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Making Hay while the sun (sometimes) shines

Triodos embarked on a new partnership with the Hay Festival this year and found a highly engaged audience particularly interested in hearing about sustainability and alternative economic thinking.

The Hay Festival is well-known for bringing readers and writers together to share stories and ideas. Every year over 11 days more than 80,000 visitors descend on the small market town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales. For the first time, Team Triodos was onsite – braving the occasional torrential downpour – as a sponsor to join the conversation and spread the word about values-based banking.

The partnership felt particularly appropriate for Triodos as sustainability is core to Hay Festival, both in its on-stage debates and in the development of Hay’s organisation. We were re-assured by a tremendous focus from the organisers and the dedicated, full-time sustainability team on managing and mitigating the environmental impact of the festival, incorporating energy, waste, transport, procurement and venue decisions.

“Festivals with a genuinely green ethos are all too rare. Hay is one of them.”

George Monbiot

Triodos sponsored a talk by Kate Raworth, Oxford economist and author of best-selling Doughnut Economics. Entitled ‘Seeds of the 21st Century Economy’, Kate’s talk delved into how our economy can meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. Touching on topics like city regeneration, business value-creation, and economic design, the ideas were backed up with inspiring real-life examples to show that the seeds of a new type of 21st Century Economy is already underway. Kate also referenced Triodos and the power of finance to deliver positive social, environmental and cultural change.

Kate was not the only star economist in the Hay Festival line up. Diane Coyle, from Cambridge University and author of GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History, spoke about the flaws of GDP and how we measure economic progress. Diane is curator of the Bristol Festival of Economics (sponsored by Triodos Bank) that takes place in November. Read our interview with her here: ‘What’s so festive about economics’.

Highlights of Hay Festival

Another speaker was Mariana Mazzucato, UCL Professor of Economics and author of The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy. In her book she strongly proposes that if we are to reform capitalism – radically to transform an increasingly sick system rather than continue feeding it – we urgently need to rethink where wealth comes from.

“What the U.K. lacks is patient, committed, long term finance. If you lend money to organisations to solve problems, that actually costs you less money”

Mariana Mazzucato

Also relevant to the work of Triodos Bank, a brilliant talk from executive fellow of finance at London Business School, David Pitt-Watson (with humour thrown in from comedian Marcus Brigstocke) called for greater transparency in financial services. In ‘What They Do With Your Money’ he pointed out that the origins of the finance industry were often inspired by social reformers because its purposes are so fundamental to individual and communal prosperity.

As the Hay Festival continues to grow year after year, sustainability director Andy Fryers admits they have reached a point where they can’t grow any more without starting to have a negative effect on the town and the surrounding area. It’s another reminder of the sensible ethos of the festival; they understand there are indeed limits to growth. But we were left in no doubt. The Festival is a great source of inspiration and positive energy and we hope to be back again next year!

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