On the 27th of July, iNetwork continued its iN The Loop webcast series with a discussion on Sustainability and Net Zero. Sustainability and Net Zero has been a topic of focus for iNetwork with events such as Net Zero week. iNetwork was joined by an experienced panel of practitioners from member organisations across the public sector. The panel consisted of Andrew Smith, Research Lead (Environment and Sustainability) at Crown Commercial Services (CCS), Heidi Barnard, Group Head of Sustainability, Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust and Sarah Henshall, Zero Carbon Manager at Manchester City Council.

The varied discussion explored many of the key debates around Net Zero and Sustainability including current policy on sustainability and net zero, greenwashing, ensuring sustainability extends to suppliers and current ongoing schemes being undertaken by each organisation involved in the debate.

The debate began with a reflection on the evolution of the policies around sustainability. Andrew explained that the introduction of social value was the first policy that made net zero and sustainability more central in policy. This has since been backed up by numerous other policy changes including the introduction of Carbon Reduction Plans (CRPs). Following the discussion on policy change, Heidi and Helen were asked whether they had seen a shift within their organisation to focus more on sustainability and net zero. Heidi discussed the impact of COP26 and the current cost of living crisis, noting that it had increased awareness and focus on sustainability and social value from colleagues across the NHS. Helen mentioned Manchester City Council (MCC) has been working on reducing its carbon emissions for over 10 years, firmly embedding the agenda within the council. In addition, Helen highlighted that MCC has a strategy in place to be net zero by 2038, 12 years ahead of the central government target. Andrew noted that CSS plays a vital role in supporting suppliers with CRPs, ensuring they are also able to meet ambitious net zero targets. Heidi stated that CPRs are helping her to understand the challenges facing suppliers with regard to sustainability.

Panellists were asked about specific ongoing projects within their organisation. Helen explained MCC have several projects ongoing in order to meet their net zero targets, most recently they have replaced all their street lighting with more efficient LED lighting. In addition, MCC are in the process of changing all their motor vehicles to electric rather than petrol vehicles, as well as introducing E-Cargo bikes across the city. Similarly, Heidi stated the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust are investing in electric vehicles and encourages community nurses to carpool where possible. Heidi Explained that the NHS has been doing some work analysing which procedures and processes are the most carbon intensive, intending to reduce emissions in the future. Andrew discusses some of the suppliers he works with, stating he has been impressed with advances in innovative technology to drive sustainability forwards.

The wide ranging conversation and debate covered many more sub topics within sustainability including whether net zero targets were realistic and what policy changes each of them would make to ensure net zero targets are met. Make sure you listen to the whole episode on our dedicated iN The Loop web page, where you can also catch up with all our other discussions. Our next iN The Loop webcast will take place on 7th September exploring what the public sector is doing to combat the cost of living crisis. Click here to register