Creative Youth Network
Creating an action plan as a cross-departmental green team
Supporting young people who are marginalised, unemployed, not in education, or suffer poor mental health, the Creative Youth Network is a busy charity. In 2019, they supported more than 9,000 young people in Bristol.
As well as their youth outreach work, they also own, manage and renovate buildings where they lease office and workshop space within local communities.
Creative Youth Network enables young people, no matter what their background or circumstances, to reach their own potential Building a sustainable future for the youth.
As a frontline organisation, they have traditionally focused on the areas of social and financial sustainability. But with the intersectional reality that young people will bear the brunt of the climate crisis, the team was keen to take more formal steps to address its environmental impacts and put a plan in place.
The challenges initially faced were:
- Where to begin and what to prioritise
- Understanding the impacts of such a diverse organisation
- How to work collectively to address them
To help Creative Youth Network turn their sustainability vision into actions, Livvy (Head, Sustainable Sidekicks) was brought in to facilitate bi-monthly workshops.
As a first step, we recommended creating a Green Team, a working group made of people from across departments, from the CEO to building managers, youth workers and receptionists; providing a wealth of experience and insight.
In the introductory workshop, the team took a step back and identified what they considered to be the bigger worldwide environmental, social and financial issues. They then zoned into their own organisation and the challenges that they faced.
Looking at impacts
In order for the team to understand their impacts better, Livvy conducted an audit looking at:
Each session was dedicated to evaluating a particular impact area with the team, identifying the barriers and solutions through an operational, environmental, structural and social perspective. This allowed the Green Team reps to check in with their own teams and get insights.
For instance, they identified the following barriers to adopting low carbon travel:
- Operational – People needed to transport equipment for sessions
- Environmental – Bristol’s hills and weather were a deterrent to cycling
- Structural – the bus service is unreliable
- Personal/Social – Parental responsibilities to drop off and collect children
This deeper understanding was a solid foundation to develop an action plan that reflected the priorities of different divisions as well as the opportunities to collaborate.
Planning a path of least resistance
Understanding the existing demands of the teams also meant the focus was on creating collaborative systems and automation, reducing the strain on each team member.
Creative Youth Network’s action plan includes measures such as:
- Setting up recommended and default purchase items from stationery and cleaning suppliers
- Setting fixed days for ordering supplies and putting these through nominated team members to reduce supplier journeys
- Introducing sensored lighting and computer idling settings which will also save them money
- Grouping bins together and making bin signage consistent and relevant
- Creating procurement checklists for people to follow
Livvy regularly reminded the team “to remove the friction from a behaviour and design a path of least resistance”. Dan Ariely – Behavioural Economist
Sustainable doesn’t mean expensive
Of course, for a charity, budgets were important and when initially looking at organic products for T-shirts and food, there was an overall 50% increase.
However, the procurement process was designed with “Reduce” and “Reuse” as the first actions and decisions were made based on questions such as:
The team had also identified some great ideas for efficiency savings:
- Print-request settings on the printer significantly reduced unnecessary printing and recycled paper could be prioritised
- Toilet roll and blue roll dispensers that minimise how much people use
- Upgrades on phones being delayed until operating systems needed replacing
- Requiring the return of T-shirts when people leave so they could be washed and reused
- 6 month stationary audits to avoid over-ordering of items and sharing across teams and departments.
The team now has an action plan that covers the big challenges of working towards Net-Zero plus improving their waste, travel, biodiversity and procurement processes with targets, actions and responsibilities for each department.
A huge thank you for all your work, helping us to put together our environmental strategy and action plan.
Your ability to bring a team together, think through the big picture and how CYN impacts on our environment was great but even more impressive was how you then took the group through the difficult detail of how we might change our operations, purchasing, travel, building management and youth work to achieve the impact we wanted.
Your eye for detail is impressive – down to the cost of organic pasta and up to the costs of solar arrays on our roofs. You have set us on the path to Net Zero!
Sandy Hore-Ruthven, Chief Executive, Creative Youth Network
Creating an engaging sustainability policy
If you would like to go through a step-by-step process of creating a policy, sign up for the online workshop. Not only will you come away with the tools and templates to create a policy. You will also be able to:
- Capture your vision, values and concerns
- Identify your priorities
- Create targets and an action plan
- Get buy-in from teams and departments
- Deliver a similar workshop with your team and clients