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When I sat at my desk for the first day of Social Net Zero, the concept of what was to become Unlock Net Zero was a blank piece of paper. On the 3rd March 2022 we celebrate its first birthday.

Ocean Media Group is a publisher and event organiser. It publishes the Inside Housing and Social Housing digital and print titles and runs a portfolio of housing conferences and exhibitions.  In response to research with their audiences, Ocean were keen to develop a new platform that would address the issues facing the social housing and housing association sector over climate change and the transition to net zero. They had the expertise to develop the physical framework of an online tool that would resonate with their audience but required a partner with specialist sector knowledge of the net zero transition to help develop the proposition and manage the platform. That platform would become Unlock Net Zero.

I first met Sarah Payling the founder of Unlock Net Zero and group event director at Ocean Media to discuss the concept in late 2020. From our initial meetings it was clear that we enjoyed a shared vision of a portal that helps educate, inform and connect people. We were not interested in creating something that would be a debating shop, we wanted to create something that focused on the practicalities. As we say, we want the portal to focus on the how and not the why.

So, after a process of developing the brand, designing and building the site, backed by some loyal commercial partners and a small but dedicated team we launched Unlock Net Zero on the 3rd March 2021.

One year on, it is great to look back at the progress we have made.

Our fortnightly newsletter now has over 70,000 subscribers, and we have extended our remit from just the portal out to an events programme under the Unlock Net Zero brand. Over the last year we have run 18 online webinars across a number of low carbon topics with over 3,000 attendees to date. We have hosted an Unlock Net Zero stage at two of the largest housing events Ocean produce – Housing 2021 in Manchester and HOMES UK at the ExCeL in London with over 4,000 people attending sessions across the two stages. We were even asked to host a fringe event on behalf of the National Housing Federation at the Conservative Party Conference.

But there is no resting on our laurels, there is so much more to come in our second year. We have a clear focus this year. We believe that now is the time for action and that we must act with urgency. We need to adopt a philosophy of learning by doing because this challenge is one of scale.

We will continue to educate and inform through the portal and this year we have already made some enhancements to aid the user experience with more to come. Our events programme is growing as well.

We are running a monthly online webinar series throughout the year, and the Unlock Net Zero stage will be back at Housing 2022 in June. Earlier that month we will be taking over one of the stages at Footprint+ in Brighton and we will end the year in November with the very exciting Unlock Net Zero Live at this year’s HOMES UK event at the ExCeL.

We are very proud of how Unlock Net Zero has evolved and the true partnership we have created and continue to enjoy with Ocean. We simply could not do it without each other.


Andy Cameron-Smith

director, Social Net Zero | editorial director, Unlock Net Zero