Conservation Without Borders Round Britain Climate Challenge, Interview with Sacha Dench

13 May 2021

We are supporting Sacha Dench and Conservation Without Borders on the forthcoming Round Britain Climate Challenge (RBCC). We caught up with Sacha and Nick Hayes, our Sustainability Lead, to talk about the project and working together…

Sacha, please can you tell us a bit more about your forthcoming expedition?

SD: To mark the UK hosting COP26, I’m going to attempt to be the first to fly a circumnavigation of Britain by electric paramotor. This will be the first long distance expedition ever attempted by electric paramotor. Whilst I am known for expeditions following migratory species, losing our family home in the Australian bushfires last year made me really want to focus on helping drive a significant shift on climate change. I want to see how climate change is affecting us in the UK, and meet the incredible people experiencing it, and also coming up with solutions.

That sounds amazing, what do you hope the expedition will achieve?

SD: With the expedition I am keen to see how far I can go to decarbonise my flying and expeditions. It will be difficult, but it will also hopefully inspire us to come up with solutions and see what changes would need to be made in the way we work, in charging infrastructure, etc. But through trying to break a Guinness World Record and gathering lots of national and regional media attention, the bigger question we are really trying to get the whole country asking is: ‘If Britain drove the Industrial Revolution, can we drive the Green Revolution too?’.

By visiting people who are making waves in different areas, around Industry and Innovation, Home and Community, Farming and Nature, we want to focus attention on solutions and ideas. I also want to generate mass public support for a green revolution, by showing how many solutions there are out there, that a shift to a green economy is where opportunity and jobs lie. That we can shift, and we really could shift fast enough to stick to 1.5 degrees, if there is a collective will around the country to do so. It’s incredible to see it is working already and we haven’t started the expedition yet. Joanna Lumley called up a couple of weeks ago to say she had heard of the project. She thinks it’s marvellous and asked what she can do to help. With her on board as a supporter and joining us at a few points on the expedition, hopefully we will get lots of public support.

One of the reasons I have chosen to do expeditions and to share them with the world is also to remind people of the big picture, that talk of ‘carbon’ and ‘fossil fuels’ is also about the state of nature, the extreme loss of species we are currently experiencing in the world, that more extreme weather, droughts and lack of biodiversity is also a question of survival for ordinary people, many of whom will never have heard of COP26. Whilst the aerial imagery from the electric paramotor is stunning, it can also really help tell all of these stories in a way people can see with their own eyes.

And how is Ridge involved?

SD: Ridge has come on board as a supporter, providing funds but also offering tech support and connections with other supporters. All of these have been critical for getting the expedition off the ground.

NH: We came across the RBCC working with Britishvolt, developing their ESG/sustainability framework. There was an opportunity for Britishvolt to provide support as a potential sponsor and also for their battery Gigaplant site to be a potential landing site. We felt the challenge reflected where we (Ridge) want to be as a business, recognising the impact on our clients (funding, climate emergencies, business viability, supply chain) and our drive to reduce our own impacts as a business, our offices and working practices, so we also offered to lend our support directly.

We’d love to hear any advice you could give to us and our clients about the future?

SD: Shifting to Net Zero is not just for COP 26 and this year. Climate change obviously poses many business risks including property portfolios, security, and energy supplies, but not making significant shifts will also impact staff retention and recruitment, business reputation. And really importantly, through mechanisms like the Task force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, the investment community is focusing on how it can correctly price climate-related risks, so it can actively drive a global transition to a low carbon economy. So, shifting to net zero will pose challenges, the question you should be asking isn’t ‘Can you do it?’, but ‘Can you afford not to?’

How is Ridge helping to address these issues?

NH: We are seeing a step change in interest from clients driven by a range of factors including politics, funding, increasing awareness and climate emergency declarations. We help clients to align sector and organisational requirements with delivery requirements. This includes supporting clients at a strategic level in delivering ESG and sustainability strategy through our ‘360sustainability’ framework, through to helping clients deliver NZC solutions and managing climate risk at the development and building level. This approach helps clients align their policy, strategy and funding requirements, assess and manage climate risk and deliver corporate priorities. Through our multidisciplinary team we can ensure pragmatic and commercial project delivery aligned with all priorities. Our work with Britishvolt, working with Sacha, is case in point, with the Ridge team developing a holistic ESG/sustainability framework and providing a wide range of services including; Project Management, Architecture, H&S, BIM, Planning and Building Surveying to deliver the Northumberland Gigaplant.

Finally, with COP26 coming up now in just 6 months’ time, can you share with us what you hope it will achieve?

SD: I hope we all show up, whether in person or in spirit, with the aim of acting, collaborating, sharing challenges and ideas. Not just to be seen to be there. That we chose to face the challenges of climate change, as adventurers might face a mountain, an ocean, a journey that has never been done before; as an exciting opportunity… as a mission to rally a team around, bring people of broad skills together, a chance to innovate. I hope that all involved in COP remember to hear the voices of people around the country and around the world, including the many that have already lost our homes or loved ones to mega fires and the growing number of natural disasters. For global corporations, these people are your staff, your children, your future customers. And in return, I hope that governments and corporations feel the full support of the public behind ambitious change.

I’d really like to see companies, particularly the bigger ones, being inspired and brave enough not only to put changemakers at the top, but to support them through the challenges that are to come. More importantly I want to see companies recognise and start to use their powers as employers, investors, advertisers… the real mass influencers that have the power to choose our future. They are the ones who can chose to shift our economies into hyperdrive on climate action before it is too late… or not. As Mandela said, it always seems impossible, until it is done.

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