22 Apr 2021

Sustainability workstream: a round-up

For those of you who were able to come to memcom workstream on sustainability, thank you for taking part in what many of you have indicated was a really useful and far-reaching discussion. For those of you who weren’t able to join us, hopefully, you’ll get a flavour of what we discussed and be tempted to join us next time.

Firstly, I should point out what a memcom workstream is. Unlike a Special Interest Group, whose focus is often to bring together people sharing a similar interest or specialism, memcom workstreams are designed to provide practical takeaways which should lead to solution-focused outcomes.

Since sustainability cuts across all areas of a business, the memcom sustainability workstream offers insight, practical actions, benchmarking and peer networking across the membership sector, to assist organisations in their strategic planning and saving them from reinventing the wheel.

Shared wisdom is the idea behind the memcom workstreams: interested parties looking at different solutions to the same problems, discussing pitfalls and preventing failures. We launched our various workstreams – on sustainability, EDI, events and risk – to save time and money, as well as to drive the sector forward and benefit wider society. 

But now, to our sustainability workstream. In conjunction with our partner of this workstream, b2b Partnerships, we had already identified four areas of sustainability we felt would be of particular value to membership organisations and charities. These were environmental, financial, governance and social value.

Although nothing discussed yesterday was a huge surprise, it was a really useful and informative forum for discussion. There were some really good elements of the conversation that I personally took away, which I’ve tried my best to summarise, in no particular order, as follows:

  • Most (if not all) of us are taking sustainability seriously, but when it comes to practical actions, we’re lacking cohesion and leadership. It was felt by most who attended that with COP26 around the corner, the government is keener to get organisations to sign up their commitment at this stage, rather than actively assisting organisations and companies to change to more sustainable patterns. There is no sector-wide response, and the majority of organisations don’t have an organisational-wide response to tackling issues of sustainability within their own organisations.
  • Sustainability means different things to each of us and our organisations, and sometimes it is overwhelming just getting started. Language is sometimes a barrier, and the fact that sustainability cuts across the business from IT systems to finances to procurement means it is often hard to have a sustainability plan. Almost 90% of organisations present yesterday admitted they are not very far along the path towards Net Zero goals, and many have no internally appointed staff committees or working groups to actively think about their own organisations in the context of sustainability. 
  • Lobbying/change is often fractious or partial and if membership organisations continue to only identify the sustainability needs of their members, they might effectively be passing the buck to another sector or group. More sustained, holistic lobbying, involving entire supply or value chains, for example, could be the way forward to achieve more permanent change.
  • Sustainability takes second place in a pandemic, where the natural response is to worry about today’s issues even though we might be storing up issues for the future. This will need careful planning to avoid the same catastrophes happening in the future, if pandemics or similar risks become the norm.
  • We need to make sustainability accessible to all. This means de-jargonising the subject and removing as many barriers to engagement as possible. 
  • It’s beholden to all of us to adopt climate strategies for our organisations even if we work in areas which at first sight might not be obviously impacted, such as the medical sector. The climate change emergency is affecting all of us as individual members of the human race, and on a very personal level.

In practical terms, the sustainability workstream gave us plenty of ideas for how we focus going forwards. With the feedback from many of the participants, we have identified the following areas as potential themes – and it would be great to get wider feedback (either formally or informally) to see if we’re missing anything.

In a sustainably grown nutshell, here at memcom, we believe we can help you focus on the following areas:

  • We can help you with exploring the tactics for engaging and influencing stakeholders (members, council and staff) in discussions around sustainability (e.g. identifying different member ‘personas’, working groups, etc.)
  • We can try to bring together various stakeholders to focus on joined-up and more successful lobbying and influencing of government policy.
  • We can help you simplify the language used around sustainability and remove the barriers in order to maximise stakeholder engagement.
  • We can look at producing toolkits for organisations earlier in their sustainability journey to save the reinvention of the wheel and help with early implementation.
  • We can assist with non-financial reporting.
  • We can jointly explore sustainable finances, procurement and growth.

If you are interested in sponsoring the workstream or taking part in shaping the future of our sector’s sustainability response, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] and, as always, if you can recommend partners who can help provide resources or subject matter experts for the sustainability workstream, please send them in our direction.

Keep an eye out on our sustainability workstream hub for key insights from each of the sessions, resources and information on the next event.


Upcoming workstreams

19 May 2021

Sustainability Workstream

This month's focus is on environmental sustainability and what it means to membership associations. We'll also look at jargon-busting and making …
Online Workstream
22 February 2024

Events Network

Events are a big part of most membership organisations and there is a lot to explore. For those who want to think innovatively and creatively …
Online Networking event