As part of the Initiative’s efforts to build on the vision articulated in 2050: High in Hope, we are asking members to consider how we can create a sustainable and inclusive city. At our June Initiative evening, we spoke to Mohammed Saddiq, Chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership to get his perspective.
Q&A Ian Townsend, Chief Executive, Bristol Green Capital Partnership
Tell us a little about yourself; your job role and your career background
I am CEO of the community interest company that supports the now 900+ member organisations of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, the city’s cross-sector environmental sustainability community.
I left post-Olympics London in 2012, after 10 years in the House of Commons and Foreign & Commonwealth Office, to return home to Bristol to work for international development organisation Development Initiatives, heading up their new research team. After a year as an independent consultant focusing on research into the UN Sustainable Development Goals, see the last edition of Insight, I jumped at the opportunity to work with the Partnership.
My role is focused on influencing and business development, also with member engagement and communications and operations, working with my fantastic teammates!
Tell us about your business and your vision as a company
The Partnership was set with 12 member organisations in 2007, and was a key factor in Bristol winning European Green Capital 2015. While the year was being delivered by the Bristol 2015 company, a group of key city partners focusing on the year’s legacy – including the Initiative – came together to contribute financially to ensure that all the good work done in the lead up to and during the year didn’t stop there.
I joined the Partnership in June 2016 to help make that happen, to lead the team that helps our members to make our shared vision of ‘a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all’ a reality. We enable our members to be more environmentally sustainable, to amplify their successes and share learnings, and influence policies and frameworks to make doing sustainability in the city easier.
It has been an incredible 3 years so far: meeting so many inspiring people very day and collaborating with businesses, academic, civil society organisations and the public sector, and not just those based in Bristol – we have members from across the West of England, and beyond. The city’s businesses are really central to this: over half of our members are from the private sector.
I already knew this as a proud Bristolian (not sure if there is any other kind!), but this role has really confirmed to me that we live and work in a very special city!
What projects are you currently working on?
We have 4 strategic priorities. Given the renewed focus on the climate and ecological emergency that we face, carbon neutral city is high on the agenda: helping our city to respond by bringing 200 stakeholders together in March to gather actions now and in the future, at work but also in the community and at home, that will accelerate progress towards carbon neutrality. We are also helping the Mayor and City Office to set up then help to run a new ‘One City’ Environmental Sustainability Board – alongside the new economy board that the Initiative is setting up – to help deliver the One City Plan. And though our environmental equality priority we are focusing on intersections with social and economic inequality, such as clean air and access to nature and green space for all. Our Green & Black Ambassadors programme focuses on enabling new leaders from black & minority ethnic communities on environmental issues: we’re keen to speak to businesses about this!
We are supporting the city’s ‘Going for Gold ‘ambition to be one of the most sustainable food cities in the UK, through positive changes to food practices and policies. Businesses have a really important role to play in this. And we are also seeking to build on all the great action on single-use plastics by promoting a more ‘circular’ city, where waste is seen as a resource.
We also run regular events, like the monthly Green Mingle (first Thursday of every month).
What might a sustainable and inclusive Bristol & West of England region look like?
We drew on the expertise of our members to produce Our Future, a vision for an environmentally sustainable city by 2050, which was also the Partnership’s contribution to the first One City Plan. This outlines 5 actions for each of our 5 themes – energy, food, nature, resources and transport – which any business or organisation can look at and act on. There’s a lot going on across the West of England region, and its important for to work together, for example to ensure the urban-rural linkages are made, for example on food.
In your view, what do we need to do to get there?
Bristol and the West of England rightly has a strong reputation for partnership-working and collaboration. But we will need to do even more than we already are to address the climate and ecological emergency. The Partnership and its members will be at the heart of this, but we need the broadest possible community, working together on this shared challenge.
It will be interesting to see Bristol City Council report back on action so far on the climate emergency on 16 July, and to develop a climate strategy for the city to deliver on the rapid acceleration towards the carbon neutral ambition. No doubt more resources and powers will also be needed, and the West of England Combined Authority has an important role to play: we look forward to a regional industrial strategy that support and builds on all of the good work that is already happening.
What steps do you think the business community can take to get there?
Simply, get involved! And if you are already involved, get more involved!
Almost half of our private sector members have fewer than 10 employees, and three-quarters have less than 50 employees. We would really like to work with some of the city and region’s larger businesses. We were pleased to be part of the Initiative’s quarterly meeting in June, which has already generated a lot of new interest.
Joining the Partnership is free. But we are also seeking supporting members to help ensure we can keep membership free and open to all regardless of their size or turnover. And also businesses to support our projects and priorities, such as the Green & Black Ambassadors programme, Going for Gold and circular city. Or we can work with you in other ways – just get in touch! We’d be pleased to hear from you…