Blog: Not caring is not an option
by Kim Morrish, Director, Ground Control.
Caring for Our Environment has been our company tagline since we bought the business in 2004, but in reality, it’s in our DNA. Because we see the value of the natural environment we manage as the precious community asset that it is, sustainability is at the heart of what we do. Now far more than a tagline, Caring for Our Environment is a guiding principle that informs how we approach every aspect of our operations; from the energy we use to power our offices to the vehicles we drive, the equipment our teams need to do their jobs and the way we deal with the waste we produce.
Since we acquired the business, we have changed the emphasis from a purely customer-oriented one to a dynamic, values-driven company that invests in sustainability and its people. What’s more, the majority if not all of our people share these values. There’s a huge appetite across the business not only to minimise our impact on the environment but also to learn how best to achieve our sustainability goals, and to share that knowledge with others.
I’ve long believed business can be a force for good and my time working in international development taught me business is one of the most sustainable influencers of positive change. Government policies and budgets are often at the whim of short-term political agendas. Charities and NGOs can be inefficient and are always constrained by fundraising. When operated profitably, business is well-positioned to drive positive change. But it’s not enough to just focus on profit. When you look at the top-performing companies around the world, it’s clear they are the ones that take sustainability and looking after their people seriously. That’s why we believe in a triple bottom line of profit, people and planet.
And that’s why, in May 2020, we launched the Evergreen Fund, an investment vehicle that channels 5% of our annual profit into green ventures. The fund provides seed and growth capital to early-stage companies and social enterprises that deliver measurable, beneficial and sustainable environmental impact. This was a milestone moment for us and is a natural extension of our Caring for Our Environment philosophy. We’re aiming to invest around £5 million over the next five years, ploughing back profits from those investments into new sustainable ventures. Not only that, but we will also direct £100,000 from the fund to finance the planting of a million new native trees to create protected areas of biodiversity. To benefit, ventures have to demonstrate they will contribute to positive environmental change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting the natural environment and biodiversity or promoting environmental sustainability.
When we launched the fund, it generated such a positive reaction from our people that it was the only topic of conversation I heard. Their enthusiasm and desire to get involved was amazing – and continues to this day. It’s clear they care deeply about the environment and that passion is reflected in their positive responses to our ‘Train Your Brain’ and University of Ground Control sessions, which aim to drive environmental education throughout the business. Their thirst for knowledge is matched by a desire to help our customers do more to achieve their environmental goals too, working closely with them to be stewards of their property in the most sustainable way. And it’s a lot of land we’re managing, so there is huge potential for improvement.
I know our customers are committed to improving their impact on the environment and our account directors, field managers and key account managers are talking to them all the time about what we’re doing and how we can help. So far, the feedback has been great, especially when it comes to our tree-planting programme. We’ve undertaken several projects this year, inviting customers to come along and help plant trees, and they’ve responded enthusiastically. But there’s a lot more we can do to help them on their journeys towards net zero and that will remain an area of focus for us in future.
Our dream is to influence customers and indeed the entire sector to think in a more sustainable way about what they do. Most of our work involves cutting nature back and, while we try to do that in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, wouldn’t it be better if we made a net improvement? Imagine if we as an industry had a rule that, if you cut down one tree, you have to plant 10 new ones. If we started to think about the property and the natural environment we manage as the precious community asset that it is. For us, Caring for Our Environment is not about gaining an advantage over our competitors; it’s about leading significant change for the better in landscaping among customers and throughout the entire industry. It’s about demonstrating business can be a force for positive change and about showing how investing in protecting and improving the environment can ensure our children inherit a better world than we did. It’s so much more than just a tagline.