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Solar facade via Wikimedia Commons user Hanjin

Steering growth for the green economy

Manchester’s Green Economy Group brings together companies and individuals from the city’s hugely successfully financial and professional services sector. It’s an impressive roll call of consultants, lawyers and financiers, with a smattering of creative types, too. But, I politely suggest to Brad Blundell, the group’s vice chair, hasn’t Manchester got enough well-meaning groups prepared to sit down and chew the fat over green issues?

“I think you’re right, there’s plenty of people out there talking but the aim of this group is to do rather than talk,” he says. The group’s key role is to: “coordinate and convene, then promote ideas and turn them into reality.”

The group, which was set up last year, is part of Pro-Manchester, a corporate membership organisation which represents a broad spectrum of businesses across  financial and professional services. Any company in the sector with an active interest in working on environmental and sustainability issues, is welcome to join.

Brad works for sustainability consultants Anthesis, while the group’s chair, Adam Workman, is a partner at 350 Investment Partners, and the fund manager of the Northwest Fund for Energy and Environmental. HSBC’s Thomas Bashford is also a vice chair, while key staff from the likes of Deloitte, patent and trade mark attorneys Appleyard Lees and Santander are among the 15 businesses that make up the steering group.

At first glance, perhaps not names you’d readily associate with environmental issues but Brad is keen that the group demonstrates it’s not just sectors like manufacturing, engineering and energy than can influence the green economy. Many pro Manchester members also have experience of areas such as renewable technologies, from number crunching and accountancy to banking and legal representation.

Professional services also cut across the private, public and third sectors, as well as academia, he explains, giving them additional insights into the ways in which different organisations work, their needs, and even their green aspirations.

At a glance: our green economy

Low Carbon & Environmental Goods and Services Sector more generally in GM:

  • Growth rate in 2011/12 of 3.8%
  • 1,941 companies
  • 37,000 employees
  • £5.5bn sales each year
  • Particular strengths in:
  • Renewable energy 
  • Building technologies and energy management
  • Environmental / technical consultancy
  • Waste management, recovery and recycling


In Manchester the green economy focusses on ideas around buildings, energy, transport, greens spaces and waterways, and sustainable consumption. The overarching vision is for Greater Manchester to have pioneered a new model of sustainable economic growth by 2020, based around a more connected, talented and greener city region where all residents are able to contribute to and benefit from sustained prosperity.

The overarching vision is for Greater Manchester to have pioneered a new model of sustainable economic growth by 2020

It was on the back of this vision that Greater Manchester’s Low Carbon Hub approached the group to see if they could explore new ways in which the city’s professional and financial services community could help the Hub achieve its ambitious aim of cutting the city’s carbon emissions by 48% by 2020.

The Hub was keen to harness the substantial knowledge within the sector, and take advantage of the fact that many of the businesses are either international companies, or work with a global client base involved in sustainability issues and green infrastructure programmes.

“They’re keen to capture some of that international knowledge and fast track developments here in Manchester,” says Brad. And by bringing together this global intelligence and applying it to problems that Manchester is only now starting to get to grips with: “we can learn the lessons and get to the end point that much quicker,” he adds.

The group has recently passed on their first set of recommendations to the Hub, an eclectic mix of ideas designed to help achieve carbon reduction goals. A key suggestion, explains Brad, is the need to develop a register of assets across Greater Manchester, assets which could either be used to support renewable technology, or where an intervention could have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

One such idea is to use derelict land as temporary sites for photovoltaic panels, which could help to meet green energy requirements, he says.

“There’s also been lots of discussions about how the city needs to become more supportive of pedestrians and cyclists,” he continues. High on the agenda is developing safe cycle hubs, which make it more practical for people to leave their car at home and cycle to work. The idea involves a secure place for people to leave their bike, but also somewhere to shower and change before going to work.

Once the Hub has assessed the ideas, Brad is keen that the Group then helps to implement them. “In this day and age you have to be seen to walk the talk in order to get others to buy into what you are trying to get them to do, otherwise you start to look a bit hollow and false in the advice that you offer,” he says.

He also believes that Manchester has a huge role to play in the green economy. “If you think about certain sectors, there are logical, geographical  locations to many of them, real focal points. If you say ICT, you  think about the Silicon Valley,  Biotech, you think of Cambridge.

“There is also a real cluster of knowledge and IP within the Manchester region, and it would be great if, through the actions of the Green Economy Group, that could be brought to a zenith, with Manchester seen as one of those places to which you turn if you want to get cutting edge advice on green matters.

“It’s a grand vision,” says Brad - and something worth talking about, too.


Pro-Manchester’s Green Economy Group

  • 350 Investment Partners
  • Anthesis
  • Appleyard Lees
  • Creative Concern
  • Deloitte LLP
  • Enworks
  • Eversheds
  • HSBC Plc
  • RSK Environment Ltd
  • Sheppard Robson
  • The University of Salford
  • WSP Energy & Environment