At the end of last February Yvette Ashby, CEO and Founder of PCIAW®, chaired the National Energy and Sustainability Show for the Institute of Government and Public Policy (IGPP). The aim of the event was to inform delegates from the public sector about the ongoing energy crisis within the UK and how organisations can tackle sustainability issues, with Yvette sharing her decades of knowledge regarding sustainability with speakers and panels throughout the day.
The event opened with a short presentation by Yvette covering how the textiles industry can be taken as a case study for sustainability due to the various initiatives combatting wastage and energy consumption within textile manufacturing. With 100,000 tonnes of textiles going to landfills in the UK each year and over half of the UK wearing some uniform daily, there are increasing opportunities for circularity and energy saving within the closed chain of the professional clothing industry.
Through reuse and more intelligent supply chains, we can reduce our textile usage which ultimately reduces energy expenses in manufacturing, shipping, and disposal. Circular approaches can help any organisation on its journey to reach net zero, and the knowledge gained by the professional clothing industry should be shared with other industries.
Highlight keynotes include Baroness Natalie Bennet’s discussion of sustainability in a socio-political context, Nathan Sanders’ Delivering Net Zero at a Local Level, and Sharon McHale’s talk about growing green skills through education.
Baroness Bennet’s keynote titled Sustainable Cities, Affordable Fuel made an interesting reference to the burgeoning opportunities local governments and industries have to adopt sustainable practices as active forces for good. The UK government is paralysed with bureaucracy regarding regulation, as the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reportedly have 1443 pieces of regulation left to process by the end of 2023.
This inundation means that organisations cannot rely on the government to lead the way on sustainability, so we must adopt that responsibility ourselves, taking an active interest in innovation and politics surrounding circularity. As the Baroness put it, “We need a world where politics is what we do, not what’s done to [us]”, so organisations across the public and private sectors must be proactive in caring for our planet.
A great example of a proactive approach can be found in Nathan Sanders’ talk “Net-Zero at the Local Level”. Speaking for SSE Energy Solutions, he raised awareness of their continual investments in decarbonisation which have created 1000 green jobs per year, helped increase the share of UK power coming from renewables, and expanded the UK’s battery infrastructure by demolishing two coal power plants and replacing them with battery stacks.
Throughout the presentation, Nathan illustrated the benefits of placing control in the hands of local networks, implementing custom solutions for customers and establishing regional control hubs rich in local knowledge. By focusing on localised problem-solving SSE create jobs within communities and creates pathways for effective adaptive solutions, benefitting the community, the supplier and the customers.
Green skills and Education
A final keynote to highlight was “Growing the Skills for a Sustainable Future”, where Sharon McHale from the Department for Education (DfE) shared what the government has been doing to increase the volume of workers interested in green jobs. The DfE is focussing on providing both students and workers with the opportunity to acquire saleable technical skills in sustainability which will give workers better job opportunities and employers better choices for qualified candidates.
Starting in 2025, the UK will be offering a new Natural History GCSE which covers climate change and sustainability. The government has also introduced T-Levels for Key Stage 5 students, which gives school leavers opportunities for vocational training outside of apprenticeships. The DfE has even expanded its scope to offer free accredited courses for employers through skills boot camps, where employees can take 12-16 week courses on technical sustainability skills such as Heat Pump installation. These educational opportunities at every stage of a worker’s career create a green skills pipeline which secures the foundation of sustainable skills for generations to come, ensuring there is a domestic supply of green skills for the UK.
Overall the event was a brilliant demonstration of the UK’s collective commitment to sustainability, bringing together many industries with the aspiration of achieving cleaner energy and a cleaner economy. Yvette Ashby, CEO of PCIAW® remarks: “It was a privilege to chair the National Energy and Sustainability Show, and to engage with so many leading figures in the UK’s sustainability journey. We have shown that public and private sector organisations can share their experiences and work together to create a better future, and I am excited to see how the lessons learnt from this event manifest in the years to come.”