Tim Smedley

I freelance write about environmental sustainability and urban innovation.
Frequent journalist, sometime ghostwriter, book author in progress.

Financial Times

The bank boss with an environmentalist bent

Despite becoming the UK’s managing director of Triodos bank this spring, Bevis Watts maintains that he is “first and foremost an environmentalist”. Triodos’s mission is to lend money only to those who promote “positive social, environmental and cultural change”. The Dutch bank, which has €12bn of assets under management, is part of a booming trend. In 2015, the responsible lending market in the UK grew 45 per cent, according to a report by the Community Development Finance Association and PwC. Mr Watts’s CV does not read like that of the average bank executive. The 41-year-old has a PhD in recycling strategies and studied business at Swansea University primarily because it included a year abroad. His chosen destination, Sweden, was to transform his life. “I became conscious of a society that had a very different relationship with the natural environment and wellbeing, and how corporations consciously thought about it,” he recalls in his central Bristol office.
BBC Capital

Why young Londoners are moving to houseboats

Many Londoners would be envious of the postcodes Matthew Winters has lived in: the likes of Broadway Market, Angel, Camden, and Little Venice are amongst the city’s most hip and expensive. Many more would covet his electricity bill: £600 ($754) for the next 15 years. How, then, is he only 24 and a resident of London for just two years? Winters, an actor, is part of a booming trend for houseboat living among young Londoners. And specifically for what’s known as a ‘continuous cruising’ (or ‘CC-in
BBC Future

Is this the world's smartest toilet?

A warm toilet seat isn’t most people’s idea of heaven, typically indicating a previous occupant only recently departed. And turning to your side to find no toilet paper, only smooth walls and a remote control, may seem positively hellish. However, this remote control has washing and drying options. Press it, and a robot arm slides out underneath you, offering a range of water jet speeds and angles, followed by a hot air finale. When you stand up, the toilet closes its lid, flushes itself, and then self-cleans using UV-light.
The Guardian

Are urban environments best for an ageing population?

Cities don't always seem the most old-age friendly of places. Public toilets that few dare venture into; street-lights turned off by cuts-driven councils; roads choked with cars; the fear of street crime. However there is growing evidence to suggest that as our population ages, cities could actually be the best possible environment for older people. Housing and accommodation for elderly people is already a pressing issue, with prohibitive costs for institutional care and a move towards helping
The Guardian

Banksy, Gormley or Hirst: is public art good for the nation's wellbeing?

It pops up in local parks and town squares; looms over motorway lanes and lurks in hospital car parks. Public art. It's everywhere. But what impact does it have, if any? And could it even have an effect on our health and wellbeing? Perhaps the most famous modern example in the UK is Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North. Before it was erected in 1998, vociferous objection from local opposition councillors and residents almost succeeded in stopping it. Indeed objections to a previous Gormley des
The Guardian

Wearables for babies: saving lives or instilling fear in parents?

Following the success of adult fitness wearables like Fitbit, new companies are connecting babies to smartphone apps and giving parents live information about their baby’s breathing, skin temperature, heart rate and sleeping patterns. The Owlet has adapted pulse oximetry technology (the clip they put on your finger in hospitals to monitor heart rate) to create a baby sock that monitors heart rate and oxygen levels. Sproutling has integrated the same technology into a strap that goes round th
BBC Capital

Public speaking fear is limiting your career

Glen Savage is about to go on stage wearing wings and a halo. He’s terrified. The year is 1961 and the five-year old Savage is playing the Archangel Gabriel in the nativity play at St James School in Brisbane, Australia. He has just one line: “Come here baby angels”. Little did he know then, but the fear and anxiety of that moment would go on to shape his entire career. “I just remember thinking that I can’t do it. I can’t speak in front of all those people”, Savage recalls. “I was absolutely
The Guardian

Do social impact bonds really work for charities?

A lot has been said and written about Social impact bonds (Sibs) in the past few years, but until now we’ve had little explanation as to whether they work and what it is like to be part of one. Now as 10 Sibs, which are part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP’s) three-year innovation fund helping disadvantaged young people, come to an end, we can get some answers. Career Connect, a Liverpool employment charity, raised its £1.5m Sib in 2012 with the help of Triodos Bank. Investment
The Guardian

Can philanthropy be taught in a classroom?

