Charity Champion - Helen Tandy

By Nathan Cameron

In this Charity Champion piece, Helen Tandy tells us about Eco Communities, the community interest company she set up to help people, businesses and communities to become more sustainable, along with her roles at Castlefield and some of the other campaigning she is involved with.

It’s an understatement to say that Castlefield’s Helen Tandy is passionate about saving the planet. She’s actually something of a fanatic. Besides being a volunteer for Friends of the Earth for many years, Helen continually campaigns as the #PlasticFreeNortherner and has successfully set-up various projects in Chester and around Cheshire to combat climate change and plastic pollution. Alongside these, Helen also draws on her vast experience to provide carbon literacy training to her colleagues at Castlefield, along with being a financial adviser - providing ethical financial advice to a range of private individuals.

What is Eco Communities and how did it come about?

“After many years of campaigning as a volunteer with Friends of the Earth I decided I wanted to find ways of engaging with a wider audience in a positive way. This lead me to create Eco Communities – it’s a Community Interest Company where I give my time voluntarily.

"At Eco Communities we work with a mix of individuals, groups, businesses and organisations to educate them in sustainable living and encourage them to be more environmentally aware.

"We promote this through our website, blog and our recent addition – a new eco-friendly magazine. It may sound counter-intuitive for an eco-friendly company to be publishing a printed magazine, but it is completely recyclable as you’d expect and offers us a way to reach more people who still rely on ‘traditional media’.

"Sometimes you just have to put something in someone’s hand to encourage them to read it, rather than digital which is so easy to simply delete.”

Helen also presents on Eco Communities TV - the company’s online platform – where she broadcasts every Tuesday about all things related to sustainability, including climate change, plastic free projects, community food and other UK green related topics.

"So far since lockdown started, we’ve run over 100 shows and engaged over 3,500 viewers about a wide range of topics.”

How did you get into ethical financial advice

"I have been an Ethical Financial Adviser for many years, but started my career with Nationwide building society and then became more concerned about the environment when I had my son - who’s now in his mid-twenties…which is very scary!!

"I decided to move firms to provide advice with ethical decisions at its core. I love my work at Castlefield. The fact that we now manage our own funds within the group and can therefore engage with companies I feel is the true heart of ethical finance above just picking sustainable funds.

"I work full-time as a Partner at Castlefield using my 30 plus years’ experience and qualifications to help clients.

How did you become Castlefield’s carbon literacy trainer?

"I became the group’s Carbon Literacy Trainer in 2018 at which point we completed training with most of the team to achieve Silver status with The Carbon Literacy Project. We were the first financial advice firm in the UK to become carbon literate! This is an ongoing role as our team grows through recruitment.

"My ability to use and adapt quickly to technology platforms has led to use these skills to support clients, which became particularly useful during the pandemic where the team all worked from home.

"Within Castlefield my hopes are that we can find ways of working that reduce our impact on the planet through Net Zero and Carbon Literacy. We have been using a Carbon Footprint calculator within my Carbon Literacy Training so the team can measure the ways in which how they live impacts on the planet.

"I would love us to also use this within the group. I am working on ways to show clients how working through the pandemic has reduced our impact to encourage the continued use of many of the online systems that became so important over the last couple of years. Then to create a world where Thoughtful (ethical) Investment is the norm, as one way we can to reduce our impact on climate."

Helen is also proud campaigner and with the Eco Communities team, they successfully launched the Plastic Free Cheshire campaign.

"My desire outside finance for individuals and businesses to look at sustainability is at the core of what I do. I worked on Plastic Free Chester and achieving status for Chester in 2018 via Surfers Against Sewage where I am a Rep, plus supported Chester through Refill - encouraging businesses to refill reusable water bottles.

"I've recently made a decision to leave my role with Friends of the Earth to focus all my spare time on Eco Communities. I want to support other regions in Cheshire achieve their own Plastic Free Status. That includes working with businesses in the region to consider how to ensure sustainability is at their core.

"I've learnt so much about plastics and the impact they have over the last 3 years I want to share that with more individuals and businesses. We use the same carbon footprint calculator by Giki within Eco Communities with individuals which is a great way to develop an understanding of how the way we live impacts the planet and develops ideas of ways to change things.

"I'm excited for 2022 – getting back to group litter picks through Plastic Free Chester, progressing other projects with Eco Communities and supporting Castlefield with its Net Zero planning."