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Mary Noone discusses how Peter Bedford Housing Association has reduced its environmental impact with Green Mark

Mary Noone discusses how Peter Bedford Housing Association has reduced its environmental impact with Green Mark

9 June 2014

Peter Bedford Housing Association works with socially excluded adults in North East London. We spoke to Mary Noone, their Compliance Coordinator, to find out how Green Mark is making a difference to way the organisation is run.

Tell us about your business?

Peter Bedford Housing Association works with socially excluded adults in North East London. A pioneer of supported housing, we have been inspiring brighter futures for over forty years.

We achieve this by offering supported housing alongside vocational and community based training, and other activities in some of London's most deprived areas.

How did you come across Green Mark?

I believe it came about through the European Social Fund (ESF), as we receive funding from ESF to deliver our Working Futures project.

What are the key environmental impacts of your business?

Greenhouse gas emissions and their associated environmental issues, due to energy inefficiency as a result of the poor insulation and heating set-ups of our buildings.

Natural resource depletion in the form of paper, electronic goods, timber for our joinery workshop, natural gas for heating our properties.

What key actions have you undertaken to reduce environmental impact and achieve a Green Mark Level 1 Certificate?

We've created a sustainability policy encouraging sustainable practices. We've included sustainable criteria in our procurement processes. We've introduced recycling to our shop, Outpost. We've reduced the amount of waste going to landfill due the removal of general waste bins from all offices and replacing them with recycling bins.

We've introduced composting to all of our kitchens. We've created awareness amongst the staff group of the impacts of waste on the wider environment through different communication streams such as meetings, team briefings, emails and 1:1 conversations, thereby encouraging sustainable behaviours such as recycling, reducing printing, reducing water use, switching off PCs/lights when not in use. We've also introduced new, more energy efficient photocopiers. We've identified exactly who is responsible for disposing of our waste and ensuring it is treated in an environmentally sound way. Finally we've communicated actions that staff are expected to perform in order to reduce the use of resources and creation of waste.

How did you manage to achieve so much in 5 months? What were the key drivers of motivation?

Our project manager valued the principles behind the accreditation and was very persistent. Key people were identified for each location and tasked with project support roles.

Senior management were briefed on the project and committed to supporting it, allowing for key staff to carry out their individual tasks within the project, and the creation of a sustainability policy, and a sustainable procurement policy that will underpin the values of Green Mark going forwards.

We made sure that communication with our staff group was strong. Communication from our adviser at GLE, Ioanna, was also very strong.

What have you enjoyed the most?

I have enjoyed engaging with colleagues and enlightening individuals on the negative environmental impacts of certain behaviours which have led to a gradual change in overall behaviour. I have also enjoyed seeing our shop, Outpost, move from not recycling anything to recycling virtually all of their waste.

What did you find hardest?

In a similar vein to the above, the hardest aspect was attempting to gain buy-in from disinterested colleagues.

What are the benefits to your organisation of the accreditation?

With reducing our environmental impacts we are making a difference to the local community and the people we serve, which is a positive for the organisation. Our work environment is also healthier, and accreditation may assist us in securing funding from bodies that value organisations with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability.

Some of the work we did also highlighted certain administrative tasks that were not managed efficiently and these have now been rectified.

Will you be aiming for Level 2 in your new location?

It is not clear yet whether or not we will go for Level 2 at the new location but the possibility will certainly be investigated.

What are your top tips to being successful in achieving the Green Mark?

Persistence! Where buy-in is difficult, it's essential that a strong voice keeps the Green Mark at the top of the organisation's agenda, and the behaviours required for achieving it at the forefront of individual staff's minds.

Identifying key people to carry out certain tasks early in the process, and keeping a regular check of progress.

What has been the biggest benefit of taking part?

The reduction of waste to landfill. Also, it's brought staff together in a combined effort and has created a positive feeling within the organisation.

What would you say to other organisations considering to undertake the Green Mark process?

Overall, the path may be rocky but it is well worth it!

Vitally, there are no negatives in terms of what the process seeks to deliver and the behaviours necessary for its achievement are often not as onerous as one may at first think. Also, it benefits the organisation, the organisation's clients and the wider environment and community as a whole.

Green Mark is an environmental certification scheme which helps organisations to:

  • Manage their environmental impacts
  • Save money and resources
  • Evidence a commitment to sustainability

GLE is currently providing free Green Mark certifications to ESF funded organisations, as part of the ESF Technical Assistance programme. This support is available for organisations who hold an ESF contract directly, and those who participate as a formal partner.

For more information about how Green Mark can help your organisation contact greenmark@carbonarchitecture.co.uk or telephone 02036 971253.

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