Cleaner investor in Leicester

Britain's first Environment City is building partnerships with business to fulfil promises it made six years ago

EUROPE'S 300 medium-sized cities have a working model for environmental improvement, thanks to a European Commission-funded report on Leicester. When Leicester was made Britain's first Environment City six years ago the title was awarded for what was promised, rather than for what had been achieved. Since then it has been heavy going, with few easy solutions.

The Local Sustainability review of progress in Leicester focuses on the difficulties in achieving change but it is also a collection of 50 of the most effective case studies from around the world. These include a waste-using scheme from Geissen in Germany that has provided jobs and training, as well as nearly achieving break-even. Waste minimisation projects from around Britain are profiled.

The experience of Leicester, and of Seattle in the United States, one of the cities most committed to environmental improvement, suggests that local authorities should not take the dominant role in promoting environmental improvements, but instead build partnerships of charities, community groups, councils and, most importantly, businesses. Existing prejudices and past conflicts can disrupt meetings if they are convened by local authorities.

As industry is the biggest polluter it is the partner that most needs to be persuaded to become environmentally-friendly. When approaching commerce, a business case has to be made, showing that waste reduction is good for the balance sheet. Asking managers to act for the benefit of the environment is unlikely to be effective. Larger businesses, which employ specialists who are open to persuasion based on what is best for the company, are easier to persuade than small firms, which may not have the financial or staff resources to implement proposed changes.

A number of local businesses were given detailed advice on how to reduce wastes. One Leicester company, Fisher Rosemount, ended use of ozone-depleting CFCs five years ago, in advance of legislation, moving to cleaner processes, and saved pounds 17,000 a year. By installing a pounds 30,000 water-cooling system it also reduced its use of clean water, cutting pounds 10,000 off the annual water bill. A local brewery, Everards, carried out a waste minimisation review, and calculated it could halve its pounds 150,000 waste bill.

Leicester City Council is committed to a partnership approach and has sponsored a local charity, Environ, to take the lead role in the Environment City project. "Getting our cities into good working order requires co- operation between sectors, between local government, businesses, and Leicester's community," says Peter Soulsby, the leader of Leicester council. "It requires genuine partnerships."

The EC is another partner, not just as funder but also in helping to direct Leicester's environmental programme. For the programme to have support from all the local community, including the unemployed and low wage earners, it has been necessary to extend the definition of the environment to include social and economic improvements. Leicester's partners argue that moving towards sustainability, a style of life that allows future generations to enjoy the world, involves a common process, wherever it is undertaken. "There are five basic steps," advises Ian Roberts, a director of Environ. "One is to define the issues in clear language, creating a manifesto for local action. The second is to work in partnership where appropriate. Then a city must develop its own action plan for sustainability. Fourth is to find ways of monitoring what happens. The old saying is true, that if you can't monitor it you can't manage it. Five, involve as many people in the community as possible."

But the sooner change is begun, the better. Davis in California is regarded as America's cleanest city but it began its green action programme in the 1950s at a time of enormous population growth.

Decades of environmental awareness in Davis have led to green activists being elected on to the council and a programme of environmental commitments. Buildings must meet tough energy efficiency standards and are subject to maximum height rules; solar energy is promoted; tree planting is designed to assist natural air conditioning; local food production is aided; and 70 per cent of the population sort their own rubbish to assist with street collections. Bicycles also outnumber cars by more than four to one.

Davis may be the city of the future. To avoid perpetual smog and permanent climate change its example may have to be copied, except that we can no longer afford to spend half a century doing it.

q 'Local Sustainability', published by Environ and sponsored by the European Commission's Life fund, can be obtained for pounds 28 from Environ at Western Park, Hinckley Road, Leicester.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power