Can philanthropy be taught in a classroom? And would philanthropic donors armed with MBAs in impact and effectiveness actually be a good thing for the voluntary sector? Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett thinks so. He’s spent the last three years, and £30m of cash from hedge fund chief executive Paul Marshall, setting up the London School of Economics (LSE) new Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship. Having launched in June and already commissioning research, it is due to offer
The Guardian

Ageing villages of northern Finland where ancient way of life is dying out

In the village of Juujärvi, just inside the Arctic circle, northern Finland, the weather is not usually this forgiving. The day I visit it is a balmy -5, when typically one can expect -15. A deep crust of snow covers everything for seven months of the year. Cousins Irja and Seppo Juujärvi, who have lived here all their lives, share coffee and blueberry cake with me in a cosy converted cow shed. “There used to be 200 people living here,” Irja says of her home village, 90km from the nearest town,
The Guardian

Charity Commission and the voluntary sector: what has gone wrong?

The Charity Commission will be glad to see the back of 2014. The year began with budget cuts, down from £31.7m to £21.4m, and damning reports from the National Audit Office (NAO) and Commons public accounts committee (PAC), the latter accusing the commission of failing to regulate charities effectively and being “not fit for purpose” as it raked over the coals of failings in controversies such as the Cup Trust. The regulator promptly responded with a new strategic direction and a change of le
The Guardian

Have a care for the carers forced to give up work

In 2009 Paula Knight was an assistant marketing director for PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. In her early 40s, Knight's life was carefree. But during a two-week holiday to New York she took a call from her mother: her dad was in hospital having suffered a stroke. From her mum's voice she could sense something else was wrong – her mother's mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, had returned. Knight had to cut short her holiday and, as it would turn out, her career.
People Management

Executive pay and the banking crisis

The banking sector remains understandably defensive about the role bonuses played in the fi nancial crisis of 2007-08. Take Tony Williams, HR director, global banking and markets, RBS, for example, who says: “You could argue that the outsized returns that many investment banks made for investors and stakeholders before the crash were positively motivated by bonuses.” Similarly, Robert Potter, group head of HR at JLT, and head of the City HR Association, says: “If it’s felt that remuneration may have contributed to the environment in which the fi nancial crisis occurred, then it only contributed to a proportion of the crisis.” However, Potter goes on to concede, “I think all recognise that it may have been a contributing factor.
The Guardian

Academy schools put authority budgets and jobs at risk

With half of all secondary schools having already become autonomous academies, it's easy to assume that local government is jumping for joy at the removal of one of its biggest budgetary spends. But few cheers can be heard from within the nation's children's services departments. Robert Hill, former ministerial adviser on education, summarises the situation in his recent report, The missing middle. "Such has been central government's distrust of and frustration with the performance of local gov
People Management


The CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook, published in February, found that demand for migrant workers was on the increase. More than a fi fth of 759 employers surveyed were planning to recruit migrant workers in the fi rst quarter of 2011, while over four in 10 reported diffi culties fi lling vacancies with workers from within the UK and EU. Yet one in six had been prevented from recruiting from outside the European Economic Area (made up of EU countries plus Norway and Iceland) by the temporary immigration cap in place since last July. With that temporary cap replaced (from 6 April) with a permanent one, a maximum of 21,700 certifi cates of sponsorship (CoS) will be issued from April 2011 to April 2012.
The Guardian

Alder Hey pushes the boundaries of hospital design

On paper, Alder Hey's new children's hospital and park development should never have happened. A plan to demolish an old Victorian building and build anew on a publicly owned urban greenfield site was conjured up by a disparate bunch: the local NHS trust, the now defunct Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and The Prince of Wales's Princes Foundation – and funded through the much-criticised PFI process.
The Guardian

What impact do seas, lakes and rivers have on people's health?

Most of us recognise the calming effect of a walk by the river or along a beach. Victorian doctors used to prescribe the "sea air" as a cure for an assortment of agues and ailments. But while the health benefits of green space are now well known, thanks to the pioneering research of Roger Ulrich and the Kaplans among others, little analysis has been made of "blue space" – the impact of the sea, rivers, lakes, and even urban water features on our health and wellbeing.
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