About collegeethics

I work for Bradford College, where I am helping review organisaitonal ethics and social responsibility. Very interested to hear from others active in this area. Also working on research ethics and our forthcoming website.

Social responsibility in photos

Through a College research grant and with support from our Diversity Plus Team, I have been able to commission a photographer to take photos illustrating social responsibility at Bradford College, and make the photos into posters.

This builds on the internal reports I have written over the last year, but it is still a tall order: how do you take photos that show social responsibility?

We have aimed to get a mix of the amazing diversity of activity, and to focus on group shots. Social responsibility often happens when people come together – staff and students, community members, partners. We asked people to look at the camera, and the result is an exhibition of nearly 30 images which is being displayed in different parts of the College.

I hope you enjoy the images (if you hover over the bottom right hand corner of each slide, you’ll see an arrow that lets you move through the presentation. Otherwise, lower down, there are Scribd’s control buttons):


Finding the Rhythm

Finding the Rhythm. An inspiring blog from Maureen Grant, who runs the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s West Yorkshire Programme, and is on a fascinating sebatical to Canada.

Walking gets ethical: Bradford College and the Global Corporate Challenge

GCC-participant-globe2More than 260,000 people, in teams of seven, aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day each from May to September 2013.

More than 1,200 employers involved, with staff walking in 158 different countries.

A website – available in twelve different languages – that sends you on a virtual journey as you and your team members pool your steps, giving encouragement and advice onphysical activity and nutrition.

This is the annual Global Corporate Challenge® (GCC), and Bradford College is taking part for the second year running. The goal is better mental and physical health and improved engagement, productivity and team-working.

As one of the College walkers, I am having a great time.

The GCC’s European office happens to be in North Leeds, so I went to meet Senior Account Manager Stephanie Griffiths to find out about the Challenge and discuss some of the ethics issues.

Stephanie Griffiths with her GCC accelerometer.

Stephanie Griffiths with her GCC accelerometer.

Stephanie explained that GCC was set up in 2004 by an Australian ad agency. One of the agency’s clients wanted a wellbeing programme for all of their staff, and turned to the agency for help with a creative solution which would engage their employees. That’s when walking became the central focus: “It’s so straightforward,” Stephanie says. “Nearly anyone can walk. Many activity programmes appeal only to the converted. This is for everyone.”

The figures tell the story: the scheme is now truly a global concern, and remains very inclusive. “The GCC encompasses different forms of mobility,” Stephanie says. “Everyone used to be issued with a pedometer, but this year we’ve introduce an ‘accelerometer’, which measures almost any significant movement in any direction. So if you are into kayaking you can wear it on your arm. If you are in a wheelchair you can use the accelerometer, or an odometer which measures distance.

“For some people, managing a few thousand steps a day is a major achievement. For others, the challenge gets them hitting a very high step count. It works for everyone, whatever your level.”

The big ethics question that my team members at College sometimes discuss is whether people are being honest when they enter the steps. On the website there is a ranking of all the teams, and those at the top have individual members who regularly clock up 50,000 steps a day – this is incredibly high, and some teams are very competitive.

GCCPulsePackStephanie describes the checking procedures: “Anyone entering a particularly high step entry is asked to give a short account of how they achieved it. We check in part because sometimes people make mistakes – it’s easy to add an extra digit and not realise. We also ask for information if someone suddenly spikes when they have had fairly low step counts before, or if someone’s entries are very erratic.

“But there is no cash prize, no fixed reward for being the team that walks furthest,” Stephanie adds. “You are challenging yourself to improve, and if you cheat, really you cheat yourself.” The number of reports of possible cheating are very low.

“People participate in the programme  as employees: employers expect honesty, and we find that most people are very honest,” Stephanie says. “There’s the team factor as well: other people are walking with you, encouraging you – they can usually tell what step count is realistic for you. And the employer gets the statistics for their teams, so that’s another point of review.”

GCC is a private organisation, and companies pay per team to take part. The same fee applies to businesses, public services and charities. “In a few cases, businesses subsidise the scheme or pay only for the lower paid staff, with higher salaried workers covering their own costs. But the great majority of organisations pay for their staff to take part because it brings so many benefits and fits with social responsibility goals.”

