How three months revealed the true extent of Ashden's work and its impact across the sustainable energy sector.

Yes, Ashden is an Awards scheme, but it’s also so much more

Ava Scott

As I was
finishing up my semester at University last spring and professors and peers began
to ask about my summer internship, I found that explaining Ashden to others was
quite straightforward. “Well, I’ll be working for an organisation that awards
sustainable energy projects,” I’d respond. Once I arrived at Ashden however, I
soon discovered it was not quite so simple.

months ago when I arrived at Ashden, I’d heard all about the excitement surrounding
Awards week and with 14 years of Awards, it was clear that for anyone working
in the sustainability sector, winning one of these was a big deal. What I didn’t
realise was the full extent of the work Ashden did beyond just providing recognition
and prize money.

The first thing
I discovered was that the Awards Ceremony is only one piece, out of a much
larger body of work shaping the impact of the sustainable energy sector itself.

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and a key architect of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, meets the 2018 winners.

The entire Awards
week is not only designed to spotlight the innovative ways these organisations
are tackling climate change, but also to promote a specific agenda.
This year, the annual Ashden Conference addressed the ongoing challenge of accelerating
investment in organisations like Ashden’s winners. Barriers to financing
sustainable energy systems, especially decentralised solutions, are the reason over
1.2 billion people lack access to modern forms of electricity. Representatives
from from Bloomberg, Acumen and more joined the discussion to determine what measures
must be taken within the finance sector to change this reality. Throughout the
rest of the week, these organisations had the chance to attend investor events,
meet with journalists and learn from hundreds of other organisations about their
previous successes. For Ashden’s international winners, it’s an introduction to a global platform they can then access to scale their work.

Outside of
that week however, it’s not as though everything comes grinding to a halt. The
UK-based organisations go on to join an active alumni network. They are brought
together regularly for professional development seminars and events like Ashden
After Work to discuss industry trends and issues on the national agenda alongside
policy makers, investors and energy experts. Thanks to the relationships that Ashden
fosters among all these companies, they develop new partnerships, learn how to deliver
better services and discuss new solutions and innovations to bring us closer to
a low-carbon future. 

Ashden winners were able to network and learn from other organisations successes at ARUP’s Green Buildings Conference.

Ashden also
never fails to focus on the larger picture. The UK Sustainable Cities Programme
is working with metropolitan centres, specifically the metro mayoral city
regions to rethink how our urban spaces function. Developing and managing resilient,
healthy spaces for millions of people to live and work that don’t emit masses
of air pollutants and greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are no easy feats. This
network uses Ashden winners’ experiences as a means to develop new approaches
to such challenges.

Ashden also
runs various other programmes to complement their winners’ work. For example, the
Ashden India Collective links together Indian winners to promote clean energy
and address energy poverty in the region. Fit for the Future, another Ashden
spin-off consists of a network of more than 500 individuals and 80
organisations in the non-profit sector to make buildings, land and organisations
themselves more sustainable. Ashden’s schools programme, LESS CO2 advises
teachers, administrators and others in school communities on energy-saving practices,
as well as how to embed sustainability into a school’s curriculum and culture.  

Pupils take wind speed readings for a maths lesson, with the wind turbine in the background at St Columb Minor, one of LESS CO2‘s schools.

This multifaceted approach allows Ashden to enable progress
on several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as well as the objectives
of the Paris Climate Agreement. Their work extends beyond energy and environmental
sustainability into the realms of public health, gender equality and economic
development. Just like the companies they award, Ashden is tackling climate
change and improving livelihoods around the world. So yes, it is an Award’s scheme.
But it is also so much more than just that.

Read More

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