Redcliffe & Temple BID is an opportunity for responsible, sustainable businesses 28 February 2020

Ian Townsend is a sustainable cities consultant, and previously was CEO of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, the city’s cross-sector environmental sustainability network. His blog is based on his presentation to businesses at a recent workshop for the proposed Redcliffe & Temple BID. For more on Ian , see LinkedIn.

‘Responsible business’ has arguably never been higher on the agenda. More than ever, companies are being expected to address issues beyond the bottom line – playing a stronger role in responding to the environmental crises, entrenched social inequalities, and limited access to economic opportunity.

Business bible the Financial Times has called for “a better form of capitalism” with its New Agenda for business. Yet for many businesses in Bristol this agenda will not seem all that novel. Since at least the 1980s, companies across the city have recognised their social role, including through the West of England Initiative.

And the city’s businesses are increasingly recognising their environmental role, responding to the climate and ecological emergencies that Bristol has declared, following urgent warnings and calls for action from the global scientific community.

This includes businesses making commitments to reduce emissions from their operations and those of their supply chain: increasing efficiency and reducing use of energy, water and other resources, encouraging more sustainable transport and food, and helping nature by growing vegetables and hosting beehives.

These positive actions can inspire other businesses to act, but companies can achieve even greater impact through collaboration.

Business improvement districts (BIDs) offer a great way for companies come together to create a sustainable city for all.  Successful BIDs can raise significant sums through a levy which is used to deliver projects to their areas.

A new BID is proposed for the Redcliffe & Temple in the heart of Bristol. If successful, this would raise around £1 million a year to invest locally. Ahead of the ballot of businesses this September, consultations and workshops with potential BID businesses are showing environmental issues emerging as a strong area of interest – a clear potential priority for the new BID.

Drawing on learnings from other BIDs, the Redcliffe & Temple and other BIDs can consider supporting things like:

· BID-wide climate and ecological emergency declarations and encouraging business in the area to take immediate action, see Bristol’s One City Climate Strategy;

· delivery of the environmental and other goals in Bristol’s One City Plan;

· the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Bristol, and encouraging individual BID businesses to take action on them; and

· setting up an BID environmental sustainability working group to accelerate action.

· renewable energy projects and supporting local community energy initiatives, see Bristol Energy Network;

· local sustainable food projects and Bristol’s ‘Going for Gold’ sustainable food city ambition;

· the local nature recovery network, linking habitats, green walls and roofs, tree-planting e.g. supporting the One Tree Per Employee initiative, and the ‘blue infrastructure’ of the Floating Harbour;

· initiatives promoting the circular economy, re-use, reduction and recycling;

· plans to improve cycling and walking locally;

· a neighbourhood plan for the area, to help the community shape its future development;

· focusing BID members’ volunteering days on particular local projects;

BIDs have real potential to drive positive action by local businesses to make better places for people and planet.

Proposed BIDs like Redcliffe & Temple BID are golden opportunities for businesses to come together and show place-based sustainability leadership and encourage fellow businesses to act on the climate and ecological emergencies that we face.