Southern Group leads the way in Sustainable Development through European Funded Initiative

23 October 2007

The Southern Group Environmental Health Committee (SGEHC) swept the boards at the recent National Training Awards held in the Culloden Hotel; one of the most prestigious awards ceremonies in Northern Ireland. As well as being announced as a regional winner they also picked up an award, sponsored by Invest NI, for small business training and were announced as a winner of a National Award which will be presented in London in December.

These awards recognise the efforts of the Southern Group and the 9 partner Councils participating in the STEM Project. The STEM Project has been part funded to the tune of £1.5 million by the European Union through the Interreg IIIA Programme managed for the Special EU Programmes Body through the East Border Region Interreg IIIA Partnership. The Project is supported by nine local cross border Councils including Ards, Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Dungannon & South Tyrone, Louth, Monaghan and Newry & Mourne and SGEHC. Providing civic leadership as well as practical help and guidance to improve environmental performance within local business communities, has been the key to this success.

Commenting on this outstanding achievement Alderman Arnold Hatch, President of NILGA stated “As the NI Executive meets to consider the future of Local Government this is a prime example of the difference that Local Government can make to their local communities and to businesses. I would like to add my personal congratulations to Southern Group Environmental Health Committee and all those Officers who have been involved in the STEM Project.”

The major challenge facing the organisation was to train and develop a team of Officers to work with Councils and businesses from a wide range of industry sectors to initiate culture change, behavioural change, raise awareness of and realise environmental performance improvements.

The STEM Project provides 9 cross border Councils and small to medium sized businesses with the training and skills necessary to put in place a certified Environmental Management System (EMS). SGEHC (STEM Project) provided each Council and business involved with the Project, with an EMS Officer who worked with them to implement an Environmental Management System through to certification to a British Standard for environmental management (BS 8555).

An average of 40 employees per company has received training on environmental issues. It is projected that by the end of the project approximately 11,000 employees will have benefited from this training.

The 9 Councils and SGEHC have achieved certification to the ISO 14001 International Environmental standard for a diverse range of key services. Currently 262 businesses have received an environmental audit, 180 businesses have achieved certification to BS 8555 and a further 40 businesses are awaiting external audit to the standard.

“A project of this nature establishes our Councils and elected members both North and South as civic leaders in the field of sustainable development. This project is one example of how local government can learn and adapt best practice to improve their own performance, influence the wider community to do likewise and ultimately improve the quality of life within our local communities through training and development. We are delighted with this success and the recognition our Officers training has achieve”. Sam Knox, Southern Group Chief Environmental Health Officer.

Photo Above: Dr Aideen Mc Ginley, Permanent Secretary, Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland and Mr Sam Knox, Group Chief Environmental Health Officer, Southern Group Environmental Health Committee

  • Monaghan
  • LCC
  • MCC
  • Newry, Mourne and Down District Council
  • Ards and North Down Borough Council
  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council