12 Jan 2021

Our journey to reduce environmental impact - Thirteen

Since we started our journey to reduce our environmental impact at Thirteen, we have come a long way. 

We began talking to colleagues across the organisation over 18 months ago to ask them what they thought it meant for Thirteen. It was there we began to talk about the impact of the business, housing stock and customers. We recognised that we needed to know where we were as a business before we could take the next steps. 

Before you begin to get staff engaged, I would say an organisation most certainly needs to know what environmental sustainability means to them, what are their drivers? and what good looks like.

We scoped out and measured what the baseline position would be for the organisation and what our journey would look like. This is different for every organisation.

Thirteen has set its ambition to reach net zero carbon by 2035 on its direct business emissions and we’ve made some significant changes already to help us achieve this. We’ve looked at cleaner sources of energy, installed renewable energy on our office buildings and we’re trialling electric vehicles.

Shortly after we began these discussions, we started to plan a campaign as we knew how important communicating with colleagues and customers would be, to get them on board and ensure that they could understand and relate to our plans. The Take Control campaign was launched last year with colleagues and involved customers.   

The Take Control Campaign is about making the organisation more environmentally conscious and getting colleagues on board in helping stamp out direct carbon emissions, in turn reducing the negative impact on the planet, in line with the government’s target of 100 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

This engagement is a two-way conversation. Yes, we’re building colleagues’ knowledge on climate change, but in a way that they can give us feedback at every stage and support our journey.

The campaign is very much a team effort with eco ambassadors – a network of colleagues driving the campaign. They’ve put a great deal of effort into building their knowledge through training that they can share with colleagues. We’ve made further commitments to training, which we will be rolling out through the whole organisation. 

Showing commitment is an absolute priority. You need to invest in the resource to drive the agenda. That’s exactly what we’ve done. Over the last year at Thirteen, we’ve built a specialist team, with experts and a great deal of knowledge and passion to achieve our goals.

Across the organisation we’ve made some great achievements and on reflection there has been some proud moments for many colleagues. 

Recently, our facilities management team opened the first environmental centre in the region and we’re aiming to reduce waste to landfill by 95% by reducing, upcycling and recycling our waste. This is so unique, with a big focus on our customers and communities. It has an upcycling department, which will see furniture from empty properties, offices and unsaleable stock from furniture stores refurbished, to help the most vulnerable and those in need, while the innovation lab will be used to test new technology to make homes safer and greener and smarter.

The centre’s ecology centre has classrooms, beehives, bat boxes and trees, to provide local communities with an opportunity to learn about how we can all improve our environment.

Our technical asset management colleagues are looking at what needs to be done to deliver sustainable homes which are fit for the future and that are right for our customers.

We know that retrofitting homes is a challenge and one which everyone is facing.  The team has been testing out new products, services and smart technologies which could be used in the future. The technology installed in our pilot projects, monitored through sensors, will provide essential insight into how the organisation can move towards its goal of being carbon neutral, while lowering the costs for customers and providing a new standard of aspirational homes. 

It’s all about making the right choices now and in the future. Our customers are our priority and what we’re setting out to do will be beneficial for them, so that we can continue to look after their health and wellbeing.

But we must add value through initiatives, such as tackling fuel poverty, while we continually educate our colleagues so they can continue to support our customers. Reducing our carbon footprint is everyone’s responsibility and there are many ways that we can all contribute.

Written by Sam Granger

Sam Granger is head of environmental and sustainability at Thirteen.