Doncaster Chamber of Commerce CEO Dan Fell took part in a recent British Chamber of Commerce CEO Roundtable where chamber representatives from across the country took part in a ‘robust discussion’ about the national network’s role in achieving net zero climate ambitions. unLTD’s Jill Theobald caught up with him to find out more about his views closer to home in the Sheffield City Region business community
“Part of the solution.”
That’s how Dan Fell Doncaster Chamber Chief Dan Fell views the private sector and industry when we start talking about the environment for unLTD’s sustainability special edition.
“Clearly the climate crisis is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment,” says Dan, “and as a network we are really keen to ensure we are standing up for business.”
To do that, Dan believes, calls for a shift in perception.
“We need to understand that the private sector and industry is part of the solution to climate change and not misdiagnosed as the problem. In order to do that, we need to lead by example in how we run our own organisations. It’s also about understanding how we can put best practice and optimum advice in front of our members so we can support them on their journey to becoming greener.
“The roundtable discussion was about three areas. First off what can we do as chambers ourselves to become more sustainable because we can’t be signing up to declarations and encouraging our members if we’re not leading by example.
“The second is about policy – we as chambers banging the drum on infrastructure, investment, and legislation. The third area is practical guidance and advice for businesses. We have to remember that the rank and file of our business community are SMEs who want to become more sustainable but don’t necessarily know how.
“It’s about signposting to that support so that we avoid any ‘greenwashing’ and instead help them to do some great things that can lead to a step change in the way they do business.
“Chambers up and down the country bring people together and in particular in South Yorkshire – we’re great at events, networking and letting people form their own relationships so it’s about understanding the catalytic role we can play in forming those discussions and enabling people to work together to find those solutions.
“That will lead to things like green energy forums and environmental clusters coming in 2020.”
The interest is evidently there within Doncaster Chamber membership already.
Dan says: “We’re getting interest from both sides – businesses that are specialists in environment and green technology are coming to us because they are keen to meet businesses they can help. Equally businesses are asking us how they can go about becoming more carbon neutral. It’s similar to the way international trade support has matured over the years. Businesses knew they needed to export and had some sense of where the opportunities were but needed someone to act as a Sherpa and give them support and guidance to underpin that journey.
I see environmental business support going on the same way over the next year or so – we all know there’s the economic opportunity there, we need to ensure the practical support is there to help businesses get there.”
And Doncaster Chamber members large and small are leading the way already.
“There’s Engie, a huge global company headquartered in Wath Upon Dearne who bought Keepmoat Regeneration a couple of years ago,” says Dan. “They are doing brilliant work to support the transition to a lower carbon future, not just housing but all sorts of incredible stuff in terms of the aviation sector, too.
“Go Green (outsourced waste management and recycling solutions), who are Rossington-based, are brilliant and helping customers on a mission to send less than one per cent of waste to landfill.”
How does Dan feel Sheffield City Region is performing on the sustainability stage?
“The region is as proactive as anywhere else in the UK,” says Dan. “But particularly our expertise in engineering and manufacturing gives us the potential to be ahead of the curve in terms of solutions. Equally our strength in logistics, warehouse and distribution – we want to double down on the fact that Doncaster is brilliantly connected, but while we’re the experts in logistics we need to become the experts in green logistics.”
And how does Dan convince any businesses reluctant to embrace the sustainability agenda?
“People know there’s a global problem and people want to do their bit – it’s not a ‘why’ problem, it’s the ‘how’ that’s a bit more challenging and for any businesses that might be reluctant, the thing that usually clinches it is nine times out of ten is doing things that make environmental sense make financial sense!
“There’s lots of practical things we can do but it has to be underpinned by government-led policy and legislation.
“Look at the Scandinavian countries – they are fundamentally greener, not because people and businesses are wired differently in their sensibilities but because their governments explain the agenda, make it easier to be green, and put the financial rewards in place.
“We need the right policy and agenda here – and we will continue to lobby the government for that on behalf of businesses.”