Author Archives: Sean

Photo of lots of buttons

Is the environment worth a button?

In his latest blog Sean looks at how focussing on small items might be important in tackling climate change

At a recent conference, delegates were discussing the future of the planet and the actions individuals and businesses could take to make a significant impact on climate change.

Ideas ranged from giving up on fossil fuels entirely to energy efficiency and a switch to electric only cars. This latter idea coming hot on the (w)heels of a Government announcement that new petrol and diesel cars ‘could’ be phased out from 2035.

This sort of grand headline-grabbing initiative – though weakened by the use of the word could – is a hallmark of governments wanting to make their mark and be noticed. Interestingly, one of the next government announcements was about a proposed bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, to encourage cars to drive between the two.

But in many ways, the seriousness by which we should judge the action of businesses in relation to big issues like climate change is probably not by grand gestures or announcements, nor fundraising to help species affected by the Australian bushfires, but rather by buttons.

Yes, you read that right, buttons. Hundreds of factories in Qiaotou in China produce more than 60% of all buttons and with one factory reportedly making between 2 and 3 million buttons a day, that’s a hell of a lot of buttons.

Green button

Should all buttons be green?

Buttons have been the main way of doing up clothes for decades now, which means there have been billions of buttons made, usually from one plastic or another.

Clearly, the world doesn’t need any more buttons as almost all of those manufactured over the years are still in existence – as we know plastics are very persistent.

So why are buttons not stripped from used clothing and re-entered into the manufacturing process? Well, it’s obviously the economics (stupid) but the current system is not ecologically sustainable.

Next time you buy a new shirt or skirt with multiple buttons, think about all the millions that are either in landfill around you or that have ended their days in incinerators. What a waste!

The cynic in me feels that until we grasp the small things – like buttons – and find a way to seriously cut down on the numbers we need each year, we are not going to address climate change in the way we need to.

Who fancies setting up a button reuse and recycling company?

Could you help shape co-operation for the next 20 years?

Enthusiastic young co-operators are being sought to co-produce the ‘2020 Vision’ conference in Birmingham in 2020.

Co-operative Futures is organising 2020 Vision as it approaches its 20th anniversary next year. The conference will have a firm focus on the future. What will the world look like in 2040? What will be our big societal challenges and what are our opportunities?

• What role will Artificial Intelligence and other technological developments play in the future?
• How will our lives have to change in order to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change?
• How will an ageing population and the changing demographics of society play out in 20 years’ time?
• What will the political landscape look like?
Are you under 30?

Are you already engaged with, or interested in finding out more about the co-operative or social enterprise sector? Would you like to increase your knowledge of community led enterprises and mutually owned businesses? Would you like the opportunity to shape the direction of the sector and have your voice heard? Would you like to gain some hands-on practical experience of conference organisation and facilitation?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then we’d love to hear from you and tell you more about how you can get involved with helping to run 2020 Vision with us.

Said Jo White from Co-operative Futures: “We are really interested in hearing from people under 30 who can help us design our conference. Their input will really help us to create an event that not only celebrates the co-operative successes of the past 20 years, but also helps shape how co-ops develop in the next 20.”

If you are interested, then please contact Jo by Monday 23rd December 2019 on jo.white@futures.coop or 07879 415550.

About the conference:
Future Co-ops 2020 will be taking place on 7th and 8th February 2020 at The Beeches conference centre in Bournville, Birmingham. Booking will open soon and places can be secured by visiting https://futures.coop/2020-vision.

London Capital Credit Union adds support to those affected by Hurricane Dorian

London Capital Credit Union has joined credit unions around the world to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian, which hit The Bahamas at the beginning of September.

The devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian prompted the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions to initiate Project Storm Break to provide financial support to those affected in The Bahamas, and almost $200,000 (£162,000) has so far been raised, including a donation from London Capital Credit Union.

