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10th Anniversary Story: 2014

March 2022 by Lucia Simmons

Throughout our 10th Anniversary year, we’re sharing 10 stories for the 10 years of Carbon Literacy; one story for each year, shared once per month, in the 10 months leading up to the official anniversary date in October.

Story number three takes us back to 2014 when a collaborative project, and the participation of a particularly passionate pioneer organisation, revolutionised the delivery of Carbon Literacy; streamlining and accelerating Carbon Literacy in the social housing sector and beyond.

The CL4RPs Consortium

2014 saw the formation of the Carbon Literacy for Registered Providers (CL4RPs) consortium. CL4RPs’ collaborative approach to designing and delivering Carbon Literacy training had pronounced benefits for all members and provided proof of concept that this approach could work elsewhere. Read more about how this project transformed the future of Carbon Literacy here.

The CL4RPs initiative created a cohort of Carbon Literate people that became catalytic in their own organisations, and then, in turn, in other organisations and sectors – beginning to cascade low-carbon culture. Nowhere was this more true than Great Places Housing Group.

Spotlight on: Great Places Housing Group

Carbon Literacy for all staff

Having taken a central role in the formation of CL4RPs and the creation of their shared learning resources, 2014 marked the beginning of Great Places’ full-scale rollout of Carbon Literacy training, headed by Environmental Manager, Sarah McClelland.

“We were looking for a training course that would ensure all staff received the same level of environmental understanding, for a reasonable cost. Carbon Literacy seemed to fit these criteria perfectly”.

Beginning as an employee-only programme, 240 staff completed the training over a ten-week period. The impact was remarkable; there was an increased awareness among colleagues and an eagerness to complete actions in order to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint.

“[The] feedback was incredibly positive, with people making actions in their personal and work life in order to reduce their carbon emissions”.

Great Places were one of the pioneer organisations to roll out Carbon Literacy as a requirement for all staff. Their induction scheme embeds Carbon Literacy training, ensuring all new employees receive a days’ worth of climate change education. Now, in March 2022, nearly all team members have been certified as being Carbon Literate.

As of very recently, Great Places are also the first housing provider to have delivered Carbon Literacy training to a dedicated cohort of board members after wrapping up the final session in the last few days. Andy Wilson (Carbon Literacy consultant) and Sarah McClelland (Environmental Manager and accredited Carbon Literacy Consultant) co-delivered a series of workshops that culminated in all of Great Places’ board members agreeing on group actions relating to the organisation’s operations, collaboration with partners, and introduction of ‘carbon consideration’ across all board decisions.

Climbing the CLO ladder

This commitment to Carbon Literacy has enabled Great Places to rapidly climb the CLO accreditation ladder over the years. At the inaugural CLO Awards in 2016, they jumped straight in, achieving Silver CLO status; in 2019, they became only the second housing association in the country to achieve Gold CLO status after Northwards Housing; and in 2020, having certified 80% of their staff, they gained Platinum accreditation, the highest and final CLO level.

Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable

Great Places’ Carbon Literacy training ensures staff awareness of, and engagement with, how climate change is directly impacting their operations and their residents. This is particularly important for the social housing sector because they work with vulnerable communities which are often among the least resilient to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Upon achieving Gold CLO Status, Sarah McClelland, Environmental Manager at Great Places Housing, highlighted that:

“Great Places see Carbon Literacy as essential. Climate change is directly affecting our business, our residents, and impacts the poorest in society the hardest as they have the least resilience to the effects of extreme weather.”

“It is about being efficient. Energy, water, waste and travel are the four key targets for us – we direct colleagues to these, then discuss how they can reduce their footprint in each area and how that can help themselves, the business and our customers.”

Matthew Harrison, CEO at Great Places, also explained how Carbon Literacy plays into their corporate model of “profit and purpose”. Energy-saving measures are critical because most of their tenants are in relative or absolute poverty, and so are going to be disproportionately affected by climate change, such as extreme weather events like flooding. Such measures help to tackle climate change whilst also saving clients money on energy bills; an issue that is even more prevalent today.

Carbon Literacy for the community

Great Places continue to champion Carbon Literacy within their organisation and beyond. Their three-year plan for a Carbon Management Strategy, launched in 2021, set out how the group will reduce its carbon emissions, with the aim of being a carbon-neutral business. Included in this was a plan to extend their Carbon Literacy training to customers, improving their knowledge and enhancing their employability.

As of 2021, 60 supply chain employees from seven of their contractors had received Carbon Literacy training, and a commitment has been made for many more partners in their supply chain to undertake Carbon Literacy training over the next year.

