* indicates required

Finding the right balance

Howes Percival’s latest round table discussion brought together business people from a range of sectors to share their thoughts on the challenges of balancing the needs of the environment with commercial interests.


AN opportunity to bring together business people from a diverse range of industries proved to be a real eye-opener for individuals looking to balance the care of the environment and commercial opportunities.

The session was chaired by Gerald Couldrake, Partner at Howes Percival, who sensed while people were aware of the need to make positive changes for the better these can be hindered because of costs, poor infrastructures or simple misunderstandings.

The competitive energy supply sector is one area where people are unaware what positive progress has been made in recent years.

Reemesh Patel, Managing Consultant at Wellingborough-based independent energy consultants SK Energy was surprised that, for example, there is no longer a price difference between using ‘green’ energy rather than fossil burning fuels.

“Suppliers have really looked at ways of reducing prices. It is a step change and is not happening quickly, but more and more people are becoming aware,” he said.

Alternative energy from wind turbines to biomass plants are all options but the recycling and disposal of waste can be time consuming and costly. It is a daily challenge for businesses like Corby-based Technical Foam Services Ltd, specialist engineers in foam products.

The firm’s Managing Director Duncan Geddes said: “We bring in all our raw materials and about 90 per cent goes out of the door again but what do we do with the other ten per cent? The packaging materials, cardboard, string and wooden pallets.

“It is difficult to find ways of disposing of these waste materials, and we have to work really hard to get this sorted.”

Continued improvements to the recycling process for both business and individuals is one way forward. A review of taxes could be another, with new mother Emma Jones from Haines Watts admitting it might prompt her to consider different options if there was, for example, a substantial price difference between disposable and reusable nappies.

A charge of 5p or 10p on plastic carrier bags had made a real difference to people’s habits and the group welcomed other schemes like packaging-free products available in supermarkets.

Another game change is the switch from diesel to petrol vehicles or other options like electric-powered or hybrid cars like the one owned by Gerald Couldrake, who appreciates the benefits of being able to use battery-power for short journeys around Northampton.

“We find that particularly for short trips it is absolutely brilliant and when we get home we are in the habit of plugging it in,” said Gerald.

This appreciation of hybrid cars came as no surprise to Terence Byrne, of Progress Suzuki. At the dealerships, including one in Kettering, there are no longer any diesel vehicles on sale.

“More and more people have moved away from diesel. There are options, but even petrol cars have got a lot cleaner than they used to be,” said Terence, who said scrappage schemes and congestion charges in larger towns and cities were factors in people deciding to make a change.

The ongoing pressure for homes and commercial developments was another challenge that needed to be set against the environmental impact. Lucy Lord, Partner at Howes Percival, who works closely with developers, said: “We need homes but there is real pressure on developers. Something like moving a badger colony can cost thousands and thousands of pounds.”

Trust and partnerships were often the key to success said John Lockhart of Lockhart Garratt, a Corby-based environmental planning and forestry consultancy. He highlighted a project to tackle flooding which included funding by an insurance company.

“They saw an opportunity to solve a problem before it happened rather than paying out once homes had been flooded,” said John.

Other forward-thinking initiatives included encouraging people to plant trees. Concerns over ash dieback, a disease putting the ash tree under threat across the United Kingdom, has prompted fresh ideas to encourage people to plant trees.

Giving support to these initiatives is not only good for the environment but makes good commercial sense.

Gerald said: “We need to look to the next generation. When we come to recruit, we will tell them about the job and salary and they will ask us about our environmental policy. We need to be ready.”



Emma Jones, Head of Audit, Haines Watts

Climate change and environmental issues – we are seeing these move up and up the agenda for our clients and are also reviewing our own internal policies. Businesses are increasingly looking at their whole supply chain when considering their impact on the wider environment and taking responsibility to create a more sustainable future.


Duncan Geddes, Managing Director, Technical Foam Services Ltd

“Running a successful business is a juggling act. Our challenge is to find the middle ground between reducing or recycling waste material and still make it work from a cost point of view.”


Miles Barnes, Solicitor, Howes Percival

“There must be more ways for businesses to process their waste. Support can come from Government, but it is no good simply providing money which is going down a black hole.”


Reemesh Patel, Managing Consultant, SK Energy

“Energy suppliers are making changes and there are real choices now for not only large companies but small businesses. Things are happening and, while it could always go quicker, we are seeing growing use of renewable energy especially as the cost for going green is not to dissimilar to conventional energy.”


Graham Irons, Partner, Howes Percival

“The important thing is to start somewhere. We can ask ourselves, ‘what is the point? Is it just me making an effort?’ but everyone has to see how they can make this happen.”


John Lockhart, Chairman, Lockhart Garratt

“The challenge is to try to find a way to deliver what we need to do for residential and commercial growth yet try to do this in a way that will deliver real environmental nett gain within the local area.”


Gerald Couldrake, Partner, Howes Percival

“The challenge is to look at what we are doing now and see how changes can be made. It is not just about having an environmental policy it is about making it work.”


Lucy Lord, Partner, Howes Percival

“Developers face very strict controls to protect the environment. I think this can be a really good thing but there has to be a balance.”


Julie Barnes Ward, owner, Business Times

“We all want to do the right thing but hearing the challenges facing different businesses gives us a better understanding of what changes still need to be made.”


Terence Byrne, Managing Director, Progress Suzuki

‘There has been a really big move away from diesel cars and a migration to smaller petrol cars with the same output at this point. Cars and the ownership methods have got a lot simpler and there are great offers to incentivise them such as scrappage, we are seeing customers changing their cars more frequently and taking advantage of latest developments in smaller more efficient engines. SUV models are selling well.

More news articles: