Sustainable social care programme

Bristol City Council: A case study in sustainable social care

Bristol City Council is leading the way in mainstreaming environmental sustainability in social care. The council was recognised as a Green Capital Finalist and is consistently in the top five of the Sustainable Cities Index. Working with other public bodies, the council has set ambitious targets for improving environmental performance. This includes a 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 from a 2005 baseline. To support this, the council has introduced a number of corporate measures including environmental assessments of new proposals and strategies, and regular audits of services.

Up to 60 per cent of Bristol’s total expenditure comes from residential homes; therefore the council has focused its sustainable social care policies on reducing the expenditure of the Health and Social Care directorate.

SCIE’s research Sustainable systems of social care identified Bristol as one of the few locations where a holistic approach to sustainable development is in evidence. To build on this, in 2010–2011, SCIE and the council explored, with local residents and community groups, what environmental sustainability means to them and how this can help shape the future of providing personalised services.

This case study provides an overview of Bristol’s sustainability objectives and outlines how its Health and Social Care directorate has taken a lead role in improving the overall performance of the council, as well as the development work carried out in conjunction with SCIE. 

Building a positive future

In 2009 the council commissioned Building a positive future for Bristol after peak oil. The report examines the consequences that ‘peak oil’ would have for Bristol, and how the city can become more resilient during an ‘oil crunch’.

The report identifies new opportunities to develop local energy and to make the city more sustainable. The report also notes the need to ensure that services are prepared for coping with extreme weather events such as hotter drier summers and wetter winters. This is one of many of the aspirations of the 20:20 Plan for a thriving city agreed by Bristol’s Local Strategic Partnership.

Good practice example: Redfield Lodge

The extensive good practice at this home for older people is helped by the enthusiastic Home Manager who is championing the sustainability agenda in the day-to-day work of the service. Some of the innovative ideas include the introduction of rainwater harvesting and an allotment scheme for the residents. The building boasts a solar thermal hot water system, individually controlled radiators, high spec roof and wall insulation, so that the upstairs heating needs only to be on a low level setting to meet residents’ needs. Lighting is energy efficient with sensor lighting in storage areas and residents’ bathrooms. Windows and doors are double glazed. Many taps are on timer switches. There is a cycle rack available for staff and visitors, with showers and lockers for staff.


By implementing energy savings measures, the council has considerably reduced its costs. The Health and Social Care Directorate has reduced its expenditure by approximately 20 per cent between 2005 and 2009. This amounts to a saving of approximately £100,000 per year.

Such savings are encouraging and the council is looking at ways to embed sustainability into all commissioning practices. A ‘green checklist’ is being developed which clearly sets out environmental and sustainability questions which should be put to third parties. The questions include:


Personalisation in social care has the potential to transform ways in which care is planned and delivered.  This presents both opportunities and risks for environmental sustainability. 

Bristol and SCIE worked together during 2010–11 to deepen their understanding of the implications of personalisation for the council’s sustainability objectives and explore whether personalisation could stimulate the market for environmentally sustainable care services.

As a result of this collaboration, SCIE has produced Sustainable social care and personalisation: a guide for community engagement. It is designed for local authorities and their partners to use in developing their own community-driven, sustainable approaches to social care.

For further information about Bristol’s work to mainstream environmental sustainability, contact: Claire Craner-Buckley, Environment Adviser (HSC) on 0117 9224331 or

Share and learn

You can also read online about Bristol City Council’s work in Making social care greener, published by Community Care magazine (April 2011).

You may also be interested in Think Local Act Personal, the website of the sector-wide partnership for transforming adult social care.