FLASH, a £10 million initiative funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and managed by the Institute for Sustainability, has helped Drug & Alcohol Service for London (DASL) improve its environmental footprint.
The urban garden at DASL is central to the Stratford-based charity’s work helping people with drug and alcohol problems, but these days it’s also a statement of its commitment to the environment. The 30-year old agency is on a journey to achieve the ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS).
The garden was the idea of DASL chief executive Sue Kenten who also knows that the organisation’s survival depends on it being able to demonstrate that it is addressing its environmental footprint. No longer can organisations that rely on public finances for their funding not address this issue – local authorities and central Government are demanding it as they seek to green their supply chains.
Today, DASL has projects in Newham, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich and Bexley and employs around 30 full and part-time staff. Ann Saunders, Finance and Resources manager at DASL, has been charged with managing the charity’s EMS process, which she acknowledges – given the charity’s size and resources – has been a slow one.
"It’s been on our agenda for about two or three years, but we’ve not made a lot of progress," she says. The charity is using the Acorn EMS scheme, which is specifically aimed at small organisations – but, with no formal training in this area, Saunders has struggled to make significant inroads.
Fortunately, a new scheme run by the University of East London (UEL) has been able to help DASL develop procedures for the standard, review legislative requirements and develop operational procedures around waste management.
The scheme is part of the FLASH programme, a £10 million initiative funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and managed by the Institute for Sustainability. Its aim is to support SMEs in London looking to become more sustainable, offering them free environmental support consultancy.
"The assistance from UEL has really helped DASL move further along with our environmental accreditation process," says Ann, who admits she didn’t relish her new role until she saw the results that could be achieved.
"The waste audit was an enlightening experience. Following a detailed presentation and changes to encourage greater recycling and composting our second audit revealed we’d achieved a 90 per cent waste reduction, which is quite an amazing result," she explains.
In fact, Ann says she was "flawed" by the results and now finds her role as 'sustainability co-ordinator’ "fascinating".
"We are now going to audit our waste on a regular basis," she says.
With UEL’s assistance – around 12 hours in total – DASL has also introduced 'hippos’, which are delivering water savings for the charity. The resource efficiency devices, which are installed in urinals, are saving the SME 23 litres of water per toilet per day.
There is plenty more work still to be done before DASL can achieve its environmental accreditation, but with the help of UEL and the FLASH programme the charity is now well on its way to doing so. And Ann says the effort is well worth it, as DASL realises the financial savings and reputational benefits that go with being greener – and most importantly safeguards the contracts that its work depends on.
"The University of East London team that helped us is an inspiration," she comments. "The support given has been tremendous – they have been really helpful in moving the agency forward."To find out more about the Institute for Sustainability’s FLASH programme visit www.instituteforsustainability.org.uk/FLASH.