The government’s new 25-year environment plan aligns with many aspects of National Grid’s own environmental sustainability programme and what’s important to us. Senior Sustainability Advisor Chris Plester looks at the parallels.
The UK government calls its 25-year environment plan ‘A Green Future’. It’s a title we can relate to at National Grid because it reflects a key part of our thinking.
We spelled this out in ‘Our Contribution’, National Grid’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, when we identified our priorities and set targets for what we want to achieve toward a sustainable future. Judging by the path the government is taking with this plan, we’re heading in the right direction, with many different areas of alignment including climate change, resilience, resource efficiency and collaboration.
Released in January, the government’s plan points to a ‘natural capital’ approach to environmental improvement. Natural capital links health and prosperity with the benefits we receive from nature. These ‘ecosystem services’ go beyond clean air, fresh water and raw materials to deliver direct and tangible business benefits such as reduced flood risk, visual screening and security. Other benefits include the increased sense of wellbeing we get from being outside.
As an element of our strategy, natural capital is part and parcel of what the sustainability team has been working with the business to implement and embed in our decisions for some time. This commitment from government demonstrates that we are all moving in the same direction.
We recently reviewed our environmental sustainability strategy, reconnecting the strategy with our business and setting more targets with greater granularity – including our commitment to deliver net gain in environmental value.
The government’s natural capital direction reinforces our decision to pilot a new approach that widens our scope of impact assessment to focus on environmental value (an amalgamation of biodiversity and natural capital). For example, we need to look more closely at the impact that building our infrastructure has on nature and the benefits and services it provides to us and others.
The government, and National Grid, want to see lasting environmental benefit resulting from development projects like ours. Considering a wider range of impacts and opportunities can ensure that we can better mitigate potential losses and ensure we deliver added value by working with those who could be impacted by them.
As we strive to find more efficient ways of working, our net gain approach will make sure we concentrate on the environmental features and values that are important, not just to us but to the communities and environments where we work.
Collaborating with experts
Collaboration is another key theme throughout the plan and is an important part of our sustainability strategy. We already work with external organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts, Conservation Volunteers and RSPB, as well as our contractors and supply chain drawing on their expertise to drive more sustainable outcomes.
Another chapter in ‘A Green Future’ looks at how engaging more with nature adds to our health and wellbeing. National Grid’s network of four environmental education centres, run in partnership with local charities, helps fulfil this ambition. They welcome around 40,000 visitors a year and help people of all ages experience nature. For children, it’s a chance to build skills and confidence in the natural environment. These environment centres have been in operation for more than 20 years. They demonstrate effective collaboration and partnership, and enrich the communities where National Grid operates.
At National Grid, we work to have a positive impact on the environment, and to leave communities where we work better for our having been there. The 25-year plan makes clear that the government wants the same.