Kate Royston is a research consultant, facilitator and advisor, working with industry and academia. She specialises in sustainable business improvement with a focus on resource efficiency.
Kate set up Robbee Smole in 2005, whilst in the Netherlands. This followed many years international business management experience with blue chip companies. Her experience extends over many sectors including International Telecoms, Fast Moving Consumer Goods and Engineering.
During 2006/2007 Kate worked with the EcoPorts Foundation in Amsterdam. This included re-launching the website, introducing the partnership scheme and organising the successful 2006 EcoPorts conference in Genoa.
A regular contributor in the past to GreenPort her articles covered topics including carbon and environmental management and sustainable logistics.
Sustainable resource management and the application of industrial ecology – minimising waste and smart utilisation of resources – is essential for port areas and logistics chains. Kate has been researching its best practice across port industrial areas and the benefits to be gained.
Kate co-ordinates SevernNet, a social enterprise which developed from a demonstration project she initiated and ran across the Bristol Port Estate and its Vicinity from 2009 (www.severnnet.org).
Kate is also involved in the development of community energy in S.W. Devon.
Kate, now based in the UK, has an MBA from Warwick University and an MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of Surrey.
Developed from an industrial ecology pilot which started in 2009, cooperation between businesses, the community and other stakeholders has grown across the Bristol Port area, facilitated by SevernNet.
This has led to an area-wide business network linking to the community, investment to pilot two Employment and Enterprise Hubs supporting local people into work and start-up enterprise support ; and transport infrastructure including cycle and walking paths and a Shuttle Bus Service.
An initiative is also underway to introduce circularity across the area supported by a circular economy vision for 2050.
In 2009 a study comparing the opportunities for industrial ecology across port areas in the SW England to the port city areas of The Netherlands led to the development of a pilot study across the Bristol Port area. The study findings indicated that the political and social climate in England were not as conducive to the collaboration found in The Netherlands ; neither were there the same levels of industrialisation in the S. West. However, there was clear interest from several large businesses in the Bristol Port area to get to know their neighbours and identify resources which could be exchanged beneficially.
The pilot grew from five founder members, including The Bristol Port Company, to a network of around 150 businesses. Between 2009 and 2011 known savings of £250,000 were achieved through bringing businesses together on a regular basis and enabling exchange of information and knowledge sharing.
A SevernNet Champions group was formed to enable businesses to shape their agenda and develop deeper understanding of their needs. This brought together stakeholders from businesses, The Bristol Port Company, two key community organisations (Avonmouth Community Centre and Ambition Lawrence Weston) and local government, facilitated by SevernNet.
As conversations and trust developed, it became evident that there were several significant challenges across the area, particularly around transport infrastructure and getting local people into local work. Several events and forums were held to try and understand the problems and opportunities.
It became clear that the lack of transport was as important an obstacle to work as having the right skills and qualifications ; and work began to identify improvements. Businesses also took a greater interest in notifying the community of job opportunities and working with the local Job Clubs. It was identified that centralised computerised selection procedures were often filtering out the candidates that the employers most wanted ; and a number of businesses made changes to their recruitment practices.
A partnership was formed (SevernNet Working) between The Bristol Port Company, SevernNet, Bristol City Council, S. Glos. Council, Avonmouth Community Centre, Ambition Lawrence Weston and Knightstone Housing Association, and an application made to the Coastal Communities Fund for investment. After two unsuccessful attempts, £1.2m was secured at the end of 2014 to establish :
• two Employment and Enterprise Hubs providing Employment and Enterprise Support Services
• a local shuttle Bus service (SevernNet Flyer) to connect transport hubs and local residents to two key industrial areas
• a safe walking and cycling corridor through the area
• and strengthen business engagement.
This has combined with an investment of £14m into the renovation of the main road through the area. Although significant disruption has been caused, facilitated sessions have been held enabling businesses to influence some design aspects, enabling improved traffic flows and safety for the future.
One Year On
The Employment and Enterprise Hubs are thriving.
Businesses are working with the Employment Support Workers to run ‘into work’ courses to try and help fill vacancies particularly for HGV drivers and logistics and warehouse skills.
The Enterprise Support workers who were concerned that there may not be enough interest in starting and growing enterprises are finding demand is outstripping their resources ; and requests are being made to local businesses for mentoring support.
SevernNet is running a monthly Business Breakfast networking event to encourage more interaction between businesses, introduce the new entrepreneurs and stimulate local supply chain initiatives. This has also led to the development of Health and Safety Peer to Peer group, exchanging knowledge and expertise between businesses.
The monthly newsletter is reaching around 500 businesses, community members and stakeholders across the area.
The SevernNet Flyer shuttle bus is proving to be popular. It is on track to reach a break-even position by the end of 2016 ; and the service extended to other industrial estates across the SevernNet area.
Back to our roots
With progress having been made to improve transport, employment and enterprise, attention can again be focused on environmental initiatives. There is growing interest in the circular economy. The SevernNet Area includes many businesses involved in recycling ; a vast volume of residual resources not being used to their full potential ; and a number of businesses who are very mature in their resource management.
An initiative is being developed, supported by students from the two local universities and a resource management enterprise (Resource Futures), to establish a Circular Economy Forum and several pilot circularity projects. These will include resource mapping across an industrial estate, and an industrial sector, to identify opportunities for improved resource management ; looking at what circularity means for one or two quite different businesses and providing support tools and events to guide businesses through circular economy thinking first steps !
An important element is to support a visioning exercise to imagine the area as an exemplar circular economy for businesses and the community by 2050. What will this look like and will we further develop collaboration and cooperation to get there ?