Project Storm Break funds are initially being distributed to help credit unions provide members and staff with emergency supplies. The money is also helping credit unions get back up and running so they can provide much needed cash and other financial services to their members.

According to the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions, credit unions on the island of Grand Bahama were the hardest hit. The Grand Bahama Co-operative Credit Union suffered major flooding and roof damage at its branch in Freeport, the main town on the island. Four employees, including the branch manager, also lost their homes in the storm. In addition, four other credit unions suffered damage to their Freeport branches.

On Abaco—the other island hardest hit by Dorian—there was at least some good news. The Teachers and Salaried Workers Credit Union branch in Marsh Harbour suffered no damage, and is located in one of the few structures left standing on the island.

Mike Reuter, Executive Director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, said: “We want to help these community-based institutions get back in business and servicing members as soon as possible – even if it is in a parking lot tent or other temporary location for now. Getting these credit unions back on their feet is the best step we can take to getting their members back on a path to a sustainable future.”

Elaine Greaves, Director at London Capital Credit Unions

Elaine Greaves, Director at London Capital Credit Unions

 

Elaine Greaves, Director at London Capital Credit Union added: “We’re pleased to have played a small part in the fundraising effort by making a donation from our credit union and we hope other groups and individuals can also support the rebuilding of credit unions in The Bahamas by making their own contribution.”

To find out more about Project Storm Break and to make a donation, click here.

London Capital Credit Union is hiring

London Capital Credit Union is hiring. Please see below for details of the role as Loans support Officer and how to aaply.

“We are offering an exciting opportunity to work in the financial services sector with a dynamic and rapidly growing co-operative business as a Loans Support Officer, working in credit control.

London Capital Credit UnionWe are recruiting a Loans Support Officer – Credit Control, to be based at our head office near Archway tube station in North London. This is a full time, temporary three month contract (may become permanent), at a salary of £13.56 per hour (£26,796pa).

The credit union is a savings and loans co-operative that is dedicated to encouraging saving and dealing with debt. Owned and democratically controlled by its members, the credit union is seeking a hard-working and committed individual to serve as part of a small team of Loans Support Officers.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate to help us continue to build our successful co-operative business by establishing a rapport with members, applying credit control policies, assisting with loan decision making, and maintaining high levels of member satisfaction. We operate in the fiercely competitive financial services market and want to train new committed staff who will assist us in continuing to grow our credit union.

The main duties and responsibilities of the Loans Support Officer role will be to:

Implement the bad debt recovery policy, particularly early stages
Assist members facing difficulty in repaying their loan to the credit union
Help apply the eligible deduction loans service procedures
Liaise with debt collection agencies to maximise recovery rates
Actively trace borrowers in arrears who have changed address
Reschedule loans in accordance with policy to minimise cost of provisioning
Notify the line manager of any loans in arrears of particular concern
Ensure that adequate provision for bad debt is made in the accounts
Enter debt recovery actions on Curtains as appropriate
Assist the Supervisory Committee (internal audit) in their monitoring duties
Assist with member services functions as and when required
Maintain good customer service
The postholder must work within the policies and procedures of the credit union at all times.

The successful applicant must demonstrate that they have:

Direct experience of dealing with loan applications
Direct experience of credit control enforcement procedures
Excellent verbal and written communications skills
Accurate record keeping & reporting skills
A commitment to undertaking training and development
Good numeracy skills
An ability to use a range of ICT efficiently
Excellent telephone manner
An ability to work flexibly as part of a team
An understanding/commitment to equalities issues
A friendly, supportive yet assertive manner.

It is also desirable that applicants have:

A knowledge and understanding of the credit union movement
A commitment to the aims and objectives of the credit union movementClick here to find out more about the role and to apply. Applications must be received no later than 9am on Monday 25 March 2019.”

Business needs to change to avoid climate breakdown

In his latest blog Sean looks at how business should be reducing its dependence on carbon

All but the very sceptical now accept that our climate is changing and serious action is needed to slow down the damage caused to our environment.

