Photo of Glasgow's Kelvinside overlooking a bridge

How can an Environmental Policy & Plan benefit you?

Planning and implementing your policy.

Scotland has been in a climate crisis since May 2019, and Glasgow aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Reports such as the Climate Change Plan 2018–32 and Glasgow’s Climate Plan give us insights into overall visions and actions for the country. But how do we go from the general view at the societal level to acting in our organisation? Our Climate Team suggests starting with an environmental policy and plan tailored to your organisation. This policy can be your beacon and tool on your journey to cut carbon, save energy and lower bills. In this blog, the team provide a practical guide, sharing examples from those we’re already working with.

Red Sandstone Tenement Flats in Glasgow

What is your organisation’s strategy to cut carbon, save energy and lower bills?

At GCVS, we regularly run workshops on the topic of environmental policies. Let’s look at the critical components from the workshop and hear insights shared by one of the organisations that recently attended; Families Outside.

Prof. Nancy Loucks OBE, Chief Executive at Families Outside, explains why an environmental policy matters.

Families outside logo

“We need to have an Environmental Policy, not least because of the impact of climate change on the families we support – those likely to be most vulnerable to its effects. We’ve also found that staff are beginning to ask questions about cycle-to-work schemes – which we now have – and how their pensions are being invested.

Your organisation’s personal action plan

A core policy element is linking your commitments to an actual plan. When stating your commitment – the building blocks of your policy – find inspiration, for example, in Zero Waste Scotland Environmental Policy. As this document points out, the policy goes together with their plan to reach net zero. The more in-depth work is to construct a plan of how you will carry out your policy. To find out what is relevant for your organisation, we advise you to map out activities in light of four key themes:

  1. Energy usage for community facilities or to deliver local services
  2. Travel and transport
  3. Food and water
  4. Consumption and waste

Just as people and their needs are different, so are organisations. An environmental policy and plan should reflect a given organisation. An office-based organisation will use a significant amount of energy to heat a building, whereas this is only relevant for an outdoor organisation with indoor facilities. The latter organisation might drive citizens to and from places, so it could be pertinent to investigate the possibilities of reducing emissions linked to transport.

Once you have mapped your activities, you can easier formulate activities to insert into your plan. For example, one task could be to monitor your electricity consumption every month, and another could be to look into options for recycled office furniture, whether you wish to acquire or recycle items.

Glasgow tenement back courts with allotment gardens

Actions to benefit both your organisation and the planet

The Circularity Gap Report Scotland, which Net Zero Scotland launched in collaboration with Circle Economy, is the first-ever quantitative analysis of the state of the circular economy in Scotland. It reveals a huge potential for improving recycling, stating “Only 1.3% of the resources Scotland uses are cycled back into the economy, with over 98% of Scotland’s material use coming from virgin resources.”

When considering how consumption and waste can be upgraded in your organisation, you support a circular economy and avoid goods going to landfills. Everything that ends on the landfill contributes to the formation of greenhouse gases and, thus, an increase in temperature. Another advantage of keeping resources in the consumption loop is that used goods usually cost less than when bought new.

You can spot new areas and measures by systematically assessing your activities from an energy and climate-friendly perspective. As Nancy Loucks points out, it’s worth recognising and working with different environmental issues, for example, noise and light pollution and not only the more ‘traditional’ topics such as fuel consumption.

A Green Team to lift shared efforts

As much as you need to put the name of the person performing a task along with a deadline, change must be a team effort. Nancy Loucks describes how people’s commitment within the organisation was essential to getting their policy in place.

We drafted our policy with inputs from staff volunteers from across the organisation, which was great. It was important to harness the interest, skills, and enthusiasm of the staff team so that efforts towards change are collaborative rather than imposed. The final version benefited from the support of a new member of staff who was qualified to deliver accredited training in Carbon Literacy, which was amazing.”

If there are very few active people within your organisation, you could benefit from teaming up with other organisations to make a Green Team across organisations. There will be actions that only someone within your organisation can perform, but other tasks focused on external information, such as pension schemes based on green investments, or contacting the council to find optimal waste options, could be organised across organisations.

Sharing knowledge across organisations is also a valued element at our workshops. As Nancy Loucks experienced:

It was helpful to hear ideas from other organisations, especially regarding environmental champions and thinking of actions beyond just having a recycling bin. Participants were all at different stages of their thinking, so it was useful to hear from those who were more experienced and were there to sense-check or revise existing policies and those who were just starting out.”

Steps on the environmentally friendly journey

An environmental policy and plan should be your organisation’s tool, so its goals and tasks have to make sense to you. As much as we support formulating initiatives as measurable actions, sometimes it can be reassuring to remind ourselves and others that it’s an environmental journey rather than a quick tick-off task list when working with environmentally friendly practices. Families Outside uses the term ‘direction of travel’ where measurements are particularly challenging. Furthermore, we agree with their experience to be realistic about what you can influence and how to ensure this is supportive rather than directive.

Our world is alive and changing. Accordingly, an environmental policy and plan should also change over time. We recommend that you regularly assess and adjust your documents to find new sustainable, passable ways forward.

For help and advice with your environmental policy please get in touch with our climate coordinators, Gazelle and Robert, at: 

Read more about support with Climate Action here and find the latest training opportunities here.

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