By Tom Woolnough

One of the great aspects of the Catalyst programme is the variety of exposure you can obtain. It’s one of the reasons I applied for the role in the first place. One day you may be walking the wards of Bart’s Hospital to discuss how taking action to improve energy efficiency can improve patient experience. The next you may be visiting an up and coming social enterprise to understand how it operates. Or it could be like the day last week we spent at one of the world’s largest energy company’s headquarters in Windsor.

I was relatively apprehensive about our visit to Centrica. I’m more of a community minded individual, that’s where I enjoy seeing change happen. What kind of insight into this could I gain from visiting this very modern, polished building shining in the English countryside?
It turns out, quite a lot. We spoke to the people of Centrica and heard from various sectors of the business. Matt, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager, provided some shocking but interesting facts about the probable future of the world. He explained that CSR is integral in not only meeting the sustainable development goals but that also having a socially and environmentally responsible company ensures its own future prosperity. We also heard from Debbie about Centrica as a multi-national business and learned how customer focused the organisation is.

Aman discussed with us the vast range of social enterprises that Ignite, the UK’s first impact investment fund with a focus on energy which is backed by Centrica, invests in and supports. They range from “bio-bean Ltd”, recycling waste coffee ground into advanced biofuels to “63000Homes Limited”, designing and manufacturing modular homes for the social housing shortage. Then it was our turn to demonstrate what we do. We took to the office floor at the request of Jennine from facilities management to examine waste issues on the site. We identified a particular concern arising from contamination of recycling as a result of disposable cup use. Within an hour and a half we’d designed a behaviour change campaign to encourage staff to use reusable “keep cups” which breakeven with disposable cups on natural resources input at 15 uses. We presented the campaign including a “Waste week” which would draw attention to the issues and use behaviour change techniques to ensure a more efficient and sustainable workplace. I for one was impressed with how far our team of Catalysts had come in the last 7 months from having very limited behaviour change knowledge to energetically presenting a campaign to various members of Ignite and Centrica.

It was refreshing to see that an organisation such as Centrica is made of people from all walks of life with many different interests. Individuals and companies are now equally as responsible taking action to create a world with economic opportunities, social progress and environmental sustainability. This not only fills me with hope of a more sustainable world but also it’s exciting to think about the range of options that as Catalysts we are presented with and where our futures might lead.