Under Peter’s leadership, Gentoo have been active and engaged members of BITC for over six years. As the Chief Executive of a major housing association, Peter has an in-depth understanding of social issues, particularly in disadvantaged and economically challenged communities, and the critical importance of empowering individuals to have a sense of ownership of their lives and their environment.
Peter’s approach has been both innovative and inspirational. He has created a culture of volunteering both within the organisation, and within the communities in which Gentoo operates. One example of the success of his approach is that Gentoo was the overall small business winner of BITC’s Education Award in 2013, improving primary school children’s reading age by an average of two and a half years in only nine months, and with some children improving their reading age by as much as five years.
Involving residents in volunteering activities has been so successful in improving their sense of self-worth and overall well-being that some doctors in Sunderland are now prescribing ‘Gentoo’ rather than anti-depressants.
Peter is also passionate about improving the physical and built environment. He is heavily involved with the Green Building Council and created a website, www.swingacat.com, emphasising the importance of space, which was instrumental in the development of new space standards. His commitment to eco-friendly homes includes a huge investment in solar panels, fitting over 2,500 roofs with PV and the development of an estate of ‘passive’ bungalows that cost only £3 per week to heat, addressing both carbon emissions and fuel-poverty. He has also committed to make Gentoo a ‘one planet’ business by 2016 – and aims to reduce this even further in future.
Peter is now convening all the housing associations in the North East to promote them sharing best practice and working together to address the issues that are common to them all.