07th September 2023
Solar panels on the roof of South Downs Leisure
How one Sussex leisure trust is putting the environment at the forefront of its strategy
“I have always been passionate about the environment,” declares Duncan Anderson, CEO of South Downs Leisure, as we sit down to talk about environmental sustainability.
Google ‘South Downs Leisure’ and the first thing you will see are the words ‘sustainable leisure trust’.
Under the About Us section of their website they have a sustainability section, which includes the 2022-26 Sustainability Development Strategy.
The strategy focuses on people, planet, and profit – three important values to achieve a sustainable business – and their mission states they must ‘put sustainability at the forefront of key decisions made across South Downs Leisure.’
But how do we know if this is just greenwashing – something you see more and more as companies jump on the sustainable bandwagon?
South Downs Leisure won The Sustainable Business Award 2022 at the Adur and Worthing Business Awards, and they are a member of BASIS – the sustainability hub for the UK sports industry.
But as soon as you talk to Duncan you know this is much more than just talking the talk.
“We are investing a lot of money,” Duncan reveals. “We are putting our money where our mouth is.
“I am passionate about it, this is bigger than anything.”
The trust run Davisons Leisure Centre, Worthing Leisure Centre, Field Place Manor House & Barns in Worthing, Lancing Manor Leisure Centre, Palatine Park Football Centre in Worthing, Sea Lanes in Brighton, Southwick Leisure Centre, Wadurs Swimming Pool in Shoreham, and Splashpoint Leisure Centre in Worthing.
Changes made have included installing 300 solar panels on the centres in Lancing, Southwick, and at Davisons and Splashpoint in Worthing.
Three electric bikes were purchased to travel in between sites rather than having to use a car.
There’s a secondhand bike to work scheme for staff, and they have adopted a reuse and recycle policy so now they mend broken furniture and use secondhand mobile phones.
They have spent £12,000 at Worthing Leisure Centre installing rubbercrumb catchers on the 3G pitches to reduce the amount of rubber travelling away from the pitch and eventually ending up in the water system.
They have spent over £60,000 on LED’s across seven sites to replace old inefficient lighting and no longer heat the Splashpoint pool overnight when it is closed, but instead cover it to reduce heat loss.
They use eco cups in their cafes and have tap sensors.
The trust is reviewing cleaning products and changing them to plant-based ones, and a future plan is to buy trees for new members.
There is a big push on waste and recycling – so much so they moved to a different waste collector so they can receive reports on what is being thrown out and what they need to do to up the amount they recycle.
They have installed beehives at Worthing Leisure Centre, use pool water to flush the toilets at Splashpoint, and run the Leisure Leap scheme to help recycle unwanted floats and swimming paraphernalia.
They run the GreenDreams Community Food & Greenspaces Festival at Field Place, now in its seventh year and taking place this year on September 17 between 10.30-4pm.
And they are future proofing. At the new Sea Lanes site in Brighton they have installed a hydrogen system ready for it, hopefully, one day being an alternative to gas.
Plus, they also hope to jump on the program running in Worthing on capturing heat from the sewers – something being trialled by Worthing Hospital and Adur and Worthing Borough Council.
As I listen to all these changes I am keen to find out what Duncan thinks is the most important change South Downs Leisure has made?
“I would say to anybody that if you focus on changing the culture first everything else will be so much easier,” he explains.
“I always say a third of people really care about the environment, a third do not give a monkeys and a third pretend that they care but are laissez faire about it because it is too difficult.”
And so to help change the mindset at the trust, 49 staff members have been trained in Sustainable Development and 15 people have completed an NVQ in Managing Sustainability and the Environment.
Each site also has an environment champion to ensure it is at the forefront of every decision made.
But this all sounds very expensive. Is this a viable option for most organisations?
“A lot of leisure trusts have got their backs to the wall because of utility prices,” admits Duncan.
“But this would help them. We have made huge savings. Our biggest savings are on the utilities – we have saved money even though it has doubled in price.”
You can read more about South Downs Leisure Trust’s 2022-26 Sustainability Development Strategy here.