This article was originally published in The Herald – Learn the value of going green with The Verdancy Group’s vital lessons.
There is a real determination to get this right. With the urgent need to lower our carbon footprints in order to halt climate change and protect all our futures, we all need to be aware of the choices and changes we have to make.
The new green economy offers us not just challenges, but also opportunities. As our lifestyles become different, so our economies will shift.
New jobs will be created, and people in existing ones will adopt new mindsets. We are even having to prepare young people for careers that do not yet exist.
Learning will be at the centre of all this. The Verdancy Group, based in Livingston, works with education, business and communities to offer an innovative range of teaching materials and courses to build the skills needed for the future.
The genesis of the company lies in the waste management sector, which as an industry is having to adapt massively to climate change.
In an earlier guise, it has been offering an accredited qualification in handling waste for the last three years in association with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland.
“After that, we considered what we wanted to do, and my passion is very much around education, both within the private sector and in mainstream education from nurseries through schools to colleges and universities”, says Verdancy Director Steven Kiakowski.
“We made that decision to start The Verdancy Group during the pandemic lockdown and registered as a business last October, so we’ve come a long way in a short space of time.”
The company, he says, is about explaining the opportunities in the green recovery, climate reality, circular economy and net zero transition can offer to people as individuals.
“Whether that’s a young person who doesn’t know what they want to do when they leave school, or someone who is employed and wants to retrain and pick up a different skill set, we have created lots of really strong and positive programmes to help.”
In the education sector, The Verdancy Group works with early years, secondary and higher education specialists to create its learning materials and programmes. These are all specially designed to increase awareness of the circular economy and sustainability, personal development and employability.
As Steven puts it: “The sustainable careers of the future will demand a mindset that is agile, inquisitive and resilient. Our learning resources work to enhance these skills.”
One of the key courses the business offers is its Waste In The Circular Economy Award.
A mixture of online and face-to-face learning, this is credit rated at SCQF Level 5 and provides learners with the opportunity to develop their values, attitudes and skills in order to protect the environment.
It has been tailored to individual specialisms and areas of interest in industries such as hospitality and construction.
“It’s about bringing context. In construction we will teach about things like sustainable design, 3D printing and design for remanufacture.
“With hospitality, we will look at things such as food waste, energy, lighting and food production in terms of the carbon footprint.”
He says he believes that waste management is the forgotten cousin of sustainability.
“There are a lot of things we can do to make an impact. I could see the way that schools were going and the way that business was driving things forward. If we can help a young person to make a decision that changes their perception of the environment or of the circular economy, then we will have created an opportunity.”
Other education programmes offered include a two hour sustainability awareness module allowing participants to explore and understand the many ways our actions impact on the environment.
This focuses on the choices we make about energy and water use, waste disposal, transport and food and how they affect the planet. The course demonstrates how to behave sustainably in these areas without transferring the costs and consequences to future generations.
A separate short 40-minute climate change module explores the key terminology around the subject and looks at the organisations tasked with tackling the problem.
It also identifies the obligations of public bodies and examines the benefits of saving and generating electricity at home. Both these modules have been well received in schools and work well at building awareness.
“We’re not here to duplicate things that are already happening, but to take things to the next level”,
“I believe in collaboration and it’s about listening to other people’s perception of the challenges of sustainability.”
Another important part of The Verdancy Group’s offering is working directly with business. “Sustainable minds lead to sustainable actions, but this can only be achieved if we support people with the learning and resources necessary in order to spark change.
“It’s fantastic to have a commitment to zero carbon, but your employees and the wider supply chain have to understand the role they play in realising that vision.
“A culture change takes in every member of the team – it starts with explaining what a carbon footprint is and the meaning behind net zero emissions.”
Steven Kiakowski believes that sustainability is too important and ubiquitous to be taught as a single subject in isolation.
“Along with the circular economy, it has to be embedded across education. It won’t work as well if it stands alone.
“Doing it that way won’t bring the impact that is needed to make the changes and hit the targets. We believe that we should try and influence people from a sustainability perspective in every single thing that we do. So we’re really thinking about the long term strategy in terms of the products and the content we’re going to provide.
“But we know that the biggest thing we can do is to make it about people.
“We want to influence them to make positive decisions, whether they want to bring these to their business or build a skill set that’s going to get them a job when they leave school.”
Verdancy team is on course to deliver change across the education sector.
ON the face of it, there would seem to be little connection between waste management and sustainability.
The reality, though, is very different.
If we are to meet net zero targets, a whole new approach needs to be taken to our methods of waste disposal and reuse, including tailoring these things far more closely to the circular economy.
Steven Kiakowski started working in this sector about 10 years ago, building a thorough understanding of the market.
In 2014, he moved on with a partner, Colin Grieve, to launch a waste consultancy business, WasteSwitch.
“We built that from scratch, working with many different organisations on things like cost efficiency and carbon reduction.
“You didn’t hear words like sustainability and climate change then, but some bodies were starting to sow the first seeds.”
The development of a one day course on handling waste correctly, accredited by the Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland, followed in 2018.
The education element of the consultancy then continued to grow.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic then offered the opportunity for a rethink. “I really wanted to work around education and make a difference, both within the private sector and also in areas such as schools. That’s when The Verdancy Group was formed, starting in October last year.”
Steven gives an example of how the company’s courses can really change careers.
“We were delivering learning at a school in Elgin, which is an area where oil and gas has a big influence.
“One of the students had already agreed to take a graduate apprenticeship with a firm in the offshore sector.
“He then decided that he no longer wanted to work in that area but instead wanted to move into renewable energy.
“So he then changed to an apprenticeship with a huge French company that is big in renewables.
“So he’s gone from a sector in decline to one that is now blossoming.
“It shows the difference our courses can make.”
Every job is a green job. Empower your team to tackle climate change. Discover our courses > https://theverdancygroup.com/business