It’s official, Bristol has declared a climate emergency and has committed to be carbon neutral by 2030. The trailblazing city now has ambitious targets that require businesses, people and government to act.
Step forward Katherine Piper from The Future Economy Network, who is building a new sustainability movement in the green capital. Adapted for businesses driving change, their events bring together sustainable leaders and touch on topical issues from food waste and sustainable farming to renewable energy and innovation.
This month sees the opening of their new sustainability hub, located on the famous independent shopping high street, Gloucester Road. The £1.5 million carbon neutral building will showcase the latest green products, technologies and services on the market, stage events and provide work space for environmental enterprises.
We spoke to Katherine to discover her plans to empower businesses in Bristol to go beyond business as usual.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about The Future Economy Network – what’s your mission?
The Future Economy Network is a subscription-based network. We host sustainability-related events and networking opportunities for a business audience.
What drives you?
I am 100% committed to living a sustainable lifestyle. This is my main driver, but I’m also a people person and love connecting with people. A job which combines these two passions; sustainability and chatting, that’s definitely a good reason to get out of bed in the morning!
What is your greatest achievement to date?
My role is to encourage businesses to subscribe to our Network. With a great amount of help and energy from the team, our subscriber numbers have rapidly increased and Network is now one of the largest green business networks in the South West.
I also have the responsibility of ensuring the Future Economy Network achieves its goal of carbon neutrality by 2020. It is early days but so far so good, with some very exciting upcycled and carbon neutral installs in the planning. People can come along to our Carbon Neutrality event to learn more.
One of my most exciting achievements is the acquisition of our new Sustainability Hub; ‘Future Leap’. The hub, set to open in May 2019, will house events space and a co-working space for sustainability professionals and a retail area showcasing green tech.
What are the challenges you face?
The Future Economy Network hosts weekly sustainability-related events in Bristol, Bath and beyond. This region has a phenomenal amount of events focused on transitioning to a more sustainable world, which means it can be a challenge for me to fit in attendance at other events – but what a great challenge to face; there’s just too much good stuff going on!
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
I’m really excited about our Festival of Sustainable Business taking place on the 17th September 2019. We decided that to assist the transition to a more sustainable world we could bring our huge network of contacts together for a day of networking and learning. We anticipate 2000+ attendees and 60+ exhibitors to our exhibition at We The Curious. As well as the exhibition, we are hosting 10 sustainability-themed seminars in central Bristol and a gala dinner.
Where do you want to take The Future Economy Network next?
This year, we are focusing all our efforts on setting up the Sustainability Hub and the Festival and extending our events programme and network reach in the region. After that, we want to expand into other regions using a similar model. We have identified 13 locations for potential Sustainability Hubs and I’m looking forward to putting these plans in place and growing the network.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
Radio 4 has a lot of decent sustainability-related pieces and I find it is a good way to keep on top of the fast-changing landscape.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
This New Years, my friends and I all gave each other new year’s resolutions. Mine was to learn to say no more as they say that I am always busy. In addition to my work at The Future Economy Network, I am also Director of a local community energy group and am an aerobics instructor. It keeps me busy but I find so much joy and fun in all of the activities, so I’m not sure whether I am achieving my resolution at the moment!
Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
It has to be the hugely inspirational and highly intelligent energy researcher, Nikki Jones. Nikki delivers a series of energy and climate change talks and is delivering her series for The Future Economy Network in the summer.
If your organisation is working to create a more sustainable world and looking to increase its impact, get in touch and let’s team up in the fight against climate change.