SWM Annual Conference 2015: Sustainability and the West Midlands Combined Authority

Date of Conference

19 October 2015


  • Brendan Connor, Cenex
  • Jake Thrush, West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority
  • Jan Jennings, West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future
  • Martin Reeves, Coventry City Council
  • Matthew Rhodes, Encraft
  • Peter Braithwaite, SWM
  • Sharon Palmer, RAWM
  • Sharon Palmer, Tarmac
  • Simon Slater, SWM

Purpose of the presentations

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is the new governance structure being initiated for the West Midlands by the seven Metropolitan Authorities: Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The West Midlands Combined Authority promises to regain our region’s heritage as ‘Britain’s engine for growth’ but how will its plans affect economic development, social issues and the environment?

Our annual conference brought together over 100 business and community leaders to take a closer look at the new authority’s priorities and the crucial role of a sustainability agenda in ensuring lasting and inclusive prosperity across the region.

In this consultation period before the launch of the new combined authority in April 2016, the conference provided a much-needed forum for open discussion. It was an opportunity to work together, to ‘think big’ and to make bold propositions for sustainable development in the West Midlands.

We heard from Jonathon Porritt, the inspirational writer, commentator, author and co-founder of the sustainability development think tank Forum for the Future, and from an expert panel of senior people from influential organisations in the Midlands, in the public, private and third sectors. Jan Jennings, Communications Manager for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), provided a brief history,  the current position, and future ambition of the authority.

We were reminded that although the current Government policy is bleak and has moved us from the top to the bottom of the global leadership table on climate change, the global situation is very exciting. The recent UN global sustainability goals and targets are the first time developed and developing nations have signed up to an agreed framework for future progress. Solar technology is now the same costs as other traditional energy sources in 28 counties now, and will be globally by 2017. The Bank of England and financial markets are warning investors that fossil fuel investments are overvalued and in the long term will need to be written off. Meanwhile locally the opportunity to devolve power, although for the wrong reasons (narrow economic focus and shifting the blame for cuts) promises the best opportunity for the local control and delivery of a sustainable future for a generation.

“High level ambition, leadership and networks from SWM, has kept the West Midlands on the global sustainability map. Don’t under-estimate how important it is to have the only regional sustainability body left in the UK” Jonathon Porritt

“If we didn’t already have an organisation such as SWM, the WMCA would have had to create one…” Martin Reeves, Coventry City Council


Over 96% of delegates providing feedback rated our Annual Conference as excellent or good in terms of content and organisation. Feedback included:

“It is now a lot clearer on what the WMCA means to us”, “Great event – Jonathon Porritt was inspiring”, “Very enlightening”

Twitter highlights included:

Matthew Rhodes from – we can be the independent voice of the future

Simon Slater – we need to be better at aligning ourselves with global issues & opportunities

Next panellist Sharon Palmer from – WM goal has to be a better quality of life for all

Time to put the backbone back into what makes the WM special again… Your challenge delegates!!

Jan Jennings: has the business voice and we want to wrestle power away from London

Revolution? Battery Storage IS exciting! told you so 2 yrs ago… and prices keep dropping!

… Congratulations to everyone at for contributing to the sust agenda

Next Steps

As a result of our existing evidence and the ideas and feedback provided at the conference we will produce a report for the WMCA focused on the need to integrate sustainability into its activities and priorities. The further development and implementation of this will  be through a support programme we are currently finalising with the WMCA and partners. Subscribe to our newsletters for monthly updates and links to further resources and outputs.

The WMCA is dedicated to informing and engaging with its key stakeholders. Following the conference the WMCA invite you to sign up to their monthly newsletter for general updates. If you would like to receive more specific updates regarding the WMCA and sustainability, this is also available. For more information please contact Grace Jenkins via email to gracejenkins@solihull.gov.uk.

Contact Information

For more information contact enquiries@swm.org.uk or call 0121 237 5890.

Downloads and links

SWM Annual Conference 2015 Presentations (pdf)


SWM are very grateful for the support of our main sponsor Tarmac and exhibitors:

  1. British Gas Corporate
  2. Cenex
  3. Centro


Jonathon Porritt – discussing climate change, government and devolution at our October conference
Stakeholder discuss