The most sustainable business in the world?
09th December 2020
As part of our ongoing series Inspiring Growth, Lanchester Group of Companies’ managing director Tony Cleary reveals how placing sustainability at the heart of its agenda supports not only the planet, but profits too.
It’s funny where a hip operation can take you. The creation of arguably one of the most sustainable businesses in the country, with the largest open loop water source heat pump system in Europe, doesn’t necessarily spring to mind.
But for Tony Cleary, managing director of Lanchester Group of Companies, recuperating after an operation to replace his left hip gave him time to reflect. It was during this period, nearly a decade ago, that he started to read about renewable energy and the benefits not only for the environment, but also for business.
“Back then, investing in renewable energy was fairly new for businesses,” says Tony, speaking from the Lanchester Group offices – home to Lanchester Wines, Greencroft Bottling, Lanchester Energy and Lanchester Properties – in Stanley. Lanchester Group’s gift business, Spicers of Hythe, is based at one of the company’s Gateshead sites.
“The investment in renewables was a risk, because the government had grants in place but it wasn’t always clear how the money would be distributed. However, the more I read about it, the more I thought it was a good idea.
“Our facility is on a hill – we’re high up. It was the ideal place for a wind turbine. The more I found out about sustainable energy, the more I thought that there was a real opportunity to be more sustainable as a business, as well as creating renewable energy from a commercial perspective.”
You could say that Cleary was ahead of his time. He recognised that customers, employees and suppliers are interested in more than just the price of goods. Increasingly, they want to know how things are made, what the impact of production is on the environment and what your ethos says about you as a business.
“You have to believe in this stuff,” Tony continues, “and we do. You can’t just do it as a ‘bolt on’ – greenwashing your business because you think it will look better. You have to get buy-in from the board, and we have placed our sustainability agenda front and centre of our plans – it’s considered in every decision we make because we believe being carbon neutral is just the beginning.”
Adam Black, Lanchester Group’s head of energy, has been instrumental in the development of the sustainability strategy.
Tony continues, “In business you have to surround yourself with people who are cleverer than you, and Adam is brilliant. He doesn’t just go with the status quo. If we’ve got a business decision to make, he thinks around the project, looks at it from all angles. He considers if there’s a better way to deliver it. It might not be what everyone else is doing, or how it’s always been done – but if there’s an improvement to make, he’ll figure it out.”
Lanchester Group’s ambitions are huge – “to be the most sustainable business on the planet” – but talking to Tony you get the feeling this isn’t just hot air.
The company now has four wind turbines producing 5.5million kWh (kilowatt hours) of clean, renewable electricity per year. Around 42% of this electricity to run operations at its Greencroft Estate, the remainder – enough to power 800 family homes – is fed into the National Grid.
There’s also a 41 kW solar array on the roof of its office complex producing enough clean electricity to cover day-to-day electrical use.
The piece de resistance is at the Lanchester Wines warehouses in Gateshead, two of which are close to the River Tyne, which have been installed with a 4 mW open loop water source heat pump system – the largest of its type in Europe. These take geothermal heat from water in disused coal mines to provide warmth for the buildings and are recognised as exemplars in terms of renewable energy production for business. And there’s more to come next year as the firm looks to build a new bottling plant that will be the icon of sustainable building.
Imogen Holland, a partner at Ward Hadaway, said, “Lanchester Group is a beacon to the business community of our region. Its leadership in sustainability demonstrates that the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits can indeed be achieved. The organisation has put its purpose – to be the most sustainable business on the planet – at the heart of its growth strategy and they are reaping the rewards, both commercially and environmentally.”
Tony concludes, “My advice to any business thinking about pursuing a sustainable agenda is that you have to believe in it, invest in it and be passionate about it. And secondly, look very carefully at all your options and seek advice from experts you trust.”
The future for Lanchester Group seems not only bright, but bright green.
To speak to Imogen about your legal needs email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 137 3611.
For more information on Lanchester Group visit www.lanchestergroup.com.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Journal on 10th December 2020.