21 April 2016
Choosing a Network Champion is all about recognising the outstanding work being done by an individual within the Network, both for their own organisation and the Fit for the Future group as a whole.We are very pleased to announce our first Network Champion of 2016, Sarah Alsbury, Environmental Manager at RSPB. Sarah’s role is all about saving nature in the greenest way possible. From nurdles and vehicle design to the environmental impacts of wellingtons, there’s never a dull day! We interview Sarah for insight into her work, achievements and future vision for sustainability at RSPB.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your day-to-day role within the RSPB?
My role is to support our staff and volunteers at all levels to be even greener. As an organisation, we’re dedicated to saving nature and we need to do that in as green a way as possible. Our staff are very committed but there’s always more you can do and lots of demands on limited resources.
My main focus is on our environmental management system and the objectives on carbon, procurement, legal compliance, waste and water. The fun part is that I never know what I’ll be asked next from designing washdown areas for vehicles to the environmental impacts of wellingtons!
I’m a bit like the organisation’s Jiminy Cricket and there are times when I feel like a cracked record – asking “how’ve you taken into account the environmental impacts?” repeatedly!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The best bit is when I’ve helped staff to make a change for the better. One thing I’ve put in place is the Energy Pot, which “loans” money to workplaces for energy conservation work (e.g. LED lighting, insulation) in return for a budget transfer equivalent to the estimated savings. In this way the workplace is better off and the pot keeps growing so we can do more.
Can you tell us about the projects you are particularly proud of?
There are lots of great projects that RSPB has undetaken recently. In partnership with Ecotricity, we now have 100m wind turbine at our headquarters, estimated to produce 1.85million kWh a year – enough power for 480 homes. It’s a very physical demonstration of the RSPB’s commitment to tackling climate change – yet surprisingly hard to see as it fits in very well with the surrounding landscape.
One project that is particularly close to my heart is our environmental procurement policy (i.e. not buying them) for products that are linked to the destruction of habitats and loss of wildlife. These include products such as seafood, timber, palm oil, sugar, meat, dairy, coffee, etc.
Some of these projects, especially palm oil, are insidious and implementing the policy requires continual effort and imagination!
Which other organisations have you worked with through the Network and what have been the positive results?
I have worked particularly with the Energy Management Group, which includes the National Trust, Oxfam GB, Tate, RNLI and Cancer Research UK. The chance to talk things through with others facing similar challenges has been invaluable. Plus, I adapted the idea of the RSPB Energy Pot from the National Trust’s system of “loaning” funds to projects with a payback from savings and/or income. Network sharing in action!
What would be your future vision for the RSPB in terms of sustainability?
My vision would be that we have all workplaces at the same minimum standard! This might not sound ambitious but we do have over 140 workplaces and I think it’s crucial to take everyone with us. Yes we need the innovators forging ahead but they would have limited impact unless we all apply their learning.
Check out our Network champions hall of fame, and let us know if you’d like to nominate someone you’ve worked with in the Network
Featured image © Jo Garbutt