Prolandcaper speaks with Kim Morrish and Environmental Lead Chris Bawtree about how Ground Control achieved the phenomenal goal of becoming carbon neutral four years ahead of schedule and what advice they have for companies looking to do the same.
Pro Landscaper: Firstly, congratulations, it’s a phenomenal achievement. What were the steps that Ground Control took to become carbon neutral?
Chris: The starting point for us was making sure we were engaged with a credible organisation who could give us independent third-party guidance and assurance but that could also evaluate what we were doing. We chose The Carbon Trust.
We started working with them back in September to evaluate and measure our carbon footprint. We had to collect information on energy use throughout the company to get the data to calculate our footprint, this was verified by The Carbon Trust. Once you’ve identified the hotspots, you can put into place a carbon reduction plan. We identified very early on that our fleet was a very significant part of our carbon footprint so we needed to look to how to reduce that. This involved going out into the market and looking for offsets, but there are very stringent rules about which offsets you can utilise in order to meet a specific standard. That was a big bit of work, getting to grips with the carbon offset market. We then procured those offsets and got our certificates. But it’s very much the start of the journey from our perspective.
Kim: It goes back further as well. 12 years ago, we rebranded the company as Caring for Our Environment. Not only is it our tagline and on all our branding, it’s something we’re committed to. At that time, we felt we weren’t doing everything we could for carbon reduction and biodiversity, so it’s been incremental every year. We’ve invested in Priuses, green cars, we moved all the energy in our offices green, we started doing a much recycling as we could, we switched the whole fleet over to Tesla – we had a vision and our staff is completely committed to it. Then, of course, a couple of years ago we decided to dedicate 5% of our profits to carbon reducing technology and tree planting. But it’s very much been a systematic approach based on scientific evidence.
Then, things started happening outside of the business. Something called the B Corp, companies that care about social and environmental sustainability, they accredit you if you’re doing all the right things. So, we decided to work towards that. We also had customers in The Sustainability Supply Chain School, and then our board joined Chapter Zero which is training for non-executives on their climate risks and responsibilities – we have more directors going through that training than any other business.
The volume had been getting louder and louder, but the real change came when we realised, it all needed to be measured and certified. It’s been an incredibly journey and I can’t believe we smashed it four years ahead of target.
Pro Landscaper: Why is it important for all of the companies with our industry to be moving towards becoming carbon neutral and how can they go about it?
Kim: I would be over the moon if all our colleagues in the industry thought about what they could do, because it’s not actually hard work, it’s just having the playbook. The benefits far outstrip the costs involved. Our customers love that we do this, and insist that we do. We’re able to attract much better and bigger talent because our employee love that we’re a purpose driven business. Our suppliers love doing business with us because of the values we represent.
It’s vital to work with our customers and our supply chain to get the very best results. And a lot of our big customers, their carbon aspirations are crazily ambitious.
Chris: We’re seeing that across the client base, and its really about how we as an industry can help them achieve that. Our achievement is great, but it’s a small drop in the ocean really, we need to work together as an industry to scale up the impact.
In terms of first steps, I think we’ve found it’s getting a partner to advise. It doesn’t have to be someone as big as The Carbon Trust, there are consultants out there who can really guide companies and help them figure out where they are now. Every journey begins with a first step but you need to know where your starting point is. Then you can work out where you can make the most significant changes.
Kim: There’s something called Future Fit which is a free tool kit. You input all the information and it tells you where you’re at in terms of sustainability, and where you need to focus your efforts. That’s not just environmental sustainability either, it’s social too – things like, paying the living wage, investing in health and safety, in skills training, opportunities for your workforce, brining in apprentices etc. There’s also a load of training available for free at Chapter Zero to be taken advantage of.
A lot of our initiatives came from within the company, beginning with Windy who started our recycling system. There are 11 more examples of programmes they’ve started for biodiversity and carbon reduction, recycling – some of the best ideas have come from unexpected places. We want to empower everybody; we not only foster and encourage innovation but we reward it to.
Pro Landscaper: You’re currently working on your next five-year goals towards net zero. What will these involve?
Kim: We have Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership consulting with us on the five-year strategy to make sure sustainability is embedded in everything we do.
Chris: Our next big step is setting our net-zero science-based targets. Those will be extending out to cover our whole value chain, so our supply chain or field teams. We’ll continue to learn as a business what the best technologies are so we can recommend these to others. Over 80% of our fleet is EV now, and we’re continuing down that journey with significant investment in Tesla. Now that technology is catching up, we’ll be looking at the best transit equivalent to we can transform the remainder of our fleet.