Keynote speaker George Ferguson CBE speaking at the Sustain Wales Summit 2017

Be bold, be innovative and have fun!

Last week we hosted the second Sustain Wales Summit in the Principality Stadium and we were wowed by an amazing line up of speakers and organisations that are proof that innovative approaches, products and new business models are really making a difference to business, our communities and our environment in Wales.

The Summit focused on three key themes throughout the day – Connected Communities, Urban Well-being and Buildings for the Future, featuring speakers from Jacobs, Melin, Enterprise, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Innovate UK, Low Carbon Research Institure, BBC Wales, Constructing Excellence in Wales, Cool-Curve, Caraplace Slate, Principality Stadium and Western Solar.

We started the day with George Ferguson illustrating that political office can be used to give people the permission to be bold, be innovative and crucially to have fun. Risk aversion in the public sector is no longer an option. The time has come for public bodies to learn from and trust entrepreneurs. The vision and commitment of one person or a small group can be transformative. Cool Curve and Carapace, who have been supported by Innovate UK, were excellent examples of this but it is reassuring to know that larger and longer established companies like Dŵr Cymru and Jacobs are also ready to embrace new ideas and take risks.

Creating Resilient Communities

From Jacobs approach to low carbon technology and smart Living in Neath Port Talbot to Dŵr Cymru’s Rainscape project in Llanelli, we heard inspiring stories of how big organisations are working with local communities to deliver high impact projects. This was a great example of using best practice from around the world to find practical innovative solutions to local issues to improve the resilience of our communities.

We heard how global brands like Enterprise are taking a local community approach to developing alternative mobility solutions, utilising smart technology to encourage behaviour change.

People are central to the story

Lest we think that sustainability is all about technology and the environment Claire Pearce-Crawford from Melin reminded us that people are central to the story.

“If you don’t look after people, don’t expect people to look after the environment!”

Across the board we heard different examples of how core values were at the heart of innovation, building in the needs of people to tackle issues around equality, poverty, well-being and health. Glen Peters from Western Solar illustrated how a values-based approach has led to the creation of sustainable affordable homes that aim to change perceptions of timber built homes and develop an entirely sustainable community.

Making Obsolescence Obsolete

From the story of how Carapace’s developed a recycled roof slate system to Cool Curve‘s re-manufactured light bulbs. We heard how re-thinking waste into high quality products has multiple benefits for creating a circular economy.

Public Health Wales spoke about their role in promote better health and wellbeing and explained how working collaboratively on the procurement of furniture meant that they were able to create a modern, high quality office environment with only 94% recycled furniture – saving 134 tonnes of CO2.

A case for collaboration

Collaboration emerged as a key theme. Natural ecosystems are living laboratories of sustainability from which we have much to learn. Collaboration, synergy, mutualism, co-operation – these are all core elements to a successful and sustainable ecosystem. Businesses, communities and people must at one time or another, collaborate, communicate and share. This was what characterised the summit – a group of committed, competitive and ambitious people and organisations, coming together to share ideas, start new partnerships and collaborate to create a better world for everyone.

It was great to hear the latest updates from Darren Crossman, Facilities and Safety Manager of the Principality Stadium who is working collaboratively with other Cynnal Cymru members – Lightology and the Low Carbon Research Institute to implement energy saving measures and the installation of a holistic energy generation system to ensure reliable clean energy for the venue. This fits into a wider aim to become a self-sufficient ‘off grid’ stadium with the capacity to support Cardiff with and the locality with its electrical supply needs. This would be a world first and be an achievement for the Principality Stadium, Cardiff and Wales.

Surprising sustainability stories

One of the more surprising stories to emerge at this year’s Summit was how the production of the BBC’s TV programme Casualty, is housed in a BREEAM outstanding building in Roath Lock in Cardiff and has achieved Albert certification for greener ways of working. The BBC also work collaboratively with their entire supply chain to educate everyone they work with about sustainable practices. Central to the BBC however is their viewers and so the entire organisation aims to demonstrate the need to live more sustainable lifestyles through all their programmes. Find out more here.


As an organisation, Cynnal Cymru is always keen to hear about exciting innovations happening across Wales and beyond,