Another ethics issue that comes up, Stephanie says, is security. The GCC website is clearly designed by professionals – it is colourful, interactive and very engaging. Psychologists and other health and wellbeing experts have helped with the development of the Challenge and the GCC site to maximise the benefits and encourage lasting behavioural change. “A lot of data is entered and it’s important that the information individuals and employers enter is secure,” Stephanie says. In addition, step counts can be kept private to the individual and their employer. “Your colleagues on the scheme, and other organisations taking part, do not have to know your count if you don’t want them to.”

There is a strong charitable component to the Challenge, which is linked to UNICEF. “Through the Challenge we are raising funds for UNICEF water filtration projects,” Stephanie says. “Each dollar donated by a walker or employer will be matched by GCC.” Last year was the final year in a three year scheme that enabled some 380,000 primary school children to undertake a shorter walking challenge at no cost to parents, school or government. GCC has a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy of its own, with an emphasis on ethical procurement and managing environmental impact. All the staff at the Leeds office are wearing accelerometers and clocking up steps.

GCC_lozFinally: Stephanie’s role is to work with organisationsin Europe, the Middle East and Africa, encouraging them to take part, helping them through the process, and  – when feasible – attending the celebrations that take place on completion of the Challenge.

My verdict: I am not someone who goes to the gym. I drive to work, where mostly I sit at a desk. But for two years running I have had the pleasure of being part of a Bradford College team and walking a lot, far more than I would normally. So I have to finish by saying that I am hugely impressed. The physical and mental benefits of the scheme are very clear to me. Thank you Bradford College and my team, and thank you Stephanie for the interview.

College catering: students, staff and the ethics of what we eat

Bradford College runs a number of catering and hospitality courses: they are practical and popular, with numbers rising rapidly both in further and higher education.

Our catering staff and students also run two restaurants and a café on the College campus, open to everyone. They provide catering for events of all sizes, mostly in the College. This gives the students some great hands-on experience, and helps generate some revenue for the catering courses.

IMG_1127Aidan James (pictured above) is the College’s Restaurant Manager and Trainer. He has a degree and MPhil in catering management, and worked in the food and beverage industry before joining the College seven years ago to teach catering and manage our restaurants and cafes. He talked to me about the ethical issues that the catering team faces.

“It’s an exciting time,” Aidan says. “When our new £50 million eco-friendly building opens in September 2014, the main restaurant and cafeteria will be in the central entrance area, really well placed to welcome people in, and with lovely views of the new green area outside.” At the same time, Aidan explains, the additional College cafes which are currently run by an external contractor will all become College-run, giving the students more opportunities for valuable work experience and hopefully generating income for the College.

Food supply
Aidan says that the catering team have to balance a number of factors when sourcing food. “We want to stay local, so we lessen the fuel miles and help support local employment and business. We need value for money, so we can keep costs down for the College and our customers. And we want quality.

“So we tend to get our fresh fruit and veg from the wholesale market in St James’s, off Wakefield Road. Our meat comes in part from a local supplier, and from Sykes House Farm which provides high quality and is supportive to our students, who can visit their butchery department and slaughter house.”

Dry goods, wines and spirits mostly come from a large national company with a local depot, because of the good prices. “However, we are always reviewing this,” Aidan adds. “And we are about to switch to Fair Trade tea and coffee, and that will come from a Bradford company.”

Aidan explains that there are real risks in the food trade. “They include poor quality, passing off and adulterated food. So we want the students to be aware of the positive choices that can be made, and of the risks you need to be alert to. High standards are key. Once we are running all the College food and refreshment outlets we will have more buying clout, which will help us get quality produce at a reasonable price.

Grow your own
“The other area we hope to expand is getting the students and staff involved in growing food. We already have a small allotment, but with the new building there will be new opportunities. And we are next door to the University of Bradford which is doing a great job in this respect, so we hope to strengthen our links.”

Healthy eating and dietary requirements
“Eating healthy food is important – and new information and requirements are always emerging,” Aidan says. “This summer we’ve consulted with our customers who have special dieteray requirements to find out how we can better meet their needs.” The team are introducing a more flexible menu as a result. They are also looking at possibly having two main teaching kitchens in the new building, one halal and one non-halal.

“It’s a hard juggling act getting the menu right! In addition to ensuring meals are healthy and meet particular needs, we want to cover the curriculum, provide affordable food, be ethical, and minimise waste.”

Experience and enrichment
Aidan finishes by saying that another important goal is to give the students experience that widen their horizons. “We find opportunities for our students to meet the suppliers – most recently we went to visit a rhubarb farm in Tong, he says. “Also, the College is one of the main sponsors of the annual World Curry Festival, and our students volunteer to help run this each year as well as take part as contestants.” There has been a ‘food not waste‘ campaign, and now a team of staff and students provides an annual staff barbecue.

