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Hereford college of arts sustainability team

Winners announced in Herefordshire's inaugural Greener Footprints Business Champions Awards

Thursday 30 November 2023 11.57am

As we head into 2024, there's clearly real ambition across businesses, organisations and their employees to see a transformation when it comes to climate action. As Greener Footprints announce the winners of their Business Champions Awards they have, they say, been inspired by the imagination and innovation, tenacity and teamwork they are seeing across Herefordshire, with the two winners announced today equipping the next generation to enjoy more sustainable careers and measurably reducing carbon emissions from commuting. 

This Wednesday 29th Councillor Elissa Swinglehurst, Cabinet Member for Environment at Herefordshire Council, went to meet both the winning team - the Sustainability Committee at Hereford College of Arts - and winning employee in the individual category, Sian Hill from Caplor Energy, in their places of work. 

The six-strong Sustainability Committee at the College of Arts, which includes principal Abigail Appleton, has been responsible for driving HCA’s progress along the Climate Commission for Education’s Climate Action Roadmap and for taking action to increase sustainability at their campuses in the city. Think everything from carbon literacy training for their staff and students (degree-level and post-16) to a grant fund for their use on sustainability projects, a cross-department Sustainability Working Group led by Jess Bugler (who incidentally picked up highly commended in the individual category) to workshops as part of Fashion Revolution Week. Then there are weekly meat-free days in the canteen, recyclable paper in the printers… The list goes on. 

"The roadmap we had in place helped enormously, though we were mindful about the transition, new ways of working and some cultural changes that might have felt uncomfortable at first," says Principal Abigail Appleton. "But what we saw was when you take action and move forward it feels so good it encourages more ideas.”  

Appleton says, though, that HCA believe the greatest impact will be via how the college supports students to think about what a sustainable career means in its broadest sense.  

"We want to engage and discuss with students the complexity of this issue and, even when it's not black and white, how they embrace ideas and move into industry in a smart, sustainable way,” says Abigail. 

Next stop for Councillor Swinglehurst was Caplor Energy's office in Fownhope to congratulate their employee Sian Hill, for a successful car-sharing project to reduce commuting miles. 

Sian pitched an idea for a company-wide car-share scheme to Caplor's senior leadership team over a year ago and it effectively groups colleagues (their team is near 30 strong) together by postcode and invites them to share the journey to and from work by car and then tracks the miles they've saved and subsequent reduction in the carbon footprint.  

In itself this was no mean feat, but creating the momentum to ensure it was sustained across the year took time and effort. "It became my thing to do every time I had a slot to spare, but it was so rewarding as I could see the difference it was making," Sian told us. She introduced a reward scheme - a goody bag for every week of sharing, or a Hereford Shopping Voucher for every month of car-sharing- and would nudge people when they were close to the goal to focus minds and inspire action.  

"It didn’t take long before staff started to feel the difference in their pocket, the impact on their carbon footprint, and feel other benefits," says Sian. That included collaborative teamworking. "Sharing those journeys not only makes people mindful of their carbon footprint across the day, but it also brought people together in new ways – we were hearing how they'd chat through issues in the car together and it became a great start and end to the day.” 

In Herefordshire, businesses who are part of Greener Footprints 20 for 2030 business network are showing over and over that transformation is a process and best practice starts with the smallest shifts in thinking. 

The team from Edward Bulmer Paints was commended as runner up in the team group. At their base near Leominster they produce plant-based sustainable paint ranges, but their commendation came for their stunning combination of efforts on site, including ensuring just about everything delivered to the office is fair-trade, manufactured in an eco-friendly way, and recycled and/or recyclable.   

When a team is small it might be easy to overlook the difference you can make, but in this workplace, their focus on sustainability has given all the team a voice, and a chance to explore what they can do differently. Claire Powell, sales and colour consultant at the company says their gardens now celebrate a 'no-mow May' to promote biodiversity, welcome local pupils for Spring Green school days, and are home to a veg patch where employees can harvest their fruit and vegetables. "I'd most certainly recommend this to companies if they have a small space to grow veg," says Claire. "It creates a lovely zone to be in together, especially when they day is busy and phones are always ringing. There is a mindfulness to it. It creates a space and chance to think about what we are all about in the company and appreciate the environment in Herefordshire.” 

“We were really impressed by the standard of entries and would like to say well done to all the teams and individuals who were nominated,” Cllr Elissa Swinglehurst told us. “It was a pleasure to learn about all the great work that local employees are doing to support the environment and nature and I hope that the awards will inspire others to take action.”