The third panel discussion centred on ‘Opportunities in Green Growth’ chaired by Anna Bright, CEO of Sustainability West Midlands. Anna kicked things off by introducing the importance of green growth and highlighted how this is now more important than ever. A thought shared by our panellists, who included:
- Jacqueline Homan, Head of Environment at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)
- Matthew Rhodes, Managing Director at Camirus Ltd
- Jacob Solomon, Managing Director at Foresso Ltd
- Anthony Evans, Managing Director at Sarginsons Ltd
After an introduction from Anna, Jacqueline Homan started by discussing the set goal by WMCA to be net zero by 2041. She highlighted the importance of businesses, of all sizes across the West Midlands, collaborating in tackling climate change. This was picked up by a member of the audience who asked “will there be opportunities for smaller businesses to collaborate as many SMEs don’t have the time and staff capacity to build strategies and action plans?” Jacqueline explained that the ability to link organisations together is very important, and that WMCA is doing this through their work with organisations such as Sustainability West Midlands through their networks. Jacqueline also shared the WMCA’s pledge on how they can support businesses to tackle climate change.
Next, we heard from Matthew Rhodes who gave us an insight into the ‘Repowering the Black Country’ collaborative project that Camirus are leading alongside the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership and partners including the University of Birmingham, Pro Enviro, CR Plus and WMG to develop and implement a roadmap for decarbonising the Black Country industrial cluster by 2040. The project is funded by BEIS and UKRI and is aimed at supporting the national industrial decarbonisation strategy. Matthew highlighted the unique opportunity that the black country has and wants to ensure all businesses in the Black Country can transition to low carbon, not just existing low carbon businesses.
Questions from the audience included “should we have a sustainable technology innovation hub in the region to support and demonstrate sustainable technologies?” Matthew absolutely agreed that we should and highlighted “such hubs need to be closely and integrated into business needs.” He even mentioned the possibility of Innovate UK to fund these types of projects!
Next, we heard from Jacob Solomon who gave us a run down of what Foresso is doing to ensure sustainability and ethics are embedded into their business (spoiler, there’s a lot!). Foresso are an SME located in Birmingham who make waste wood into a value added product. But it’s not just their unique product that stems them apart, their foundation principles show the importance of sustainability to the company. Matt stated that “if suppliers don’t share our principles, we do not sell to them.” They don’t want to be associated with an unsustainable product. If all businesses did this, it truly would have a massive impact.
Talks then led to the topic of The Grid, and it was asked if it did “partially fill the sustainable tech hub requirement”. Anna elaborated on this question from the audience who explained that the grid does act as an online platform for peer-to-peer communities to allow them to post their challenges and share solutions. This again highlights the importance of collaboration and working together for businesses across the West Midlands.
Finally, we heard from Anthony Evans who was able to provide great examples of where Sarginsons have used the initiatives available to them, such as Coventry and Warwickshire’s Green Business Programme, to make a few changes to develop a greener business. Simply by installing LEDs and simple adaption methods they saved 335 tonnes of CO2 per year. It was through these achievements that led Anthony to having a very positive experience navigating through these changes which created a number of advantages for him. To name just a few these include:
- Increased productivity and reduced costs
- Better financial and investment opportunities
- Enhanced brand image and increased competitive advantage
The panel highlighted the abundance of great green initiatives that are available in the West Midlands. When this is combined with the ability to collaborate with business of all sizes it is no doubt that there is great potential for the West Midlands. After all, there is no time like the present to embark on green initiatives and get the support from these programmes.
You can watch the discussion below.
(Authors: Amy Bostock and Alan Carr, Sustainability West Midlands)