Blog post

Derby: leading the way in sustainable development

Derby is currently the only UK city to sign up to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Global Compact Cities programme. Dr Fred Paterson, the University of Derby’s Project Lead for the Low Carbon Business Network, looks at how the city is leading the way by setting achievable goals that inspire others.

By Dr Fred Paterson - 18 September 2018

In June, the United Nations Global Compact hosted an event at the University of Derby’s One Friar Gate Square site called ‘Making Global Goals Local Business’. The event showcased how Derby has embraced global sustainability goals and the role local businesses play in achieving these goals. It also highlighted that the key question is no longer ‘should business engage in sustainability?’ but rather ‘how are businesses engaging with and embedding sustainability practices?’

The city itself is no stranger to sustainable development. Derby City Council recently refurbished the Council House to the highest environmental standards and its associated hydro-power scheme means that it is now one of a handful of public buildings in the UK that can produce more electricity than it uses. The local Chamber of Commerce regularly hosts a lively Sustainability Forum and the most recent Sustainability Summit, co-hosted with University of Derby Business School, attracted over 100 local businesses.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set in 2015 by members of the United Nations in a worldwide attempt to provide an achievable pathway to ending poverty and inequality, and protecting the planet. Three years later, we are beginning to see these goals in action and understand how, in practical terms, they are transforming the world for the better by addressing issues like modern slavery, climate change and resource scarcity.

The SDGs have provided businesses with a unique opportunity for growth, inspiring innovation and enabling businesses and individuals to rise to the challenge of thinking differently.

A study by our Sustainable Business team at the Business School suggests that nearly a quarter (24%) of local businesses in 2017 were profiting from selling low carbon goods or services – up from 16% in 2015. This will be no surprise to Derby Telegraph Business of the Year, Project Better Energy, who have grown their sales and installation of domestic solar systems and other energy-saving products from 2.5% of the UK market in 2015 to an amazing 23% at the start of 2018.

The UN Global Compact event showed how, collectively, businesses and other local organisations like councils, universities and other public bodies are embracing concepts such as the circular economy, upgrading their infrastructure while experiencing substantial business growth.

At the event, I was proud to share the platform and a rich dialogue with a fabulous panel of experts made up of Steve Kenzie, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network UK; Councillor Mike Carr, Mayor of the City of Derby; Andrew Clifton, Global Sustainability Manager for Rolls-Royce; Ken Steers, Group HR Director of the Cordant Group; Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner; and Dr Wendy Chapple, Associate Professor at Nottingham Business School.

Derby – the only UK city to sign up to the SDG programme

Companies across the city have been relentless in calling for business action on the SDGs in the region. There is broad agreement that SDGs are good for the economy and that sustainable growth comes from collaboration and partnership, as well as a mutual understanding about what the SDGs, on a local level, are trying to achieve.

The SDGs are about better business, not only about a better society and a better environment. Companies are using the SDGs to switch from short-term profit thinking to long-term value creation – and as news of the benefits of the SDGs spreads, more businesses are becoming involved.

This is being mirrored by our public bodies. Derby recently launched the UK’s largest e-bike scheme. In partnership with the University, Derby City Council installed 30 docking stations in key locations across the city. The objective is to encourage residents and students to swap their car and take a bike, which will lead to cost savings, a healthier lifestyle and better air quality in the city. The scheme is already proving to be extremely popular.

The Low Carbon Business Network

The University is also supporting small and medium-sized companies through its Low Carbon Business Network, an ERDF-funded project. The network aims to support local businesses who supply low carbon environmental goods and services by accelerating the adoption of eco-friendly, low carbon, green products and services in key supply chains.

Businesses receive a full needs analysis, which can lead to securing green accreditation, marketing support and range of other tailored consultancy, as well as free resources and access to specialised events. The network connects SMEs and increases their visibility across the region among large companies, helping them to grow their business.

It is becoming increasingly clear that environmental issues matter to everyone and that more and more local businesses are working alongside our public bodies to make the shift to a more sustainable future – not only because it is good for people and the planet, but because it is good for business too.

Find out more about the Low Carbon Business Network.

For further information contact the press office at

About the author

Lecturer presenting

Dr Fred Paterson
Associate Professor

Fred coordinates the Sustainable Business and Green Growth Research Cluster, where he leads research into pro-environmental enterprise support (PEES) and leadership for sustainability. Fred is a Module Leader on the MSc in Sustainable and Ethical Business Management and supervises PhD, DBA and MBA dissertation students. 

View full staff profileView full staff profile