Sustainability? You’re already doing it!

Mention the need to prioritise sustainability to most senior leaders and all too often there are one of two immediate reactions.  Either it’s ‘don’t you know we have a business to run here’ or it’s ‘I’d love to but it’s all too expensive and difficult’.

And to some extent, those passionate about sustainability are responsible for such reactions.  We talk apocalyptically about the climate crisis and the need for fundamental change in how we do business.  And we have also created an alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations around sustainability that confuse and massively over-complicate things.

As ever, keeping things simple and straightforward is always the better option.  And, also, recognising that sustainability is not a new construct but an approach that is as old as the hills.  Perhaps most importantly, though, pretty much every organisation will have a hoard of treasures of fantastic sustainability practice if only we look properly.

The Social Care Sustainability Leadership Alliance that was established earlier this year brings together senior leaders with responsibility for sustainability issues within their organisations from across the social care sector.  The Alliance aims to provide support to providers of all sizes in building strategies to reduce their environmental footprint while strengthening social and governance infrastructures.  Importantly, whilst the Alliance draws support from across organisations supporting the sector, its core membership comes from the senior leadership of providers and operators.

At the first meeting of the Alliance, members agreed to produce a document that sought to set out the commercial arguments for investing in sustainable growth within social care.  The aim was to provide those seeking to embark on or to deepen the sustainability journeys within their social care organisations with clear evidence to persuade Executive and Board teams of the financial as well as moral arguments for embracing sustainability at the heart of their organisations.

We have now published this paper – The Business Case for Sustainability in Social Care – and it is full of fantastic examples of the innovation, enthusiasm and creativity of the sector to rise to the sustainability challenge.  From creating sustainable menus that include a daily selection of low-carbon plant-based meals, to halving care-related waste by introducing vac-pack systems, to the installation of a smart meter infrastructure to improve monitoring of energy usage, there are myriad examples of action being taken by care providers from which others can learn.

But perhaps the most powerful examples of change are those that revolve around behavioural change instigated by staff and others on the front line of social care.  Like those care homes where staff focus on recycling to slash the amount of waste going to landfill.  Or services where staff have come together with residents to create beautiful gardens that promote biodiversity.  Or those teams that simply focus on turning lights off when they’re not needed, turning thermostats down a degree or two, or only filling a kettle with enough water for one cup of tea!  Added up, all of these small changes can add up to big change.  And every one of us can play a part.

Harnessing and encouraging such local-led activity is an incredibly powerful – and low-cost – way to accelerate your sustainability journey. 

At CareTech Ltd, we have introduced our CARE4 One Planet Living programme to provide a framework for each of our services to deliver positive improvements across the sustainability agenda.  The programme is based on Bioregional’s One Planet Living sustainability framework, comprising ten simple principles and detailed goals and guidance.  Importantly, programme targets are included in the company’s corporate reporting framework, demonstrating that sustainability is a key element of the core business of the company.  

Similarly, Voyage Care’s ‘Mission Zero’ campaign is targeted at colleagues and the people they support to drive engagement and awareness of sustainability initiatives.  Captain Planet and his three sustainability sidekicks – Energy Educator, Water Wiz and Waste Warrior – provide a series of fun and engaging activities to support people with guidance on reducing their environmental impact.

These examples show that sustainability can – and should – sit at the heart of how we deliver our business in social care.  But also that so much change can be delivered through low-cost interventions driven by our staff and those for whom we care in ways that will excite and inspire them.

As is all too often the case in social care, if we properly listen to and empower our incredible teams then the change we can deliver is huge – and it is all rather simpler than we might think.

The Business Case for Sustainability in Social Care and details about the Alliance and becoming a member are available at

Originally published in Caring Times