Sustainability and Inclusion - how can Bristol business drive change?

Laura Ross
Marketing Executive - Membership
18th June 2019

The focus of the June quarterly Initiative meeting was on sustainability and inclusion in Bristol.

This hot topic is making serious headlines with Teresa May’s recent bold and symbolic statement that her government will pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 – as she urged us that we all have a ‘moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than what we inherited’. The UN, UK Parliament and Bristol City Council have all declared a climate change emergency and last week we saw more local businesses following suit including Bristol University and We the Curious. The event was opened by Richard Bonner, President of the Bristol & WoE CoC & Initiative who agreed that business must act now to tackle climate change.

We were delighted to welcome 4 speakers who each provided a short stimulus followed by a panel debate: 

Mohammed Saddiq, Chair, Bristol Green Capital Partnership 

Rebecca Burgess, CEO, City to Sea 

Alice Peacock, President, Bristol Junior Chamber 

Marti Burgess, Chair, St Paul’s Carnival

‘The climate is changing at a rapid rate and will impact our businesses and how we operate within our cities’, said Mohammed. He challenged the BW Initiative community to build on the commitments and innovations that Bristol is renowned for with respect to climate, carbon and emissions. How can we collaborate and innovate to tackle this climate change emergency? A rallying cry – ‘we can’t do this alone’ and ‘we need the business community to come together to respond to make a difference to this climate change emergency’. ‘Bristol has a reputation of doing wacky green things and making them work’, such as the ‘poo bus’ – Bristol now has the Uk’s first 100% bio-methane bus, fuelled by sewage. How can we use our expertise and innovations to come up with practical solutions that will bring investment to our city?

Next to speak was Rebecca about City to Sea, an inspiring Bristol company leading on tackling single-use plastic which makes up 50% of the market. ‘Every piece of plastic ever created is still in existence’. They are shifting behaviour, using innovations to reduce plastic waste with help from Bristol-based organisations such as Wriggle & Boston Tea Party Café. ‘We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.’ Their big campaign, Refill Bristol launches on June 19th to encourage businesses to let people fill up their water bottles in cafes, restaurants and public places. Have you #Gotthebottle?

Alice described the Bristol Junior Chamber as ‘the baby Business West’, a networking organisation for business professionals aged 25- 40. The BJC was founded in 1948 and has a long history of promoting Bristol and the professional/personal development of its members so that they play an active role in the city.  A key aim of the BJC is to develop young people from inner city areas for a bright future in business through Bristol City Leadership Programme and they are also partnering with youth empowerment group Babasa. Catching up with Alice after the event on sustainability and inclusion, she said that ‘the conversation should not be limited to charities, CICs and voluntary groups – it should be the responsibility of all individuals, and the organizations they are within (big business or otherwise) to champion and support all people with inclusivity and sustainability at its core’. 

Marti gave us a powerful and positive overview of the impact of ‘a quintessential Bristol event’ on the economy and community in Bristol. St Paul’s Carnival started out of cohesion/inclusion in 1968 and in 2018 brought 90,000 people together generating £4.5 million into the city of Bristol. The event is free, has some funding from the Arts Council and Bristol City Council but Marti urged the business community to support the 2019  event via their crowdfunder. St Paul’s Carnival represents the best of African Caribbean culture, as well as the diversity, creativity and vibrancy of Bristol. Marti told us of their future vision to make St Paul’s a platform to make positive change through working with the Festival of Ideas, Africa Writes, Kiki Bristol (black LGBT group), Black History Month and Black-led arts organisations.

James Durie, Chief Executive of the Bristol & WoE CoC & Initiative gave an update on the Initiative’s diverse projects across the city region but focused in on the issues of sustainability and inclusion. We are currently trying to improve mobility and sustainable transport through the Clean Air Zone, ULEV electric vehicle schemes, taking an active role on supporting sustainability on the spatial plan/development of future homes and working with charities like Feeding Bristol. We are involved in the Festival of the Future City and Bristol Housing Festival and using our influence to try to create a behavioural shift amongst business. 

Bristol’s One City Plan, in part inspired by the work of the Initiative on the 2050: High in Hope book, sets out a vision for a future Bristol on connectivity, economy, environment, wellbeing, homes and communities & learning and skills. “Cities and nations thrive when leaders anticipate the future - and dream big.” Michael Bloomberg, Climate of Hope. 

We are aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a sustainable city for all. The 17 goals measure impacts against 3 key areas: people, planet and profit. Representing senior business leaders across the WoE city region, the Initiative takes a wider interest in the long-term future of the city. ‘The Initiative will be developing our own policy position on climate change and the issues associated with some of the sustainable development goals’, said Richard Bonner.

So, what can business do to drive sustainability and inclusion?

Here are 3 recommendations…

1) Acknowledge that sustainability and inclusion are important to the business agenda. Failure to act on these issues will be a threat to business as usual, while those business that adapt and embrace these issues will be more resilient, develop better relationships with employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders. We have seen members set bold and set ambitious targets to drive companywide change: BT adopted the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to reduce global warming target to 1.5C warming & zero carbon by 2045 and Bristol University was the first university to state a climate emergency   

2) Collaborate with the city and your employees to take action:

Collaboration and Best Practice

• Join and support the Green Capital Partnership, the city’s environmental sustainability network for sharing successes and learnings and making new connections. 

• Incentivise and enable staff and customers to commute and travel sustainably, this could be by  getting Travel West to run staff engagement programs such as travel shows , taking part in the Travel West Challenge where businesses and employees compete against each other by taking more sustainable modes of transport to  commute to work, providing access to pool electric bikes or cars and installing sustainable travel infrastructure such as lockers, showers, electric car charging points (grants may be available from Travel West)  

Carbon Reduction

• De-carbonise business operations through greater efficiency and or a move to renewable energy. Some businesses in the city region will be eligible to access grants to make these improvements through the West of England Green Business Grants and West of England Local Energy Scheme.


• Consider the materials used in the business, can they be re-used, recycled to avoid waste and extract greater value. This could lead to the development of cirular economy business models such as that as our member, Collecteco who help businesses to distribute office equipment to not-for-profit organisations and charities, or it could be the reduction in the use of single use plastics like the City To Sea Refill project.

Inclusion and Diversity

• Support City Wide Diversity Celebrations such as St Pauls Carnival and 91 Ways to Build a Global City 

• Work with Be On Board to encourage greater diversity on your Board.

• Support Babasa to help young people from inner city backgrounds realise their potential

• Encourage young leaders to network and play a positive role in the city with Bristol Junior Chamber

• Offer young person with work experience through Bristol Works

• Work with Key for Life  on their “Younighted” scheme to offer an ex-offender with work experience to help reduce re-offending 

• Demonstrate comitment by signing up to the Bristol Equality Charter and/or Bristol Women in Business Charter  

• Sign up to the TISC Register to address modern day slavery.

3) Support and engage with the Bristol and West of England Initiaitve as it refreshes its 2050: High In Hope  'Big Picture' Vision

Let’s open the conversation, share ideas and work together to make Bristol a shining example of how we can make a purposeful change for good on sustainability. 


  • Interested in shaping local policy decisions?

    Join the initiative and join a group of business leaders who want to make a positive influence in your area. 

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