The recent report by the UN international Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that we have about 12 years to ensure that we don’t exceed the 1.5 degree increase in global warming and has outlined some of the serious consequences of missing the target – even by only half a IPCCdegree Celsius.

At the time of its publication, there was much media coverage, which is great in raising awareness of this important subject, but there doesn’t seem to have been any significant business response.

As individuals, we all have a role to play in reducing energy use and thus global warming, but small changes by big businesses by definition have the potential to make a disproportionately large impact.

In the last few weeks, two examples of business practices which seem to take no recognition of the importance of climate change have stood out to me. In no way am I criticising the businesses behind these practices, it’s a competitive world out there, but they do highlight how big a sea change is needed in business thinking if we are ever going to reduce our dependence on carbon and perhaps save the environment.

First example. Recently, my friend’s car had to go to the garage due to a damaged AdBlue tank – yes, it’s diesel, that’s a whole different blog – but not only did the new tank have to come from mainland Europe the car had to be shipped from Wrexham to the North East of England to a specialist repairer. All of which was anything but zero carbon.

Today, businesses are becoming so complex and specialised that they build in even more carbon to their business operations.

Second example. Recently, we had to have a small wall rebuilt after an insurance claim. True, many of the bricks could be salvaged and were therefore reused, but the insurance company has a contract for such works with a building contractor. The work took two days and the builder drove 50 miles each way to undertake the work. Why wouldn’t the insurance company contract the work to a local builder, which would reduce traffic as well as reducing carbon emissions?

As I mentioned earlier, these examples are not unique to the businesses concerned and on their own don’t amount to much, but when you consider the imperative businesses have to grow and how many businesses will be doing something similar every day across the globe, the only conclusion I can come to is that businesses need a real shake up in how they operate.
To date, there’s little evidence that many are about to do so.

I hope I am wrong.

Refil and Coolrec develop the coolest 3d printing filament

Coolrec, a subsidiary of Renewi and Refil have launched HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene plastic), a high quality and unique 3d printing filament made from plastic recovered from discarded refrigerators, available now in the UK

Ron Cramer from Coolrec left and Casper van der Meer from Refil launch the new 3d printer filament

Ron Cramer from Coolrec left and Casper van der Meer from Refil launch the new 3d printer filament

From discarded fridges to high quality 3d printing filament, HIPS has a neutral off white colour which is easy to paint or glue, making it a perfect material for the 3d printing of scale models.

The new filament can also be used as a support material, and if needed, can be removed when the print is finished by a naturasolvent, limonene. The filament comes in the two standard diameters of 2.85mm and 1.75mm and has successfully been tested on many 3d printers.

Sustainable 3d printing filament

After their first recycled PET, ABS and PLA filaments, Dutch company Refil is now adding Hips to their product range. The products now offer a sustainable alternative for the growing market of 3d printing and this new material has a specific focus on architects, schools and product designers. The material prints flawless and comes with a sustainable story, creating 3d products from old fridges.

The collaboration between Refil and Coolrec is a good example of two companies on the forefront of plastic recycling working together in their own field of expertise.

“Whereas Coolrec is all about the recycling of electrical and electronic equipment, Refil transforms the acquired plastics into 3d printing filament and makes it available around the world”, says Casper van der Meer, CEO at Refil.

“Making recycled filament may seem easy, but getting a steady supply chain and maintaining a high quality over different batches is a real challenge. This is why it took us several years of development to be able to guarantee the quality of HIPS. Together with Coolrec we’ve managed to realise this”

Coolrec is responsible for recycling of WEEE (Waste or Electrical and Electronic Equipment) which recycles electrical appliances and electronic products into high quality secondary materials such as plastics, metals and other raw materials.

Arjen Wittekoek, Director of Coolrec said: “Discarded appliances are made from and still contain many valuable materials. Using innovative techniques, Coolrec is able to recover the plastics from the discarded fridges, offering the sustainable solution reusing these again in the manufacturing process of new products, such as the 3d filament.

