Our Comment: Reflections on our Annual Conference

Our Annual Conference took place earlier this month. It provided an opportunity to discuss the green recovery and what this means for the West Midlands and was very timely given the recently announced Energy White Paper and Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution from Government. It also gave us an opportunity to showcase our members achievements and successes of 2020 despite challenging circumstances. We heard from AceOn regarding their renewable power plant ‘Renewergy’, from the City of Wolverhampton on their Tree and Woodland Strategy, and National Express WM on their move to a fully electric fleet. These inspirational case studies were perhaps something that was needed more than ever this year as those achievements mean that little bit more in such challenging times.

Having only worked at Sustainability West Midlands for three months as part of my University placement at Coventry University, this was my first SWM Annual Conference… or in fact any conference of this size! Not only did it show me the logistics and organisation required to plan a large flagship event online, but it also showed me how great it can be to have so many people from different organisations working together in one virtual room. With 75 cross-sector delegates it was essential that the event ran smoothly.

The breakout rooms were a personal highlight of mine, aimed to shape discussions on our Sustainability Roadmap to 2030 and to question how we use learning from 2020 to the advantage of regional sustainability. After taking part in the Social Equity and Health session, it became clear that staying on track for a green and inclusive recovery is more important than ever. As the discussion proved, there is a risk that perhaps we will not build back better. The growing desire of people wanting a sense of normality may lead to communities and economies returning to how they were before the pandemic.

Our work with regional stakeholders is a critical part of the region’s green recovery. We’re working with the Midlands Energy Hub to determine the low carbon jobs and skills of the future, we’re supporting the WMCA to develop a new pledge allowing businesses of all sizes and sectors to commit to making a change, and we continue to support low carbon innovation through our work with the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands and the West Midlands Innovation Programme. If you’d like to work more closely with SWM, please get in touch.

The conference left me feeling positive for the future. It was very encouraging to see so many different organisations with so much knowledge in their field, committed to making the West Midlands a more sustainable, greener and fairer region for all.

Amy Bostock, Volunteer Communications Officer, SWM