes of organisation including the UN, European Commission, national and regional governments, multinationals, SMEs, educational institutes, charities and voluntary groups.

Frank’s mixed discipline background includes a PhD in ecodesign and a Masters in Advanced Manufacturing. Frank currently runs anois, a collaborative platform for seeking sustainable solutions, and is in the process of co-founding a number of other ethical organisations including one focussed on sharing.

people at networking event

How to Innovate Our Way out of a Looming Ecological Crisis

Rare is the platform where you are genuinely among friends. Particularly when that platform debates thorny issues such as eco-design, industrial ecology, waste, the circular economy and sharing. But let there be no doubt, Cynnal Cymru’s ‘Show and tell’ event was precisely that; an opportunity to share ideas and push, pull, knead and shape new thinking in the perfect environment. I was delighted to be sharing this particular platform with Creative Director Chris Carpenter of Stills branding – a true advocate of the need for change – and the passionate and knowledgeable Dr Frank O’Connor. Our presentations were the same yet different; how to innovate our way out of a looming ecological crisis, how to conceptualise our use of resources with greater wisdom and foresight, how to spread a message so crucial to our shared futures.

It is this latter theme that I’d like to pick up on. As the General Manager of an industrial company, I regularly rub shoulders with professionals who know or care little about sustainability. The word is somehow tainted with negative connotations. For ‘sustainability’ read ‘cost’, ‘burden’, ‘workload’ or ‘idealistic’. This attitude represents a failure to understand the nature and importance of sustainability and the predicament that our current economic model leaves us in. It is also perhaps representative of endless exposure to – and the rather cynical curse of –  ‘greenwash’ by larger or rival corporations.  But to consign organisational approaches to sustainability to the (recycling) bin, is a failure to identify a rich seam of creativity and innovation that could radically change an organisation, its place in the market and its future legacy. Take eco-design and Life Cycle Assessment for instance. Using ED and LCA at Odoni-Elwell has led to several major benefits. We’ve put our processes under the microscope, eliminating areas of waste (saving money), redesigned our larger buildings and established a model for recovery of product at end of life (a recovery process that should both dispose/reuse waste appropriately and result in an ongoing relationship with our customer). But arguably the biggest thing that we’ve achieved is the knowledge that we at least are trying to do things right, even when there are times when we get things wrong.

‘Show and tell’ is a wonderful concept. Ideas. Honesty. Dialogue. I’d encourage more (all?) manufacturing organisations to get involved. There is vast potential alongside the issues. And after all; a problem shared is a problem halved.

Simon Nurse (Systems Designer and Manager at Odoni-Elwell

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