Talent for Sustainability – A unique campaign for embedding sustainability in the housing sector

Meet our Sustainability Leaders

Rhys Bevan, Environmental Sustainability Business Partner (Development) at Stonewater

As the housing sector continues to face major challenges, developing and retaining a talented workforce has never been more important. The Talent for Sustainability campaign is a call to action from an innovative partnership which aims to make a difference by embedding sustainability in the sector’s talent pool in the North.

In partnership with the GEM Programme and Talent in Huis in the Netherlands, this dynamic three-year campaign is ambitious in its quest to discover and develop talented and inquisitive minds who think fast, act quickly and make a difference to sustainability for housing organisations, their tenants and communities, providing them with training, guidance and assigning projects to develop them into future leaders with a solid understanding of sustainability challenges.

Following the launch of the campaign last Summer, our Sustainability Leaders Group, who have been steering the shape of the campaign, have met frequently to identify the problems we want to focus on and to set the GEMs the challenge of tackling them.

 We caught up with Rhys Bevan, Environmental Sustainability Business Partner (Development) at Stonewater, former GEM and part of our Sustainability Leaders Group, to find out more.


Rhys, tell us about your role and why sustainability has a high profile at Stonewater?

My title at Stonewater is ‘Environmental Sustainability Business Partner (Development)’. My role is to assist the wider development team in reaching our sustainability objectives, such as to adopt a pathway towards accomplishing the goal that all new starts on sites from April 2025 will be Net Zero Operation Carbon (NZOC) for our land and build schemes. I also help to identify new sustainable build methods and technologies to ensure we are building high quality homes that are cost efficient for our customers.

At Stonewater we believe in a holistic approach to sustainability across all aspects of our business, looking to improve the energy performance of our new and existing homes, but also keeping our customers at the heart of our sustainability efforts; through energy advice, green living and ensuring customers learn alongside us on how to get the most out of their home. To this end, our Sustainability team has now expanded to 6 business partners, sitting under the Assistant Director Environment and Sustainability, covering all areas of the business, and ensuring that all teams keep sustainability at the heart of their thinking and that we don’t implement policies or changes that undermine our sustainability objectives or customer commitments.


What would you say are the main benefits of your participation in the GEM Programme, and why, as a former GEM, did you want to become involved in the design of the GEM Sustainability Stream?

Alongside giving me invaluable knowledge around the built environment and housing inequalities within the UK, the GEM programme helped to me to build a network of likeminded peers across social housing in the UK who are as passionate about sustainability and housing as I am. It was for this reason that I was eager to be involved with the GEM Sustainability Stream. I wanted to do my part in order to help young professionals interested in social housing and sustainability to have a graduate programme that gives them both the knowledge they need to succeed in their careers, and to help them build a network of their own peers across the industry to share ideas and insight into the issues we currently face.

Collaboration is essential for tackling the climate crisis, and I think the Sustainability Stream is a good first step for these graduates to have the biggest impact possible throughout their careers. The design for this Stream consists of professionals with knowledge covering all aspects of the built environment, meaning we can all provide greater insights into our individual specialisms for these GEMs.


What are your hopes and aspirations for the GEM Sustainability Stream over the three years of the Talent for Sustainability Campaign?

It is my hope that the GEM Sustainability Stream will help inspire the next generation of housing professionals to embed sustainability at the heart of their thinking across all aspects of the industry and push them to pursue greater positive change within their respective companies. Encouraging collaboration and networking are key parts of making meaningful change and in order to properly tackle the climate crisis we need passionate and informed individuals to take the lead, and I believe the Sustainability Stream will help to achieve this.

The GEMs will begin their work in March and conclude in late May. During that time they will have the opportunity to visit sustainability projects in both the UK and Holland to further develop their knowledge and understanding of good practice and key issues. Look out for further updates!

To find out more, or to get involved in future streams, contact Trevor Smith, Director, The GEM Programme: trevor.smith@centreforpartnership.co.uk or Kate Maughan, Director of Member Engagement, Northern Housing Consortium: kate.maughan@northern-consortium.org.uk