Chartered Forester Justin Mumford FICFor CEnv a Fellow of the Institute, Managing Director at Lockhart Garratt, tells us how Lockhart Garratt is connecting with nature.
The two assumptions that people always make when you tell them that you’re a forester are a) that you work for the Forestry Commission and b) you’re very environmentally friendly. The disappointment on their faces is palatable when you answer the first assumption with a ‘no’ and the second with an ‘only sometimes’. In recent years, however, it’s become much more than just an assumption, it’s become a necessity driven by both our clients, future clients and also by our staff and future recruits.
When we updated our three-year rolling Business Plan, back in the summer of 2015, one of its main objectives caught the attention and excitement of the whole company; to
“promote sustainable development and work to protect, improve and enhance the natural environment”.
This is very much easier said than done, so we have subsequently broken this down into reducing our carbon footprint, influencing policy at national and local level, and maintaining and promoting the company culture of taking the right environmental decisions. This has gone down well with many of our clients, particularly the larger development clients, some of whom are insisting that we take it a step further and become ISO 14001 accredited which I can see getting into the next Business Plan. In the meantime, it’s been encouraging to see how lots of little steps are starting to add up. Some of these quite subtle.
As a company, one of our biggest polluters is the fleet of cars (mostly diesel, no electric) parked outside the office. I estimate that, as a company, we probably travel 200,000 miles a year, which would be well on the way to getting out of Earth’s inner atmosphere and almost to the moon. One of the big culprits of clocking up the miles is travelling long distances to see clients or between our offices in Corby and Chipping Norton. The purchase of two, wide-screen televisions for the respective meeting rooms has allowed us to Skype each other and clients and has made a massive difference; not only reducing miles travelled but also clawing back all the ‘dead time’ sat in the roadworks just outside Towcester.
Although both our offices are probably less than 30 years’ old, it’s amazing how inefficient they are, both in terms of keeping warm during the winter and cool in the summer, and how much modern architecture has come on since then producing much more energy efficient buildings. One of our Board has been appointed the ‘Green Champion’ to look at ways of improving matters and we are already seeing how changes in light bulbs and hot water systems are reducing our electricity bills and carbon footprint. Building efficiency is also something that is testing many of the land agents who we work alongside as they endeavour to bring their aging, rented property portfolio up to date and are racing against time to meet the new, legal requirement of a minimum rating under the Energy Performance Certificate of at least ‘E’ by April 2018. Failure to do so will trigger the penalty of up to a whopping £4,000! Of course we always recommend using more wood as a fuel.
The biggest change that we can make is to encourage our clients to undertake more tree planting and manage their woodlands. This can be difficult in the East Midlands and East Anglia where the alternative arable land use governs a premium. However, through careful assessment of the holding, identification of less productive areas of land or identifying opportunities to connect existing woods (particularly if it has other benefits for shooting enterprises or the landscape) can allow for an informed decision to be made and is all that’s required to persuade more trees to go in the ground, albeit on a modest scale. Once again, little steps soon add up. Everything came together only last week when I was invited to help with a new woodland creation project for a potential new client who had made his money from energy-efficient light bulbs! It was a real light bulb moment.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Chartered Foresters.