In the lead up to the long-awaited COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, where the climate crisis tops the international political agenda, I had the pleasure of continuing our series of interviews connecting with other organisations in Wales which share our core values of waste reduction, skill sharing and community cohesion. This month I was delighted to catch up with Sarah Hopkins, Director of Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales.

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales is the leading sustainable development social enterprise in Wales and aims to lead Wales towards a low carbon, fair and just society with a thriving natural environment. It strives to achieve these ambitious goals through training, advising, awareness raising and networking. With collaboration at its core, it is committed to escalating progress in all areas of sustainable development in Wales.

Whilst practising as a corporate lawyer, Sarah developed an interest in corporate social responsibility. She subsequently pursued a career in social enterprise and supply chains, then joined Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales as Director in January 2020.

As Repair Café Wales and Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales have so many shared values, I was interested to find out more about how Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales helps to reduce waste, one of our core commitments:

“We act in a training and advisory capacity to help organisations in the public, private and voluntary sector to decarbonise, work towards zero waste and understand the importance of biodiversity. Zero waste is a key part of decarbonisation and is crucial in many aspects of business such as using local supply chains and minimising packaging. We highlight the importance of the “3Rs” to reduce, reuse and recycle and champion the circular economy”.

Working towards a circular economy, and designing waste out of the manufacturing process, is also one of Repair Café Wales’ central aims. Our wonderful volunteer fixers willingly try to fix items to save them from landfill, but all too often the repair can be made deliberately difficult or impossible by manufacturers, who prefer consumers to buy new products.

Not only do our fixers try to repair broken or damages items, but they also share their skills with other fixers and members of the public who bring in their items to us. I was keen to find out more about how Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales shares skills:

“At the moment, we mainly do this through our Carbon Literacy Training to help organisations decarbonise as well as through our Nature Wise project which promotes biodiversity. Nature Wise is a 4.5 hour course which is action focused and helps participants to understand the relationship between people and natural systems. At the end of the course, participants pledge which action they will take to help address the nature crisis.

We are also developing a Carbon Literacy train the trainer course and have been working with tenants and managers in 27 Housing Associations in Wales (Carbon Literacy Cartrefi Cymru). Working in collaboration with Manchester Met, we had 80 participants trained to deliver Carbon Literacy which I believe is the biggest Carbon Literacy training course ever. These trainers support each other and cascade learning throughout their organisations.”

Decarbonising – reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, is of course crucial in the fight against climate change as is protecting our natural environment. I wondered how Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales promotes community cohesion which RCW’s pop up sessions aim to do by inspiring and connecting local residents from different backgrounds:

“We have had funding from the Co-op foundation to deliver Nature Wise to community groups. Our plan is to train 150 individuals to be eco-literate and have at least 300 pledges to form a valuable knowledge bank.

Earlier this year, we also organised the first Climate Assembly in Wales in Blaenau Gwent. This brought together 50 people from different backgrounds in Blaenau Gwent and 43 of them voted on recommendations to the Council on how they would like to tackle the climate crisis in a way which is ‘fair and improves living standards for everyone’. We hope to start a similar project in Bridgend shortly.”


So, if you’d like to find out more, or take part in Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales’ exciting projects, why not take a look at its website:

Join us next time when we focus on another Welsh organisation which shares our core values.

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