Focus on: Claire O’Brien

Environmental Sustainability Manager Claire O'Brien with our office in the background

In our corporate plan, Further Together, we detailed Grand Union’s ambitious aim to become carbon neutral by 2050.  This will be achieved by building sustainably, decarbonising our current homes, and reviewing our day-to-day business operations.  With years of experience in the field, our recently appointed Environment & Sustainability Manager, Claire O’Brien, will be invaluable in delivering our promises.

Claire’s background

Claire said: “As a recent recruit at Grand Union, I’m eager to bring new ideas to the organisation, and put environment and sustainability very much at the heart of everything we do.

It’s an area of work I’ve been involved in since I graduated from university, with a degree in Geography; it was a natural progression to work in the environmental sector.

In the beginning of my career, I was proud to have run the first doorstep recycling collection in Birmingham, and helping to reduce waste was rewarding for me; I wondered why people would unnecessarily throw items away, when doing so would have an awful effect on the environment.

Looking forward, I am thrilled to have joined the housing sector, where sustainability is so vitally important and has such an impact on our customers’ lives. I find my new role very rewarding, as I know I’m helping people in the community, alongside the environment. We’re creating safe places for people to call home.”

A sustainable way of living

“Sustainability has a huge impact our customers’ wellbeing, work and finances. That’s why Grand Union is determined to build sustainable homes, with a focus on minimising energy usage.

Energy efficient housing can help to provide affordable energy, which, in turn helps customers have successful tenancies. A warm house is conducive to children’s learning and those working – or job hunting – from home, something that’s become ever more important during the last year.

There are even health benefits to a sustainable, energy efficient home. Cold surfaces can create condensation, which enables mould to form. This can have a serious impact on individuals’ health and especially on those who suffer from conditions such as asthma.

Affordable energy, climate action, quality education, good health and wellbeing are listed as part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals; through Grand Union’s sustainability strategy, we are achieving these objectives.”

The facts and figures

“I’m involved in implementing Grand Union’s corporate plan and advising the board on how we can minimise our impact on the environment. And my colleagues on the frontline are doing a fantastic job improving our customers’ homes.

In just two months, the solar panels installed on our customers’ homes, have provided 444.75Mwh of electricity. That’s enough energy to turn the London Eye 889,500 times. That’s 50 years’ worth of 24/7 turning!

What’s more, we’re using brilliant technology such as air source heat pumps (ASHPs) in our homes. ASHPs converts energy (that is absorbed from outside) into usable heat for homes, where it can be used to heat radiators and hot water. Heat is provided through radiators in a similar manner to a traditional gas central heating system.

The pumps, alongside smart meters to monitor energy usage, are further examples of how Grand Union is helping to save customers money, while also providing a safe place to call home.”

Further Together – for today and tomorrow

“I play a key role in delivering Grand Union’s corporate plan, Further Together. It’s an important position and I’m determined to use my knowledge and interest in sustainability to help us become carbon neutral.

We’re also planning to enhance biodiversity and reduce our water usage and waste production. Further Together will help us achieve positive environmental impacts of properties and communities.

I’m grateful that environmental impact is very much at the heart of Further Together. It shows that Grand Union has a vision for the future, which can be achieved together. We know our responsibility lies not only within our organisation, but for the wider impact on others.

Going forward, my personal aim is to make everyone at Grand Union aware of the importance of the environment and sustainability. By working alongside others, I want to highlight the importance of sustainability across the organisation, and help our colleagues and customers to be more sustainable at home.

I believe we all have a part to play, whether it’s through outlining our goals in Further Together, reducing the amount we travel in cars, to simply using the correct recycling bins. Every little helps and together we can have a huge impact on our planet and future generations.”