As we look back at the recent #G7 gathering of world leaders in Cornwall and forward to the #COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in under 50 days time, and as we once again see extreme weather events across the globe this summer, big goals to tackle our environmental challenges remain in the news.
I’ll leave talk of new “Atlantic Charters” and “Marshall Plans” to Boris, Angela and Joe but I do believe that we all have a role to play in preserving and enhancing our planet.
At NCG we have recently unveiled a groundbreaking new environmental strategy which seeks to embed our commitment to this issue in everything we do, at every level of our group.
Our group structure means we have to, and have the capacity to deliver major strategic changes like this as a collective, whilst still reflecting the different circumstances of each college.
The most important feature of our new approach is the absolute commitment of our senior leadership team and board in making this a reality, not just another series of warm statements.
To help deliver the ambitious vision of the NCG Environmental Strategy, I support the delivery of the strategy and act as the Executive Sponsor; ensuring it has reach across the whole of the group and that it becomes embedded in our behaviours and actions.
Our group structure also means we have the capacity to appoint a dedicated lead Matthew Ward, Group Energy and Sustainability Officer who works across all seven colleges, bringing together colleagues and expertise to align our goals and actions, and most importantly to support each other.
This resource and group wide commitment means we have been able to take a no holds barred look at our environmental outputs and consider how we change what we do.
We have already (among other things) set about:
- Reducing gas and electricity emissions by 50%
- Reducing staff and student travel emissions by 50%
- Reducing water usage by 10%
- Sending no waste at all to landfill
- Reducing food waste by 50%
Our students will impact the environment for the rest of this century and beyond
Besides looking at what we do as an employer and as an organisation, we also have another, even more important output which will impact the environment for the rest of this century and beyond - our students. We have made a commitment that every one of our courses will include an element that addresses the sustainable future every industry will require in the future.
For some areas (such as automotive engineering or the rapidly growing work we are doing to train people to work in the renewable energy sectors) it is easy to see how sustainability is already at the core of the course and the industry it is seeking to serve.
For others, such as health care (where we are teaching would-be doctors and nurses to use technology to reduce the carbon footprint associated with traditional appointments and consultations) the link may be more to do with how the delivery of the service will change over time.
The potential to breathe new life into communities
This tilt towards a new and more sustainable way of working also has a further benefit for NCG and the learners and communities that we serve. Many of our colleges are in former industrial heartlands, towns and cities that have faced huge changes and challenges over the last few decades.
New industries - such as our work on subsea and the renewable energy initiatives - have the potential to breathe new life into these communities and help to grow local industries. This was really brought home this summer, when government Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan visited our Energy Academy at Newcastle College.
She commented that “world-leading history in engineering and in delivering industrial revolutions means we’re well placed to be a really important part of delivering that green revolution, helping us to develop all the tools we need to de-carbonise our homes and the way we travel”.
Everyone on the planet has a role to play in saving it
Just as we have all had a role to play in containing as best we can the COVID19 pandemic, everyone on the planet has a role to play in saving it. Government and corporations of course must focus on the big picture and take the steps that only they can.
The rest of us must focus on the impact we can have through our work and lives, and for NCG the most critical one is embedding a culture of sustainability within our organisation and the young people we educate. We hope that this commitment will stay with them throughout their lives.
As well as shaping their environmental impact, I also hope this will engender within them a sense of genuine civic activism. 100 years ago, as people emerged from terrible worldwide conflict and a global pandemic, a new generation set their face towards the challenges of the future. We are helping today’s young people to do the same for their time.
Tony Lewin, NCG Executive Principal (South)