A BUSINESS group aimed at sharing good practice on ‘net zero’ has appointed a former Cabinet Office lead on sustainability as its first chair.

Rob Macdiarmid, Head of ESG for Redde Northgate, has agreed to lead the Darlington Employers’ Environmental Partnership (DEEP).

The group was initiated earlier this year by Darlington Building Society and the Society’s Chief Risk Officer, David Bews (pictured below), will be vice-chair.

The Northern Echo:

The positions were agreed at the first meeting of the steering group since Darlington Cares – a not-for-profit organisation hosted by Darlington Borough Council – took over as administrative support body.

The local initiative was formalised on the day of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, attended by more than 160 world leaders, called for unified action at all levels to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Macdiarmid was appointed as Head of Property Sustainability at the Government’s Cabinet Office in 2019 before becoming Director of Sustainability at Countryside Partnerships, then joining Redde Northgate last February.

The vehicle rental and incident management company which employs 7,400 internationally, has its head office in Darlington, and is investing in electric vehicles while developing low carbon expertise.

Mr Macdiarmid said: “I’m honoured to chair a group that gives us the chance to showcase all the positive things that are happening on net zero in different sectors.

“It’s an exciting platform to share good practice and gives us a solid foundation to explore ways to increase the social impact of reducing carbon emissions.

“A key challenge is supporting smaller businesses that can’t afford specialist roles, and this is an opportunity for them to tap into expertise and a body of knowledge to help them progress their plans faster.”

The group has committed to hold regular “learning and networking” meetings at local sites. An initial meeting was held at engine manufacturer Cummins, with the second hosted by architects Corstorphine and Wright at Teesside International Airport. At least three site-visits a year will be arranged in future.

Other local companies and organisations involved so far are: EE, North Star Housing, BHP Law, Newlands Group, County Durham Community Foundation, Darlington Borough Council, Teesside University, Serco, and JBA Engineering.

Steering committee members have agreed to share details of pledges they have made towards net zero targets as a starting point for future discussions.

David Bews said: “It’s great to see such an important initiative get off the ground, with a clear purpose, and I’m delighted to be vice chair. DEEP brings together representatives from a host of regional organisations, with different stakeholders and business models, but with a common goal. That creates a fantastic opportunity to make faster progress.”

Councillor Chris McEwan, the council’s economic portfolio holder, said: “This is an initiative that’s grown out of the business community, following an initial idea by Darlington Building Society, and has quickly blossomed into a credible platform that recognises that the scale of the challenge requires a team effort.”

Seth Pearson, Director of Darlington Cares, added: “Darlington Cares is in its 11th year, and now has 30 employers as members. It’s the perfect vehicle for businesses to support each other on their journey towards net zero.”