“For us developing HIPS and the collaboration with Refil is another way to protect the world against pollution, preserve finite resources and enable our partners to achieve their sustainability targets. For this reason we are very proud to be involved in this circular collaboration.”

The recipe of the recycled plastic has been optimized for 3d printing, reducing shrinkage and warping during printing. The filament will be delivered on a unique fully recyclable cardboard spool leaving no waste behind. The spools are made in collaboration with a social workplace in Rotterdam, integrating social sustainability as well.

Refil and Coolrec are also working on a black filament of the same kind of plastic but in this case made from old televisions. It’s expected to be available in the beginning of 2019.

The full range of 3D printing filaments containing recycled material is available at here https://www.re-filament.com/shop.html.

 

Media Statement on behalf of Cae Post

Cae Post Logo

  4 January 2018

Cae Post announces end of trade recycling and waste collections

Cae Post, the environmental charity and social enterprise based in Welshpool, has announced it is to stop its waste and recycling collections with effect from 31st January 2018, with the loss of 10 staff.

Making the announcement, John Harrington, chair of the charity’s trustees, said: “It has been an extremely difficult year for us. Although we have been able to grow our services to trade customers in Powys and Shropshire, we have seen the value and demand for the recyclable materials we sort and bale fall. This has led us to a very difficult decision.

“As a board of trustees, it was very hard for us to decide to close our recycling centre in Trewern, but financially we had no choice. We hope to be able to continue to meet our charitable objectives of offering training and employment to those disadvantaged in the jobs market in some other way in future.”

Cae Post has a long history of pioneering charitable action in the fields of learning disability and environmental action.

Although the current trading activities of the charity will cease, the charity will continue to exist while the trustees investigate new ways to deliver their charitable objectives.

Added John: “We would really like to thank all of our staff, customers and suppliers over the years for their support and the significant contribution they have made to our social enterprise.”

– e n d s –

Notes to Editor:

Cae Post believes that employment and access to work are central to how people see themselves and that people with a range of disabilities, or who are disadvantaged in the labour market, should be given the same opportunity of contributing to their community through work.

By promoting the many individual achievements our beneficiaries make, Cae Post can help to create a more inclusive image for all those who are disadvantaged.

 

Mince pie - Ethos public relations

Season’s greetings 2017

As another year comes to its end, it has become our tradition to have a(nother) glass of sherry and a mince pie and to reflect on the previous year.

It’s now over three years since Ethos public relations made the move from an office based PR agency in Manchester to a more flexible Shropshire operation. During this time, we feel we have become part of the local community and have had the benefit of meeting and working with some fantastic local people.

We might now be based near to Oswestry, but we still have clients across the UK and as the nature of public relations changes from its broadcast and print focus to an increasingly digital and social media focus, we have enjoyed supporting clients with new website projects, conference preparations and product development, as well as traditional media and public relations.

Over the year, we have seen a number of fundraising events take place locally and a few have been less well publicised than we think they ought to have been. As we are passionate about local charities and fundraising initiatives we launched a PR service especially for that sector. More details are here. We really would love to work with you to help you raise your fundraising and business objectives.

Holly

Talking of fundraising, along with a number of other volunteers, we have started to plan a new music festival in Welshpool to raise funds to support the reopening of the Montgomery Canal between Shropshire and Powys. There are a number of sponsorship opportunities available to businesses and brands that would like to be associated with this. Why not take a look at www.musicforthemonty.co.uk and get in touch?

We will be closed over the Christmas break from lunchtime on Friday 22nd December until Tuesday 2nd January 2018, but, as we are firmly in the 21st century, we will be checking our emails, social media accounts and text messages, so do stay in touch.

We would like to wish all our clients, suppliers, friends and future clients Season’s Greetings and a very successful 2018.

