SWM Annual Conference 2016: Steering a steady course for sustainability in uncertain times

Date of Conference

21 November 2016


  • Peter Woodward, SWM
  • Peter Braithwaite, SWM
  • Ed Gillespie, Futerra
  • Mayoral Candidates:
    • Andy Street, Conservative Party
    • Beverley Nielsen, Liberal Democrat Party
    • James Burn, Green Party
  • Anna Bright, SWM
  • Simon Slater, SWM
  • Ilias Vazaios, Ecuity Consulting LLP
  • Alan Carr, SWM
  • Rachel Walters, Environment Agency
  • Mike Pickering, the Midcounties Co-operative

Purpose of the presentations

With political uncertainty all around us, never has it been more important to maintain focus on the long term issues of sustainability and resilience for the West Midlands. This year’s conference looked at the significance for sustainability of the changing landscape at European, national and regional level and asked what our response should be. We welcomed Ed Gillespie as our keynote speaker this year. Ed is a writer, communications specialist, serial entrepreneur and futurist. He is the author of ‘Only Planet – a flight-free adventure around the world’ a book about his circumnavigation of the globe without getting on a plane. Ed is co-founder of Futerra, a change agency that specialises in business transformation and creative communications and campaigns. For the last fifteen years Futerra has become internationally renowned for it’s influential and award-winning work on some of the biggest corporate sustainability initiatives, from Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan’, through Mondelez’s ‘Coffee Made Happy’ to SAB Miller’s ‘Prosper’. Ed set the conference off to a great start by challenging us all on why sustainability isn’t business as usual and how we can ‘sell the sizzle’ and embed sustainability in all our activities. Following Ed’s keynote we heard from the candidates for West Midlands Mayor who set out their stalls on sustainability. Andy Street (Conservative), Beverley Nielsen (Liberal Democrat) and James Burn (Green Party) shared their aspirations for the region which was followed by a Q&A session with delegates. We finished the morning with presentations from SWM and our members on key activities and case studies from our work in 2016.


Over 98% of delegates providing feedback rated our Annual Conference as excellent or good in terms of content and organisation. Feedback included: “Keep up the great work – Ed Gillespie is an inpiration” “Great, as usual!” Twitter highlights included: Andy Street ‏@andy4wm: “Really enjoyable debate at #suswm2016 conference with mayoral candidates @BeverleyNielsen and @james_burn. Thanks for the invite @SWMtweet!” Beverley Nielsen ‏@BeverleyNielsen: “Great day yesterday with @andy4wm @james_burn – look forward to next Feb…hoping to see @sionsimon there too!” James Burn ‏@james_burn: “@SWMtweet annual conference, pleased to be voted their choice for @WestMids_CA Mayor! Thanks for great hustings. #swmconf16” Meres and Mosses BEN ‏@mandmben: “Great talk from @frucool earlier this week @SWMtweet conference. We’ve started implementing some ideas already! #sustainablebusiness” Jose Hernandez ‏@DrJHernandez_PE:  “Thank you @SWMtweet for a very informative update on sustainability activities in the West Midlands #suswm2016 and on the challenges ahead” Carbon3IT Ltd ‏@Carbon3IT: “Been to the @SWMTweet conference this morning, listening and learning about various sustainability and energy efficiency projects”

Next Steps

We were delighted that the candidates for West Midlands mayor were able to join us and discuss their plans for sustainability. However, we recognise that it is early in their campaigns and that they are yet to fully set out their commitments to sustainability. In early 2017 we’d love to arrange another hustings with the candidates to hear more about their sustainability aspirations, and how they plan to achieve them.

Contact Information

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

Downloads and links


SWM are very grateful for the support of our exhibitors:

  1. BECCI
  2. Cenex
  3. Engie
  4. Severn Trent
  5. Tarmac
  6. Warp it

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