James Newell on Sustainability

What Sustainability Means To Me

By James Newell, Executive Director at Groundwork East

“I was incredibly lucky to travel all over the world when I was a management consultant. Embracing new cultures enriches the soul in ways too numerous to mention; but while I was achieving the full ‘live, laugh, love’ triumvirate, the issue of sustainability weighed on my mind with increasing regularity. For me, sustainability spanned two core categories.

“The first strand of sustainability was climate change and the effect is has on the environment. I started to notice negative changes in places I visited regularly. Subsistence farming communities talked of later rains and less reliable crop yields. Rivers full of plastic, carrier bags lining roadsides in thicker, more dramatic blooms each year. Choking on thick diesel fumes was common in most of the ‘downtowns’ I explored.

“My second sustainability concern was the scale of the global problem – I nearly burnt myself out supporting charities in furtherance of the Sustainable Development Goals – but the NGO sector thinks in billions, and achieving the SDGs will undoubtedly require trillions. It seems easy to be put off by the scale of the problems, but the perennial optimist in me sees them as a unique and urgent rallying call – we are all in this together.

Sustainability as a concept is multifaceted, but at its core is the collective action we take to improve our custodianship of the planet. The ill-effects of climate change are particularly hard on those least equipped to deal with them, with flooding, drought and rising temperatures demanding more from already stretched governmental budgets.

“In charity fundraising there is a well-proven marketing concept of identifiability. By identifying a single beneficiary – i.e. ‘adopt a polar bear’ it is proven to be a far more effective ask than ‘help fight climate change’. There is utility in applying this concept to our approach to sustainability; Groundwork’s Sustainable Business Consultants are expert in helping clients of all types work out their starting point on a sustainability journey.

“Groundwork improves prospects for people and places. By working with us as your sustainability partner we can co-create solutions to the problems of our time. We take a holistic approach – blending class-leading sustainability consulting services with proven methodologies to engage and involve your staff and customer populations on the journey with you.

“As a community charity and national federation, all of the income we generate through sustainability partnerships is spent directly in your community – making us an incredibly effective part of a sustainable supply chain. Within Groundwork East, and across the whole Groundwork Federation, we have developed a unique portfolio of innovative and flexible sustainability services. We partner with all types of organisation; from local authorities to county councils, fast-growing start-ups and established multi-generation businesses, national utility companies and local Co-ops.

“Groundwork is a powerful and passionate network of professionals that I am proud to be a part of.

“A marathon starts with a single step, and we would love the opportunity to partner with you to achieve positive change.”