Opening myself up to challenge about sustainable development

Sustainable development has always been a feature of our work at Hempsall’s.  It was something engrained into my professional purpose from my very early days as a development worker.  I cannot remember who it was, but I was given really great advice in those days, about how the best development workers should strive to do themselves out of a job one day.  And it is true.  It doesn’t mean they will be out of a job, because there’s always need for great development work.  The processes are usually the same.  It is just the causes and challenges that change.

As an Alumni Ambassador DeMontfort University (DMU), I was asked last week to talk with a group of students about sustainable careers, or careers in sustainability – with reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030  On first thought it seemed like a stretch, or at least a learning experience for me.  I agreed to be on the Q&A panel and then I realised I had agreed to presentation as well.  When thinking about it I very soon came to realise all the things I do in my businesses that fall under the definition of sustainable development.  There are lessons worth sharing.

Hempsall’s work is focused on tackling disadvantage, supporting children’s learning and opportunities, growing families’ economic choices, and enabling equality and social mobility.  Harriman & Co around supply chains and use of home products.

For Hempsall’s work, governments and local authorities expect measurable impact, sustainable delivery and long-term legacies in such programmes, as well as considered purchasing, resources and processes. It’s our mission to support everyone to make a success out of the challenges of early years and childcare policy.  A tall order sometimes, and by no means a job completed.  Sustainability is built in from the outset, core to all actions and programmes are rightly held to account through contract measures.

We are committed to the best short- and long-term impact on children and families, and those delivering early years and childcare services.   We strive to achieve the best quality practice and outcomes for children, delivered by a professional, resourced and sustainable sector and workforce. Our website states:

In terms of our impact, we constantly monitor and review our use of resources. This includes our time, travel, and physical resources. We aim to make conscious, economical and environmentally focused choices for the benefit of our clients, service users and beneficiaries, and the local and global community. We use resources from sustainable and renewable sources and recycle whatever we can.

For a design and homeware store, there are many sustainability considerations such as: materials used, production processes, supply and delivery chain, terms and conditions of those working on production, and the impact on the environment when products are used or when they end their useful lifetime.

The supply chain must be as ethical as possible and we need assurances of those working on production enjoy appropriate terms and conditions.  The supply chain can be easy when it is part of our family, our own production, or a business around the corner from the store.  It gets more difficult when the product is sourced from the other side of the world.  Although if we get the opportunity, we do go and see for ourselves.  Important considerations for us here are: local, UK and international; family-businesses; independents; cooperatives; artisans; and Fairtrade.  For all, the choice of materials is critical, and we prioritise natural, re-used, re-cycling, long-term use, environmental impact, and safe disposal.  We are interested in these things, and many of our customers are too.  We get asked questions and if we aren’t asked we take opportunities to bring these matters to the forefront by starting conversations and by giving customers information about the products’ provenance to support informed purchasing choices.

Our social, economic and environmental priorities are established.  But it is a constant challenge.  Indeed a hugely beneficial aspect of my presentation was the Q&A afterwards and exposing our professional and personal behaviours to the keen scrutiny of those students attending.  I left knowing that the job is only just begun and we must continue to respond to demand, whether it be from government commissioners and contractors or customers walking through the shop door.  The future will demand we all commit further to sustainable development goals, communicate clearly the actions we are taking to meet them, and continue to innovate and challenge ourselves and those that use our services or products.  Thank you to DMU for the opportunity to reflect, share and be challenged.


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