A Darlington Building Society executive has been appointed vice chair of a pioneering business group sharing good practice on ‘net zero’.

The Darlington Employers’ Environmental Partnership (DEEP) was initiated by Darlington Building Society earlier this year as a way of encouraging a joined-up approach to tackling climate change.

David Bews, the Society’s Chief Risk Officer, has now been confirmed as the group’s vice chair.

He will serve alongside Rob Macdiarmid, Head of ESG for Redde Northgate, who has been appointed chair, having had the experience of working in the Government’s Cabinet Office as Head of Property Sustainability.

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 as the 160 world leaders met for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai and called for unified action at all levels to reduce carbon emissions.

David 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.”

Rob 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.

Rob 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.

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.”