From Ashden Award to National Network : Our Story so Far


Simon Brammer


The Fit for the Future Network began with an Ashden Gold Award. Simon Brammer, Programmes Manager at Ashden and member of the Network steering group, gives us the story so far. 

There are lots of environmental and sustainably awards that you can apply for, but winning an Ashden Award is different.  Different because we work with all our winners to help them reach scale and share their learning as widely as possible. It’s about accelerating progress towards a brighter, low-carbon future.

A Golden Opportunity

So, when the National Trust in Wales won our prestigious Gold Award in 2012 for reducing energy consumption by a whopping 40% across its estates, we knew we had to find a way to help others learn their secrets — if you can make a castle energy efficient, any other building should be a piece of cake.

So, I headed to Wales to spend a few days with the inspirational Keith Jones and Paul Southall who are the powerhouses behind these amazing achievements.  While sipping coffee in the sunshine outside a National Trust hostel in Snowdonia National Park (my job is hard sometimes) we asked ourselves a few questions: how can we help other big property-owning organisations benefit from what has happened here and learn from each other?  How do we prevent the wasted effort of re-inventing the wheel every time, and how can we ensure organisations trust the advice they receive?

The power of partnership and change

After many more conversations and scratching our collective heads, we came up the Fit for the Future Network.  The premise was very simple:  this network would be powered by showing, talking and learning together.  No fancy online databases but simply the age-old way of telling stories and asking questions.  We wanted to bring people together to see what could be done, to talk to the people who had already done it and to benefit from already hard-learned lessons.  In order to generate the trust required we were very clear from the start that this was to be a strictly non-commercial network based on the goodwill of people and organisations who believe in the power of partnership and change.

So on a cold day last November three inspirational women, Dame Helen Ghosh – Director General of the National Trust, Sarah Butler-Sloss –  Founding Director of Ashden and Juliet Davenport – CEO of Good Energy came together to launch the network at the CBI headquarters in London.  We were overwhelmed by interest and pledges of support.

Fit for the Future Network members

Celebrating our Successes

Nine months on, as you can probably see from our website, we have been a little taken aback by the demand – large organisation after large organisation has joined:  RSPB, Crowne Estates, RNLI, Northern Rail, Scottish Canals — the list keep growing.  We, with our ever-energetic and very hard working Network Co-ordinator, Chloe Hampson, bring staff together at learning events around the UK to broker introductions, set up master-classes andlet the magic happen.

Have a look around our brand new website to see who has joined, what we have achieved so far and how you can get involved.  The power of this National Trust and Ashden partnership is that, through saving energy, organisations are able to spend more of their money on their core purpose, whether that be saving lives at sea, preserving our beautiful heritage buildings, conserving birdlife and biodiversity or supporting volunteers.  They are also reducing their carbon emissions. I’d call that a win, win situation.  Are you Fit for the Future? Read more about what the Network can offer and find out how to become a member.

Simon Brammer is Ashden’s UK Programme Manager.