Only within the last month one of Great Places’ construction-related suppliers Vextrix, undertook Carbon Literacy training across the whole organisation. All the delegates attained their Carbon Literacy certification, and collaboratively generated a number of significant low carbon objectives. These include pledging to work with designers/clients to influence more sustainable construction methods and introducing low carbon specifications to its own supply chain. Vextrix is getting to grips with its own impacts whilst helping Great Places address its wider carbon footprint and sustainability goals.

“Our journey to become Net Zero was never going to be led as a top-down approach. To ensure we hit our target of becoming Net Zero by 2030, the whole team at Vextrix and Struktura Engineering Services has committed to playing their part in helping to reduce their own carbon footprint, and to assist with this, we called on Great Places Housing to deliver the Carbon Literacy training for all our staff. The training has provided us with valuable focus and initiatives which we believe will help guide us on our journey.”
– Louise Ashton, Director for Strategic Engagement, Vextrix.

A catalytic Carbon Literacy champion…

Beyond their own staff, suppliers and residents, Great Places were also one of the first organisation to develop and deliver Carbon Literacy training as an offering to external organisations that are interested in rolling out their own Carbon Literacy to staff. As such, Great Places has not only set the pace for social housing, but has also been a catalyst across the public, private and third sectors.

…among the social housing sector

Having played a key role in the creation of the CL4RP’s shared learning resources back in 2014, and with their plethora of training experience gained since, Great Places were a well-qualified partner for us at The Carbon Literacy Project to collaborate with on the upgrade of these materials and the creation of the Social Housing Carbon Literacy Toolkit in 2021.

Prior to this, Great Places had worked with fellow Carbon Literacy pioneer, Manchester Metropolitan University, to deliver Train-the-Trainer to the Carbon Literacy Cartrefi Cymru (CLCC) Consortium, a collective of Welsh social housing providers who had emulated the work of the CL4RPs Consortium. The CLCC Consortium would go on to create its own course, offered as part of the Social Housing Toolkit, aimed specifically at social housing providers in Wales.

…across the wider public and private sector

Beginning close to home, Great Places helped to cultivate a low carbon culture across Greater Manchester; having trained a whole host of organisations serving local communities, including Transport for Greater Manchester, Groundwork GM, University of Salford, City of Trees, and BBC North West, amongst others.

Great Places’ external facing training also set precedents for Carbon Literacy on a much larger scale. Having delivered training to a significant number of local authorities in Greater Manchester, and subsequently to many others throughout the UK, growing demand across this sector fed into the creation of the Local Authorities Carbon Literacy Toolkit.

Initial training by Great Places has also inspired organisations to implement their own cascades; a few examples of this being…

  • Electricity North West becoming the first Carbon Literate energy network operator in the world.
  • The Environment Agency becoming one of the first government bodies to develop and roll out their own, bespoke Carbon Literacy training programme for all their staff.
  • Auto Trader funding and helping to create the Automotive Carbon Literacy Toolkit.

Such has been the increasing demand for Great Places’ Carbon Literacy delivery, the rapid growth in interest has led to the creation of a full time and dedicated ‘Carbon Literacy’ position within the team. In-post, Andy Wilson has been developing and delivering courses non-stop across multiple sectors and levels of staff.

“The appetite for Carbon Literacy has gone through the roof over the last couple of years; it feels as if the urgency of climate change is starting to translate across business radars and strategies, with a growing recognition that this agenda impacts profoundly across every aspect of every organisation. Carbon Literacy is fundamental to the transition that all businesses and individuals must have – it’s no longer a ‘nice to’ but rather a ‘need to have’.”

…around the world

Thanks to the generous support of Great Places, Sarah McClelland has also helped to lead the delivery of Carbon Literacy training at the launch of Carbon Literacy in both Amsterdam and Germany, expanding the possibilities of Carbon Literacy in other nations and helping us to reach new audiences and new heights!

Recognition as a CLTO

It’s no wonder then that Great Places’ Carbon Literacy training expertise was recognised back in 2018 when they were accredited as one of the world’s first and, to date, the social housing sector’s only, Carbon Literacy Training Organisation (CLTO).

“Having the CLTO accreditation certifies the quality of our courses and the experience of our Trainers, enabling other organisations [to] book our training with confidence. This credibility means we can fulfil our Carbon Literacy objective to influence both from the bottom up, and the top-down, enabling our leaders to make the bold decisions necessary with the informed support of the people they represent.”
– Great Places Housing.

Being such a pivotal partner in the expansion of Carbon Literacy both nationally and internationally, we’re immensely proud that Carbon Literacy has spread as far and wide as it has over the past 10 years. It’s partners like Great Places that have enabled this to happen, and exemplary of those that, in our 10th anniversary year, we want to celebrate!

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