Greater Manchester Fire Service tackles climate change

MCFly recently “interviewed” the Corporate Environmental Manager of Greater Manchester Fire Service. Here’s the transcript…

What was the motivation to start doing the project with CLASP aroud creating Green Champions?
We have spent the last couple of years developing the management controls and capital investment programmes to ensure we do our part to reduce our carbon footprint and make our service more sustainable. We base lined our carbon footprint and worked with the carbon trust to develop and detailed carbon reduction plan. This has worked and last year we reduced our footprint by 6% but we felt there was something missing – our staff. Behavioural change is always the hardest thing to deliver as it requires a greater amount of effort – we know our staff are our most valuable resource and that through engaging them to help us in our sustainability journey they could contribute up to 15% savings in our natural resource use – so it was a “no brainer” to look at developing champions at a local level. There’s only one of me and I can’t be everywhere – but I’m not the only person that has a real keen interest in sustainability – it’s been amazing to find out just how many of our staff want to volunteer to be green champions on their sites.

How’s it going? What unexpected difficulties have been encountered?
I suppose it’s early days – we had informal champions last year but this year through the CLASP & NWIEP support we have developed training materials and a champions toolkit & handbook to really help those that volunteer to know where they can make a big impact. We did a training needs analysis as part of our sustainability strategy and have trained 20 sustainability mentors with IEMA approved environmental awareness training. These mentors are middle managers (station managers) across the 10 boroughs of GM and are responsible for recruiting the local champions on each station and provide a first point of call for them to field questions & respond to ideas. Anything they need to escalate we discuss together at a bi-monthly steering group. We don’t prescribe how many champions per site and so some have 1 per watch while others operate 1 per site. We will have well over 100 champions and growing at this stage.

In terms of difficulties – it has to be not having some reference materials for the champions to work from (in the early days) – there was a lot of willing and desire to get involved but without focus. This is why we developed the training package & handbook – it was really driven by the champions feeding back through their mentors that they need some guidance.

What will success look like? When will you know you’ve ‘succeeded’?
Success – once we have champions on every site successfully challenging staff behaviours and we can see measurable savings in our resource use that will be a first step. Ultimately we know that we have both a moral obligation to act on
climate change & sustainability and a less altruistic driver – future food, water and energy security for the future & of course costs savings – for me success will be when staff who were not previously turned on to the sustainability / climate change debate get involved and start to change their behaviour both at work and in their personal lives. – Of course we can measure this through our staff surveying each year to provide evidence of success.

Are other fire services in England doing similar things
Sure – we chair the NW Fire and Rescue Services Sustainability Network which includes; Merseyside, Lancashire, Chesire & Cumbria Fire Services. We all share the work we are doing and work cooperatively as far as our resources allow. The green champions handbook & training is being led by GM Fire but with the contribution and involvement of the other services.

We are also working with London Fire Brigade to set up a national share forum through the Chief Fire Officers Association so that all of the work we share in the North West can be made available to the other UK FRSs.

Anything else you want to say?
There’s lots more innovative work we are doing for example; we are developing the world’s first carbon footprint calculator for different types of fire (this is a part of emission reporting seriously lacking in the national CO2 emissions picture) – this will inform future building materials and build design as well as fire fighting techniques.

We are also the first public authority in the UK to certify all of our sites to the British environmental standard BS 8555 levels 1 to 3 and next year will be looking to certify our entire organisation to ISO 14001. There’s lots more we could talk about but probably the most important thing is that your readers know we are keen to share any of the work we do – I’m more than happy to forward electronic (editable) copies of any of our documents, training, handbooks, toolkits, audits etc… to anyone who could benefit from them – we need to do more with less – I think is a key message for the public sector – sharing our valuable work together is one way we can clearly achieve this.

Last point, CLASP and NWIEP’s support has been vital to getting us off the ground and sharing – particularly as a NW network. Without this support it is likely that we would all be operating separately – it has given us the opportunity to work together on shared projects and this is undoubtedly good for all.

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