Aidan (at the back on the right) with catering students and staff.

Aidan (at the back on the right) with catering students and staff.

Finally, the team recently addressed the growing work load by taking on two catering apprentices, building in a range of work experience and training. They are ready for expansion!

Ian Brown: green solutions to waste and recycling at Bradford College and beyond

Ian Brown, left, with one of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian Brown, left, with one of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian Brown is Bradford College’s Building Services Manager. He has travelled from being a temporary porter to his current post: head of building services, responsible for 137 building supervisors, porters and cleaning staff across 14 College buildings.

And along the way he has transformed the College into a centre of recycling, restoring and re-use, improving our cleaning and porterage and setting up the College-based business Green Solutions to provide low cost services to organisations and individuals across 2013 finalist 300 dpiBradford. We are delighted and proud that Ian has been named as a finalist in this year’s prestigious Green Gown Awards.

The hub of all the activity is Garden Mills, a former textile mill conveniently situated at the lower end of the College campus, and close to the City Centre. A few years ago it was filled with rubble but, true to form, Ian and his team cleared it and transformed it into a viable facility, a base for Green Solutions and the College’s cleaning, porterage, storage, recycling and safe disposal services.

“I’m a working class kid done good,” Ian says. “I’ve been on the shop floor, and I never shy away from hard work. All my staff can see that, and we have a fantastic team spirit.”

Ian (on the far right) with members of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian (on the far right) with members of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian grew up in Outwood, Wakefield. He left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications:

“I was a tearaway – the dole office was next door and I just jumped over the fence and signed on as unemployed.” A series of short term jobs followed, including portering in hospitals and labouring on building sites. “The best thing was I always played lots of rugby at a decent level,” Ian explains. “But I didn’t settle so I went travelling overseas. I came back for just two months, got a portering job here at Bradford College – and it stuck!”

The manager who hired Ian to work at Bradford College clearly saw some potential: he was gradually given more responsibility, taking charge of big clear-outs and running the Junction Mills building. He started studying, and he wrote a book about Castleford rugby player Alan Hardisty. “I got lots of compliments for the book,” Ian says. “I can see now it was a time I was discovering and developing skills.”

Ian was made Head Porter, and gained a Diploma in Management Studies in the following year. The course was pivotal: he used it as an opportunity to re-assess the College cleaning and porterage service. “I found that the porters were handling a lot of the waste, which took time,” Ian says, “and then the College was paying for it to be taken away. I researched where the waste was going and what it cost us, and I realised we could reduce the College’s carbon footprint and help the College make a profit at the same time.”

His recommendations helped him become Building Services Manager. “And the environmental work all came from that,” Ian says. He is now continually exploring new ways to help improve the College’s environmental impact.

“I hate waste – waste of money, materials, resources, even operational processes. I like to stop and look at why we do things, and how we do them – are they quick and efficient? Do they avoid waste? It’s not about people losing jobs – if anything, you can have staff who have something in them but are stifled by a procedure. I like to give all the team training and opportunities, and as a result some of them go on to bigger things.”

Another important principal for Ian is reasonable pricing: Green Solutions offers a number of services free, and others at very competitive prices. “We want to cover our costs, and to generate surplus that can help us improve the College environment,” he says. “But it’s also important we get more people recycling and discovering the benefits of fixing and adapting what’s already here.”

Garden Mills: a hub for recycling, re-using, storage and environmental initiatives and courses.

Garden Mills: a hub for recycling, re-using, storage and environmental initiatives and courses.

Garden Mills is well worth a visit – Ian gives guided tours, and gives students work experience. The Bradford Bike Hub is in the building, a centre for bike purchases, repairs, meet-ups and more. Upstairs is the Sector Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies. Nearby is the allotment at Garden Mills, redeveloped through Ian supporting the College’s award-winning Students’ Union in its bid to the Student Eats and its Time to Grow project. Food grown on the allotment has been used in the College kitchens, and taken home by the student volunteers. Plans are afoot to develop the area further.

Ian has become a man with a strong vision for the College. He sums up his team’s approach: “We chase what some people think are lost causes, and we recycle and restore what’s useful.”

Interview and text by Ruth Wilson. Photos by Paula Solloway and Ruth Wilson.

