Why We Are Staying Focused On The Green Agenda During Lockdown
Published in Forbes, 14th June 2020, by Alison Coleman
Before COVID-19, the biggest issue on the business agenda was sustainability, with employees and customers increasingly drawn towards companies taking stances and action on sustainability.
When the pandemic struck, survival became the priority for many business owners. But one company that never took its eye off the green agenda is Ground Control, a leading provider of landscaping and maintenance services in the U.K., whose co-founders Simon and Kim Morrish used lockdown to fine-tune and launch a new £5 million investment fund, financed by 5% of their company profits, and dedicated to sustainability and environmental initiatives.
“The Evergreen Fund was really an extension of our personal commitment to sustainability,” says Simon Morrish. “By channeling 5% of net profits into green ventures, the entire staff can get behind and support wonderful environmental initiatives rather than just something that Kim and I did privately.”
In fact, they have spent the last 10 years using their share of excess profits to invest in green ventures, which include building over 100 wind turbines and solar installations throughout the U.K. and providing growth capital to green ventures such as Ignite, Bulb, and Clean Planet.
Both had enjoyed successful careers in large organizations and had launched a startup, which they successfully exited, before setting their sights on buying an established business that they could shape into a modern family business.
In 2004 they acquired Ground Control and set about transforming the autocratic grounds maintenance company into a multidisciplinary, people-centric venture focused on caring for the environment. Today its clients include four of the country’s largest supermarket chains, pub chains, plus Network Rail. It has 700 direct members of staff, plus a further 6,000 through its field teams, and has annual gross revenues in excess of £120 million ($150 million).
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted some parts of the business, including the landscaping work to the pub chains that were forced to close down in March. Other areas of the business, for example, the clearing of vegetation underneath high voltage power lines and along network rail tracks, were unaffected as they were able to continue supporting this critical infrastructure whilst maintaining safe distancing.
The two founders transitioned to home working from office working and used their time during lockdown to accelerate and launch the fund, and to work out how to best partner with third parties to speed up deal flow and ensuring that their model would keep costs to an absolute minimum.
“We also worked on securing important strategic partnerships with institutional and angel investors, build internal systems, create marketing collateral, promote the fund and assess potential deals,” says Morrish.
Over the next five years, the fund will invest £5 million in early-stage environmental ventures, becoming a perpetual investment facility with profits reinvested into new sustainable ventures. Investments will range in size from £10,000 to £500,000 ($628,000). Within the fund, at least £100,000 per year has been earmarked to be invested in native tree planting to create protected areas of biodiversity and carbon sequestration in the UK.
“Our focus is on early-stage companies and social enterprises that can deliver measurable, beneficial and sustainable environmental impact, and entrepreneurs with a clear vision of how to effect positive environmental change, combined with the experience, hard work and commitment to deliver,” says Morrish.
Ventures must contribute to at least one of a number of measures of positive environmental change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing natural resource efficiency, protecting the natural environment and biodiversity, and promoting environmental sustainability.
“More than ever, the COVID pandemic has highlighted the interdependence of the planet and the importance of investing in environmental impact ventures,” says Morrish. “In spite of the economic uncertainty, our employees have been incredibly interested and supportive of the activities of the Evergreen Fund.”
They are partnering with a number of organizations, including Zero Carbon Fund, Mustard Seed, Clearly Social and Conduit Connect, along with angel investor networks to source and evaluate opportunities.
Morrish says: “We are just now closing on our first investments in Zero Carbon Fund, Switchee, and Chargepoint, the latter being a company that we have been involved with for a number of years and have tracked their progress in helping to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles (BEVs).”
Climate change is an existential crisis of the current age that needs solving. The World Economic Forum Principles for Climate Governance for boards, published in January 2019, has called on groups of board directors around the world to form networks, such as Chapter Zero in the U.K., committed to promoting the principles and encouraging action in their companies to deal with the implications of climate change. Board members from the Evergreen Fund and Ground Control have joined this movement.
“The world is lacking political leadership right now and businesses and individuals must do all they can to mitigate the risks that climate change poses,” says Morrish. “I believe that if we don’t act decisively on this, large swathes of the planet could become uninhabitable, with the consequent global humanitarian and refugee crisis that would in itself create.”
For additional information please contact:
Maxwell Comms Ltd
(m) 07985 351 797
About Ground Control
Ground Control is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of award-winning maintenance services and would be happy to help in any way they can.
It services over 50,000 private and public sector sites, with a client list that includes three of the country’s four biggest supermarkets, and directly employs 1,000 people and supplies work to over 5,000 contractors.
For more information visit https://www.ground-control.co.uk