Propagator

Cae Post develops online shop

Cae Post, an innovative social enterprise based in Powys, has recently taken delivery of a stock of recycled plastic Eco Potagators to sell in support of their charity.

PropagatorMade out of recycled yoghurt pots, these propagatorsare designed to be turned upside down once seedlings have outgrown the propagator and this then makes an attractive blue plant pot.

Cae Post believes in promoting the use of recycled materials as a way to stimulate demand for them and to ensure that recycled materials retain their value. For over 30 years, Cae Post has provided employment and access to work for disadvantaged people in the Powys and North Shropshire area combined with environmental action. They believe work is central to how people see themselves and that people with a range of disabilities, or who are disadvantaged in the labour market, should be given the same opportunity of contributing to their community through work.

As a charity and social business involved in the collection and recycling of materials – including plastics – Cae Post believes it is important that a market is created for these waste materials. This then makes it profitable to collect the materials. Without an outlet for collected recyclates, their value is much lower.

Cae Post was set up to provide meaningful work experience and jobs to people left behind in the labour market. By selling items on its website, Cae Post aims to give people meaningful work in processing the orders, packaging and sending them out. It’s not solely about making a profit but about giving dignified work to people. This is not Cae Post’s main source of revenue or the biggest activity it undertakes, but one which is crucial to their mission of combining work opportunities and environmental actrion.

As a social enterprise, Cae Post says it is always looking for new opportunities to grow the business in a way that marries its purpose of combining environmental action with tackling exclusion and inequality in the labour market.

Click here to find out more about Eco Potagators and to purchase online.

Centre for Alternative Technology Revisited

In his latest blog Sean looks back at visits to the Centre for Alternative Technology

It must be about 16 years since I was last at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)  near Machynlleth in Mid Wales.

For those that don’t know of it, it’s a pioneering education charity based in a former slate quarry, which has used the site to trial a number of alternative technologies over the years, and today it is using many of them still to power the site.

When I visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in the early days of Ethos public relations it was to discuss an ethical online web portal, which one of our clients was involved in. Times have certainly changed as far as the internet is concerned and, no doubt, that’s true in the field of alternative energy technologies too.

View from water balanced cliff railway at Centre for Alternative TechnologyI remember arriving at the site of CAT the first time, after a beautiful train journey from Manchester, and being impressed by the water-balanced cliff railway which takes you from road level up to the visitor centre.

As with many of the technologies showcased at CAT, the cliff railway works using the simplest of technologies, namely gravity. The two carriages are linked by a steel rope and when one goes down due to the combined weight of its passengers and water tank, the other carriage travels up the cliff face, with some stunning views.

On my recent visit, another ancient technology was being displayed, though with a modern twist. Burning wood for cooking and heating can hardly be described as an alternative technology, given that millions of people around the world rely on it day in and day out, but at CAT there is an innovative display of boilers that use wood pellets to produce both electricity and heat. Obviously, managed properly wood is a sustainable fuel and so provides an alternative to fossil fuels. If we want to work towards a zero carbon economy, then this might be part of the solution.

For many years, I have thought that solar panels for domestic and industrial premises should be fitted as a matter of course instead of roofing tiles, rather than on top of an existing roof. At CAT, that’s what they have on the café.

Solar panel roof at Centre for Alternative Technology

Over the past 16 years many things have changed dramatically in the field of low carbon energy generation, whether that is the growth of offshore wind energy generation or the increasing number of homes with photovoltaic cells on their roofs, but what we still have not seen is a widespread belief in using alternative technologies from the start of a project rather than as an add on.

But there still seems to be a lot of antipathy to wind and solar, in spite of their obvious benefits. Ethos public relations has worked with community biodiesel and community wind energy operators in the past and have, in a very small way, helped get the message out about the benefits of reducing carbon dependency. There is still much to be done.

So keep up the good work CAT, keep promoting the alternatives and helping to put sustainability into practice…