Puppy Power! Going Green at Guide Dogs



We welcome new members, the charity Guide Dogs, whose mission is ensuring that when someone loses their sight, they don’t lose their freedom as well. For the charity, reducing their impact on the environment has brought many benefits including freeing up valuable funds to assist more people with sight loss in feeling independent and supported in the world.


The charity has over 1,400 employees across 26 UK sites, from Northern Ireland and Scotland to the South of England. In 2012, with the support of the trustees, they kicked off the development of an environmental policy, and now have a dedicated sustainability team of two.

Since introducing the policy, Guide Dogs have made impressive savings including £43,000 at their National Breeding Centre (NBC) in the first year alone, which is almost the same amount of money as it costs to provide a specially trained guide dog.  The Fit for the Future Network team visited the training centre near Leamington Spa to learn more about how they achieved this and, of course, to meet the puppies.




Sit! A Bottom up approach


Hannah and Mark explained that it has been a process of improving efficiency, encouraging innovation and honing in on the small changes that make a big difference.The focus has been on changing the culture within the organisation and getting people to think differently about what they do.

Taking a bottom-up approach to sustainable thinking and engagement, they have created a network of Sustainability Implementation Teams (SITs) and green representatives around the country made up of volunteer staff members. One of the ways behaviour change has been encouraged is by translating savings into things that are meaningful to staff, like the amount of dog food that could be bought instead.





Focus on Efficiency


The Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre was built with sustainability in mind, incorporating a woodchip biomass boiler and rain water harvesting system. As is so often the case, people didn’t necessary know how to use the building to best effect, and it wasn’t running efficiently. The initial work was about understanding the building and reducing energy use whilst keeping conditions cosy for the staff and puppies.

Getting the biomass boiler running efficiently  led to significant savings. The team have also managed to halve waste bills by getting a recycling system in place.


Encouraging Innovation


Another big part of savings successes has been innovation. SIT teams have been encouraged to come up with new ideas, which have included introducing sustainable dog beds and thinking up inventive ways to use the scrap leather that is a by-product of on-site harness making.




Further savings are being made every year, and the team are keen to find new ways to improve the charity’s sustainability. By joining the Fit for the Future Network, the team look forward to working with other charities to find solutions.


More than 80 organisations are working together through the Fit for the Future Network to become more sustainable. Check out the full list here.