Sustainable by example – CONCORD’s new sustainability measures

CONCORD Director Seamus Jeffreson outlines the new sustainability measures adopted by CONCORD’s secretariat in Brussels.

To mark the European Year of Development 2015, the CONCORD Secretariat in Brussels has introduced four measures aimed at operating more sustainably.

• Carbon offsetting for air travel
• Recycling and improved sorting of waste
• Reducing meat consumption in our catering policy
• Making our building more sustainable by working with other organisations in Mundo

environmental measures in our office

How do these measures work?

When someone in the secretariat travels, we will contribute to a carbon offset scheme – there are plenty of these around (see insert carbon offset org website) – it is not expensive and mainly makes you think about the carbon price of air travel. We have not introduced this for CONCORD’s travel budget for members as many worry this will limit participation of non Brussels based members in our meetings and work, something we do not want to do.

We recycle paper, plastics and food waste (using a compost collection space) in the office. Old furniture is also recycled or donated.

We have now made vegetarian food as the standard option for catering. Meat can be ordered as the ‘extra option’. This is to make the point that land usage for the level of meat consumption we currently have in Europe is unsustainable.

We work in a fantastic space with lots of other CSOs called Mundo J – founded by an ethical property company dedicated to networking and greater sustainability.

We will be exploring with our neighbours and colleagues ways of making the usage of the building more sustainable (reduce consumption of energy, water and other resources) and possibly an environmental management audit. This has the advantage of an external verification and regular evaluation to ensure we remain on track. There is a cost involved, but in the long run and among a number of organisations this should be feasible.

Why did we introduce these sustainability measures?

In our discussions on the new CONCORD Strategy we spoke a lot about ‘practicing what we preach’ – so we asked ‘what could we do to pay attention to and hopefully reduce our use of the planet’s non-renewable resources’.

Looking at our own consumption and the consequence on others around the world is also a theme of the European Year for Development.

Sustainable Development or just Development?

sustainable world

For us the EYD2015 is an opportunity to discuss a new narrative about development.

Years ago, development NGOs described a world in which a developed ‘west’ provided help to an underdeveloped ‘third world’.

Today, our members speak of global challenges and the need for global justice to tackle poverty and reduce inequality wherever people live. Global challenges affect everyone but unequally.

Those people and countries that have generally contributed least to increasing carbon emissions are the ones suffering most from climate change. So we have a particular duty in Europe to tackle our unsustainable consumption habits. The EYD is an opportunity to discuss with the public how our consumption directly effects other parts of the world and what we can do about it.

But isn’t the answer European or national level policy changes? Isn’t CONCORD’s job to advocate for that?

Absolutely, but we also need to contribute to the creation of greater awareness of consumption, why present practices and trends are a problem and what can be done. One way of doing that is for individuals and organisations to look at their own consumption.

I hope we also can show others what can be done – sometimes in very simple ways – to reduce consumption. We are lucky enough to have members and partners who have done great work in this area to give inspiration and practical tips.