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Sustainability and Best Practice in Kent

PUBLISHED: 14:24 19 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:24 19 March 2016

Adam Lockwood at Laurence J. Betts

Adam Lockwood at Laurence J. Betts

Manu Palomeque

Sustainability has become a bit of a buzzword, but what does it mean in practice? For these Kent businesses, it ranges from recycling all waste to harvesting rainwater

Not so long ago ‘sustainability’ was a term that barely entered our consciousness; today it is one of the most-used buzzwords. Corporate mission statements, social responsibility policies, job descriptions and marketing programmes all employ the term, as do the public and private sectors. But what does it really mean?

a definition that is better than most is: ‘sustainability equals the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.’ These Kent businesses are all using fewer resources to benefit the future.

Kent County Council

Kent is actively involved in an array of practices that will fulfil today’s needs while protecting those of future generations – and Kent County Council is playing an inspirational part.

Chris Bell, Sustainable Business Projects Officer, says: “Delivering KCC’s Sustainable Business programme in accordance with the newly adopted Kent Environment Strategy, the Low Carbon Kent network consists of nearly 2,000 small and medium businesses.

“Offerings include the STEM scheme, which provides tools and templates to implement an environmental management system. Following our Low-Carbon-Plus Project, which gave grants to eligible businesses, another EU-funded project is planned to deliver financial assistance to fund energy-efficiency measures and business growth.”

Joining the network and services is free (it’s part funded by the European Structural Investment Fund: see www.kent.gov.uk/lowcarbon).

Hadlow College

Hadlow, one of the UK’s leading land-based colleges, initiated its LESS campaign in 2011: LESS energy… LESS water… LESS waste.

The message has been embraced by staff and students throughout the college and Hadlow’s efforts were rewarded at national level last year when the college was runner-up in the Grichan Partnership Sustainable Business Award in the National Business Awards.

Indicating the size and calibre of the multi-national businesses with which the college was in competition, the outright winner was Crown Paint while Ikea and a well-known airline were amongst the short-listed companies. More recently, six of the college’s departments were awarded National Union of Students’ Green Impact Awards for their commitment to sustainable practices.

Laurence J. Betts

Laurence J. Betts Ltd farms about 1,400 acres at Offham and the surrounding area where they grow top-quality salad crops using field-production methods.

Headed by Stephen Betts, the company states: “Laurence J Betts Ltd is committed to its responsibilities of maintaining our environment and farming in a sustainable manner.”

Awarded Salad Grower of the Year and Edibles Grower of the Year at the UK Growers’ Awards 2015, environmental concern is something this company takes very seriously.

The firm recycles all cardboard waste, some 15 tons-plus a year, by squashing it after which it is baled and then collected by a specialist company. The same applies to waste plastic.

Adam Lockwood, assistant farm manager, says: “The investment in the speciality machinery used in the project was considerable but in time we shall derive a small profit from the operations whilst also making a very worthwhile environmental contribution.”

Adam adds: “Solar panels produce about 20 per cent of the electricity used, a considerable contribution in an enterprise the size and type of Church Farm.

“We sow and maintain wildflower areas in order to encourage bees and other wildlife and we have built reservoirs in different parts of the farm to increase water capacity. We have also had a biodiversity plan produced that embraces a future sustainability programme.”

L.J.Betts is currently investigating ‘gleaning’ type programmes that will further reduce the small amount of food wastage occurring on the farm.

Farm Wildlife

Paul Cobb heads up Farm Wildlife, a business specialising in providing environmental-related advice for farmers and landowners.

He says: “Sustainable farming makes sound business sense because it takes care of the ‘now’ while protecting the future. Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing how their food is produced because they understand the real importance of protecting future generations.”

Recent initiatives include work for a fruit farmer that involves harvesting rainwater from packhouse roofs, while another project involves growing cover crops on arable land in order to reduce soil erosion during the winter months. Paul gives talks and presentations for businesses and groups and one-to-one consultations as well.

Taywell Ice Creams

Taywell Ice Creams Limited was founded by Alastair Jessel in 2006. Based on the outskirts of Paddock Wood, last year Alastair and his team produced 150,000 litres of ice cream for 120 flavours that included the world’s first natural dairy, no added sugar range for diabetics.

Sustainability is fundamental and cardboard, glass, paper and other waste materials are all recycled. Water is an important part in the cooling processes of ice-cream making, so installing a circular cooling system has made a big contribution in environmental terms.

Taywell has won an impressive range of awards for its ice creams, including The Grocer’s Best New Product Award against competition that included Cadbury’s and Vimto. But despite beating international competition and supplying products to London and the Home Counties, Taywell is very much a Kent company. Local people are employed and as many ingredients as possible are sourced from within the county.

FGS Agri

Based at Pluckley, FGS Agri is one of Kent’s largest agricultural contracting companies. Demand for additional support has resulted in it extending its business offer to include civil and utility contracting services. FGS Agri also runs its own farm of 3,500 acres devoted to arable plus a single-sucker herd of 200-plus cows.

Farm manager Alan Higgs says: “FGS Agri is passionate about practising sustainability at its own farm as well as at clients. The compost used on the arable land largely consists of paper sludge and bio-solids. FGS holds a spreading licence from Thames Water and carries out bio-spreading on numerous other farms. This type of operation ensures that materials that would otherwise be wasted are used effectively.” w

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