Trying to make a sustainable business? Or making our business sustainable?
What have we done?
It can be argued that we've had it easy, as a relatively young company, we've grown up in a world striving to be 'green' with our staff being like-minded and continually pushing to do better. So for us there has never had to be any major shifts in business plans to create a big push to become 'eco'. Since the beginning we've done what we can and made the decisions - where possible - that give back and look out for the planet.
For example; from the first day we needed the bins emptied we used Smiths recycling. They were just one of the options but we went with them as 85% of all the waste that goes to them gets sorted, cleaned and recycled. This, when compared to a national average of 65% looks pretty good however this is further boosted by us pre-separating plastics, glass and metals to ensure that 100% of those streams are recycled.
This is the reason we have separate bins on site.
We of course have to use rescue boats on the lake but we purposely have the engines tuned for efficiency and use Castrol Bio-lube, a biodegradable engine oil, to try to lessen the impact we have.
We have also chosen the brands we work with very carefully too, with a focus on two particular aspects:
How eco conscious is the brand itself.
The quality of the equipment they provide.
Everyone loves a brand who posts things in a paper bag instead of plastic and that's good but we want better than that, our two major suppliers are McConks Paddleboards and Palm Equipment. McConks are based in Cirencester, about 10 minutes away and Palm are based in Bristol, around an hour away. Simply by using local companies we can reduce the mileage in the supply chain.
McConks have been working hard over several years to arrive at the point where they can deliver plastic free packaging whilst not compromising on the protection of the equipment, utilising bamboo sacks instead of plastic bags and cardboard honeycomb instead of packing foam.
From Palm we buy our buoyancy aids, kayaks and canoes. Their kayaks and canoes are manufactured in the UK and the plastic they are made from is recyclable at the end of their life. Going a step further than this, Palm is leading the industry by manufacturing the first kayaks from recycled sea waste - discarded fishing nets and plastic rubbish to not only continue improving their own eco-friendly outlook but also to begin the massive task of cleaning up the damage already done. They also support many river clean ups and Cal Major (paddle against plastic) is proud to be one of their ambassadors.
As well as those listed above, the other key reason we use these companies is because the quality of their equipment is the highest we have found. This is good for our customers to enjoy and benefits us as a business as it doesn't need replacing as often which is actually a massive help to the planet.
With our equipment lasting 4,5 or even 6 seasons we have been responsible for saving the manufacture of 4,5 or even 6 fleets of hire equipment compared to the scenario of our equipment only lasting one season, which, at some centres is the case. Similarly we try to sell off our hire kit when it becomes tired as it still has plenty of life second hand, again reducing the amount of equipment having to be manufactured in the first place.
We are pleased that we are now in a place as a company to take a step back, positively reflect on the decisions we've made so far and ask ourselves: What more can we do?
Well, quite a lot actually.
What are we doing?
For us, it doesn't matter which way you phrase the question, the answer is the same; we work and play in the outdoors and damage to it would have a huge impact on our lives. As a business that profits from the environment it is not only essential to protect it for our long term survival, it is also our ethical duty as 'custodians' of the land we operate on and the planet we live on.
Let’s start simple...
We have calculated the number of tonnes of carbon we leave as a footprint each season. It’s actually tiny, which is good and frustratingly small at the same time. This is partly for the reasons above but also because each winter we continue to work outside and therefore don't burn through heating and lighting.
We actually had to work with a company to build an accurate calculator that worked with a carbon footprint low enough, most online calculators are built for multi million pound companies, which we are not... yet.
In 2022, through a recognised scheme, we will plant mangroves that will offset our carbon footprint, hold back the erosion being caused by rising sea levels and provide jobs in affected areas of the globe.
We won't do this just to offset this year or last year; but for every year since we opened in 2014. – This is considered the gold standard by most companies looking to offset their Carbon Footprint.
We will have achieved this by the end of June 2022, drawing a green line in our ledger and looking towards the future...
What will we do next?
We've always said our staff are the key to our business' success, as well as continually offsetting our seasonal carbon emissions by planting more trees, we hope that we can really make gains and inspire others by also choosing to offset the impact that each of our members of staff have on the planet each year.
For each season one of our staff works for us, we will offset their whole year.
We will do this for every member of staff that has worked for us dating back to the first season we opened.
This "carbon deficit" will be paid off across the next 6-7 years however we have committed to this process - as a minimum – for the next 10 years to account for some business growth.
What if we offset more carbon than we have created? Well, we might accidentally improve the planet.
We will work with our suppliers, major and minor, current and future to understand the emissions caused directly by us through the larger scale supply chain and eventually the manufacture of our equipment.
The problem with carbon offsetting has always been that it is often cheaper for companies to just plant some trees than make any changes. We started from the ground up and are making sure we stay accountable. We have set ourselves a big task and one we hope to make easier by continually making the simple, ethical choices in day to day business and life.