CEO Strategy Group 3 (Meeting 3) – Environmental Sustainability

The third meeting of Forum Strategy’s #TrustLeaders strategic group on Environmental Sustainability took place on 12 July. The session was chaired by Rachael Gacs, with contributions from Fiona Daly, National Sustainability Lead for NHS England, and Dr Steven Berryman, Director of Arts, Culture and Community for Odyssey Trust for Education. The group is one of three currently looking at key strategic issues for CEOs.

Lessons from the NHS

Fiona Daly began the session with input and discussion around establishing an estate which supports the transition to sustainable models, drawing on her experiences as National Sustainability Lead for NHS England. The NHS has a clear goal to reach a net zero carbon estate by 2040, and a zero carbon supply chain by 2045 (both ahead of the target set by the government, which is to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050). While of course the need to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 is a huge consideration, Fiona explained that the moral imperative to do so is the key driver. She drew parallels to the education sector – ‘you are working with children – future leaders; equally, we are training the health professionals of the future, who are going to have to deal with the consequences of a climate crisis, so we have to do all we can’.

‘{Fiona} drew parallels to the education sector – ‘you are working with children – future leaders; equally, we are training the health professionals of the future, who are going to have to deal with the consequences of a climate crisis, so we have to do all we can.’

As past sessions of this CEO strategy group have demonstrated, pupils expect leaders to take responsibility and lead the way on sustainability. Fiona explained that likewise, in the NHS, staff are speaking out and expect action; ‘our staff are becoming more aware and more vocal about the need for the NHS to address issues around environmental sustainability and climate change, and our doctors are increasingly recognising the significant health threat that climate change poses’. As a responsible employer the NHS must engage with and be held to account by its people, and demonstrate that it is responding through action, just as trust leaders must also engage with their pupils’ concerns around environmental sustainability and do their best to respond. Fiona also recognised the importance of prioritising environmental sustainability because young people entering the workforce expect their organisations to take action in this area – something equally applicable to the academy trust sector. She explained that the NHS apprenticeship programmes are very much tailored around this, and that the NHS is trying to ensure that in the next five years everyone has specific responsibilities for net zero written into their job description.

‘As a responsible employer the NHS must engage with and be held to account by its people, and demonstrate that it is responding through action, just as trust leaders must also engage with their pupils’ concerns around environmental sustainability and do their best to respond.’

Fiona went on to outline what has been done in the NHS so far to ensure that it is becoming a more environmentally sustainable organisation, and what academy trust leaders might be able to take away from this work. She explained that, despite Covid, the NHS has remained focussed on environmental sustainability, and published a document in October 2020 on the plan to deliver a net zero health service by 2040, and supply chain by 2045, setting out the trajectory of how this will be achieved. The report can be found here: Greener NHS » Delivering a net zero NHS (england.nhs.uk)

Estate planning and management is probably the most important aspect of achieving net zero carbon for the NHS, and Fiona outlined the core areas where progress is currently being made. The first is a change in the way that new hospitals are going to be built. The NHS is developing the world’s first building standard for health care buildings, to deliver to the best energy standards which can be achieved currently, which will be launched ahead of COP this year. This learning will be made available to all, to support other sectors looking to do something similar. There is also a real push taking place to ensure that existing estates are made more energy efficient. Over £640 million of applications were made from the NHS to the Public Sector Decarbonisation grants scheme earlier this year, with just over one third of those applications being successful.

As well as this, over £50 million has been invested in energy efficient LED lighting. Fiona suggested to trust leaders that there are several things they can do across their estate to improve sustainability which will likely also have a financial pay back within four years, including investing in more energy efficient lighting, getting building management systems up to date, and upgrading to more energy efficient heating and ventilation systems. She advised leaders to focus on the quick wins first, and only when those are in place, to then focus on the longer-term changes which will need to be made to become more environmentally sustainable.

‘Fiona suggested to trust leaders that there are several things they can do across their estate to improve sustainability which will likely also have a financial pay back within four years… she advised leaders to focus on the quick wins first.’

According to Fiona, another core aspect of the NHS’ plan to improve sustainability is through the use of data and digitalisation. Through smart meter upgrades, it is possible to get real time data from hospitals into the central system, which Fiona explained will give a much clearer picture not only of how much energy is being used, but where it is being used – something which could be replicated in academy trusts. Trials have also taken place using an AI energy manager that essentially links the data from meters with people on the ground – this AI highlights unusual activity, i.e., where energy use is too high, and suggests what the problem causing that may be, in the hope that someone can then go and fix it. Fiona said that the trial had been a real success, and that AI will likely play a significant part in estate management moving forward.

Other useful tools that have been developed include a capital investment tool which operates at a site level, so sites are able to ascertain what technologies they need to invest in. This is particularly useful because, Fiona explained, not all sites have energy managers, or waste managers, so it is difficult to know what should be invested in – for example, whether solar panels should be put on the roof, or whether the boiler needs to be changed? Fiona emphasised the positive impact that data and digitalisation has had so far in driving efficiency in the NHS, and ensuring that energy use is at the absolute minimum it can be.

The role of the arts, creativity and ‘storytelling’

The group then welcomed Dr Steven Berryman, who discussed how the arts, creativity and culture can be used to enable purposeful conversations around environmental sustainability. Steven opened his input with a quote from Professor Michael Wilson, in the struggle to live more sustainable lives, our stories have the ability to show us the way, to enable us to innovate and to dream of the futures we want. In this way storytelling is a collaborative art and its knowledge is co-produced. Every telling of a story is also an act of listening, and every act of listening is an act of re-telling.Steven explained that he believes the arts to be the perfect storytelling mechanism; one that can be used to communicate not only the importance of environmental sustainability, but also the challenges we face – and the potential ways we can succeed – in tackling issues around sustainability. For this reason, it is really important to consider the role your arts teams can play in your trust’s work around environmental sustainability.

“Steven explained that he believes the arts to be the perfect storytelling mechanism; one that can be used to communicate not only the importance of environmental sustainability, but also the challenges we face – and the potential ways we can succeed.”

The arts generate a perfect opportunity for young people to reuse and recycle resources in creative, exciting and imaginative ways, encouraging them to consider how resources can be transformed, rather than simply being thrown away and disposed of in landfill. This can also be used as an opportunity to educate young people on the growing necessity to reduce, reuse and recycle our finite resources. The link between the arts and imagination is also key, because it is through imagination that human beings are able to envisage – and consequently create – a different, better future. Therefore, providing young people with the space to be creative and imaginative gives them the opportunity to open up to new possibilities, including that of working together to create and develop a more sustainable world. This is, in essence, equipping our young people to be future citizens, and leaders, with the imagination to dream big, and to find creative solutions to the problems currently facing our planet.

“The link between the arts and imagination is key, because it is through imagination that human beings are able to envisage – and consequently create – a different, better future.”

Steven finished his input with a clip from a theatre show created by young people, called ‘Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow’, about the climate change emergency. All of the scenes were built and co-created with young people, allowing them to articulate and share their thoughts, feelings, concerns and hopes for the future through artist expression. Steven concluded by emphasising the power of the arts to illuminate, amplify and champion environmental sustainability, and to inspire people to work towards positive change. 

 

You can read summaries of previous meetings of this group here:

Meeting One (Autumn 2020): CEO Strategy Group 3 – Environmental Sustainability | Forum Strategy

Meeting Two (Spring 2021): CEO Strategy Group 3 (Meeting 2) – Environmental Sustainability | Forum Strategy

And a case study from Northern Star Academy Trust on Environmental Sustainability as a Core Trust Value and Strategic Priority can be found here

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