As a business based in Twickenham but trading nationally and globally, from our inception we were very keen to have an impact locally. With both co-founders living and working in Richmond, and both with children attending local schools, there was a clear vested interest in making the local area as green and biodiverse as possible. And so the Borough Green Pledge was conceived!
The overall aim of our project has been to increase engagement within our community in sustainability issues so that the power of the individual can be harnessed, en masse, to have a significant impact on mitigating against climate change. Our project has been designed with various engagement mechanisms in place: research (online surveys, stakeholder focus groups), motivational workshops (for businesses and schools), and ultimately the Green Pledge. The Green Pledge asks residents and businesses to make a commitment to adopting certain behaviours that will reduce their environmental impact. In return, they will have access to helpful resources to make their sustainability decision-making simpler and more informed, and will be part of a community that encourages knowledge-sharing and positive action. This Pledge-based system can then be used as a blueprint for other London Boroughs and other Councils around the country, with the potential for adding a range of progress-monitoring metrics for a bit of healthy competition between areas!
We began the project by meeting with the Borough Council and also with our local MP, Munira Wilson. Both have been very supportive of our project, sharing information and survey links via their own communication platforms. With the residents research part of our project, we gained feedback from several hundred locals via an online quantitative study which asked about peoples' attitudes towards environmental issues and their current behaviour across a range of areas such as active travel, single-use plastics, recycling, diet and so forth. From the survey we also gleaned a lot of information on who residents feel need to take responsibility for making positive change, and what barriers they personally encounter on the road to a more sustainable existence. We were also able to gauge the level of for a range of regenerative initiatives and gave residents the opportunity to make suggestions as to where they think improvements could be made within the community.
This information has been invaluable in terms of engaging both with the local Council and with local businesses and organisations, who are more able to see the benefit in making changes (such as cafes reassessing the use of disposables, creating cross-Borough education steering groups) when there is clear data-driven evidence of community support. It has also provided an opportunity to kick-start conversations regarding public-private partnerships and grant funding so that less pressure is put on the public purse at this time.
Our research - canvassing opinion from the residents of Richmond Borough via on online survey - was a vital starting point for our project. Not only has it given us data on current patterns of behaviour and really spelt out where the barriers are to people adopting a more sustainability minded lifestyle, it has also assured us that there is a huge appetite within our local community for positive and long-term change. The level of enthusiasm was much greater than we anticipated. Our residents survey contained a section for open-ended responses in which people could tell us about all their ideas, their issues, the things that annoy them - which was a brilliant way for people to feel their voice is being heard, and that they can play a role in shaping sustainability policies within their community. We really believe that exercises such as this are key to successful engagement. It also brought lots of local grassroots organisations out of the woodwork, some we'd never even heard of, and we really see this is as an opportunity to bring together lots of like-minded people within the Borough so that we can knowledge-share and collaborate.
There is also great value in having solid, extensive data with respect to engaging with other stakeholders to affect change. Our evidence-based research has given us a platform to have persuasive discussions with a range of stakeholders, be it the Council, schools or businesses.
We always advocate for individual choice and believe that small changes can have a big effect when implemented across communities. This approach really helps allay peoples' fears that their individual efforts are pointless - when we talk about them being part of a wider Borough action on climate change, they see their own individual value as part of that grander initiative and it really is motivating!