The Green Solutions stats: August 2013

Retailers 32
Manufacturers 11
Restaurants 4
Large organisations and education institutions 10

Monthly recycling averages to end of July 2013
Card: 14762.5 kg per month
Paper: 13645.83 kg per month
Metal: 1517.583 kg per month
Plastic: 256.4167 kg per month
Average monthly income: £3,015.19 Per month

Furniture restore and reuse store (to April 2013)
Number of items of furniture reused: 8,774
Items sold at low cost to local businesses, community members, staff and students: 762
Landfill saving: 94,737 kg
Cost saving: £291,414

Sparking imaginations and saving energy: teaching environmental technologies at Bradford College

“The UK is a country that could face power shortages. We use more and more energy, and we don’t produce enough. Power is essential to our everyday way of life. That’s why the College has courses and initiatives to help people learn about alternative and sustainable technologies at work and at home.”

Barry Noble (centre) with apprentices and solar panels.

Barry Noble (centre) with apprentices and solar panels.

Barry Noble is one of the College’s passionate advocates for sustainable working and living. He grew up in Calderdale, leaving school to become an apprentice – working as a plumber and heating engineer installing boilers in textile mills and people’s homes. He gradually moved into teaching, starting at Bradford College in 1999, with a period at Burnley.

“I’ve always been involved in teaching and apprenticeships,” Barry says. “You start as an apprentice, you become a tradesman and you take on an apprentice – it’s a very sustainable model that’s been going for hundreds of years.” 

Most of the courses Barry teaches on provide training for apprentices and trades people and employees in construction and engineering, to help them upgrade their skills and get industry-recognised qualifications. “We were one of the very first National Skills Academies set up to promote renewable energy,” he explains. “We provide training in low carbon or zero carbon technologies where you use little or no manufactured power, and lowering the consumers energy bills, and working with the environment in mind.”

Fuel poverty is a key issue that Barry confronts. “If you spend more than ten per cent of your income after tax on energy, you are in fuel poverty,” he explains. “New technologies help to address this, providing fuel that is more affordable to ordinary people.”


Fuel poverty in the Leeds City Region. Bradford West, where the College is based, has a high ranking. (Data from Leeds City Region).

Bradford is built on wells and watercourses, used to power the textiles mills that grew up in the 19th century. “We need to return to using these natural resources to gain our power,” Barry says. “And we need more on a local level and scale.”

He gives the example of a mini hydro in Hebden Bridge, where an Archimedes screw set in the river is powering a café and retail outlet. Barry also speaks highly of heat pumps, a potentially greener way of heating homes. “As gas prices go up and the price of heat pumps gradually comes down, these will take off. People can come to us to learn about the  technology,  installation and maintenance requirements, and to make informed choices about what’s on offer.”

“We want to spark people’s imaginations as well as give them strong and solid skills,” Barry says. “For instance, plumbing is everywhere, from tiny pipes the size of a ballpoint pen in pharmaceuticals, to huge power stations steam pipework systems . Plumbing  has transformed  our quality of life.”

Barry explains how damp in a house – caused by poor plumbing and ventilation – can breed bacteria and lead to disease. He emphasises the importance of technologies serving to improve working conditions: one of his heroes is John Fielden, the 19th century mill-owner, innovator, MP and campaigner who fought for the introduction of the Ten Hour Act and other measures to improve the lives of mill workers and others.

The government’s efforts to improve energy sustainability face challenges. ”Leeds City Region is full of hard to treat old properties. Planners are opposed to external cladding, so all the upgrading has to be done inside, and that can be costly and be a large construction project. This has reduced the the demand for alternative technologies. But it is all waiting to happen.”

Bradford College 17th May 2013

Barry is involved in a number of outreach activities for the College. He is advising the Council on the use of photovoltaic panels, and Kirkgate Centre on energy usage in their community building. He has linked up with other local projects to help them promote or make use of alternative energy sources. The College also runs a two day environmental awareness course for anyone interested in sustainable technologies.

“We need to look at what can be done locally to improve the quality of life,” Barry says. “We can all switch off lights, we can all make less use of cars. My vision is that every learner at Bradford College should become aware of environmental issues that impact on the planet.  We should encourage our learners  to learn how to work better with natural environmental resources.”

interview and text: Ruth Wilson. Photos: Paula Solloway.

Confidentiality, anonymity and ownership in research

I’ve been to two very good workshops recently at the University of Leeds, both on research ethics. These workshops are always informative, and they end with a session where you discuss a few thorny case studies with people sat at your table.

At the most recent one, my group got immersed in a debate about whether and how a researcher should disclose knowledge gained about someone who knows they are HIV positive and who is having unprotected sex with someone they name who is not aware of their HIV status. Very difficult. Its best to think about these things in advance, before the research gets started! (See for instance this KSPope website, scrolling down to the heading ‘Is there a legal duty to protect or warn third parties’)

Dr Alice Temple at the University of Leeds research ethics workshop.

Dr Alice Temple at the University of Leeds research ethics workshop.

Here are some of the main points that were made by the University of Leeds Research Ethics Training and Development Officer Alice Temple at the July workshop on ‘Ownership, Confidentiality and Secrecy‘:

Anonymity: means ensuring the people who take part in research cannot be identified.

Confidentiality: relates to who has right of access to data provided by participants, and is guided by data protection legislation.

Confidentiality is enshrined in many codes, such as the Hippocratic Oath and ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (we have used this framework extensively at Bradford College in developing our policy and procedures).

Be clear about the boundaries: At the outset, you should explain to potential research participants when and why you might disclose, and that you will discuss this with them. In exceptional circumstances you may need to breach without prior discussion.

You need to be clear about this in advance (the HIV example I gave at the outset is an instance where this was not thought through) and know what your procedures will be if a breach seems necessary.

Where boundaries are set out: in the consent form. And possibly in the research contract. Informal promises must be honoured. Sometimes there is an implied requirement to be confidential – newspapers are often in a very grey area here, arguing that information a celebrity sees as private should be in the public domain. In court, you need a very strong case to claim that publication is in the public interest.

When you breach confidentiality: this is necessary where there is significant risk of harm. In rare cases there may also be a ‘public interest’ justification.

Sometimes researchers become aware of inadequate performance or malpractice at public or other organisations – the decision then is whether to go public or not. A middle road may be advising the organisation of the findings and giving them six months in which to go public. If they do not publish the information in that time, the research body releases the findings.

Get guidance and support on confidentiality disclosures: it may be necessary to have legal advice if you think you have to breach confidentiality. Sometimes it may be that sensitivie information disclosed to you in research is already in the public domain – check this is the case before you disclose the information yourself, as there are different understandings of where ‘public domain’ begins and ends.

‘Off the record’ information: if something is given to you off the record you cannot include it in the research.

Checking for approval: You may send transcripts and research text back to interviewees for checking – there is no obligation on this, but it can be good practice.

The requirements of sponsors: this is an area where tensions can arise. A sponsor may reserve the right to edit, annotate or withhold publication. The role of Univresity is to put things in the public domain. There is also a distinction between ‘research’ and ‘consultancy’ that can become blurred, and may compromise the independent, objective and public requirements of research. It is necessary to consider secrecy clauses carefully, and get all involved (including the researchers) to declare any conflicts of interest.

Ownership: any research conducted as part of an employee’s work for a university, or by staff or students using university facilities and resources, belongs to the university. With regard to inventions and commercialisation of research products, there may be agreements whereby a percentage of the profit goes to the individual(s) involved.

Where a sponsor commissions or pays a university to carry out research, the issue of ownership may require definition in the initial contract. It is here that secrecy clauses may be proposed, and these must be handled with caution.

The Data Protection Act:
This underpins most research practice relating to confidentiality. In summary, the Act has the following implications for research:

  1. Personal data will be processed fairly and lawfully: for research this means a really good consent form is usually key, with researcher name and contact details, purpose, and who has access to raw data.
  2. Personal data can only be used for one or more specified and lawful purposes. Research data is apparently exempt from this, but where possible participants should be informed if their data is going to be used in a different research project.
  3. The personal data gathered should be adequate, relevant and not excessive to the purpose of the research
  4. The data must be accurate and kept up to date. Keeping data up to date can be challenging: one option is to ask all participants to contact you if details change.
  5. Data should not be kept longer than necessary (5-7 years is seen as reasonable).
  6. Data should be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects.
  7. Researchers must implement measures to protect data from loss, damage, destruction, hacking etc. Encryption is important. Many mobile devices are not secure, but it is hard to avoid using them, at least short term. Data should be encrypted and stored securely.
  8. The final point relates to sharing data outside the European Economic Area

Text and photos by Ruth Wilson.

Contact Ruth for a copy of the College’s model consent form and other research ethics guidance: r.wilson2 at Bradford College.