Aspen Forestry Services
Stuart Fernie from Abergavenny runs Aspen Forestry Services, providing forestry and gardening services and maintenance to public and private-sector clients. He was supported by a Business Wales Sustainability Adviser and has committed to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge to ensure:
- efficient use of resources and materials
- minimising the use of vehicles
- monitoring and measurement of activity
Introduction to business
Stuart Fernie set up Aspen Forestry Services 5 years ago to provide forestry contracting services including planting, spraying, fencing, sign erection on behalf of public bodies such as Natural Resources Wales.
With an experienced team, Aspen Forestry Services also specialises in private sector work such as grass cutting, planting and forestry maintenance.
What objectives did you set out to achieve in your business?
I set out to reduce wasted resources in three key areas:
- All activities are monitored and measured. For example, when we are chemical spraying, we only target weeds in order to reduce water and chemicals used.
- Proper planning to reduce number of trips made and replace older vehicles with more fuel-efficient models.
- Minimise the use of materials and reuse them wherever possible. Do not over-order consumables and perishables. Communicate with customers regarding how much is actually used.
What challenges did you face?
The main challenge I faced was trying to change the existing working methods and convincing customers that the effectiveness of the job is not reduced (if we use less chemicals on a spraying site, we must be able to show the customer that the result is still a weed-free site). Also, trying to get customers "on board" to arrange work efficiently (if we have two jobs in the same area, we try to schedule them at the same time or sequentially).
Another challenge was finding a suitable vehicle that will do what we need it to do but also be cleaner and more fuel efficient. In my opinion, more help should be available to help small businesses with replacing old, polluting vehicles. I have now started to really get the financial benefits back from our new vehicle and it will continue to benefit both the business and the environment, but it was a large outlay at the time.
Business Wales support
Stuart approached the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service and received general business advice to respond to unexpected growth. He attended a tendering workshop where specialist sustainability adviser Paul Carroll introduced him to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge.
Having committed to a number of actions to ensure sustainable practices within the business, Stu has since been able to secure a number of contracts while also raising awareness of the importance of sound environmental planning. This included a contract to cut wildflower areas for the Garwnant Visitor Centre once or twice a year to encourage more species of wildflower to develop. Reducing the number of cuttings has been a real success and has led to more cost-savings from fuel efficiency.
Stuart has also secured a contract in Wentwood Forest to reduce the area treated with chemicals to save water and chemical materials.
- Advisory support to help with business growth.
- Sustainability advice and commitment to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge to help with the efficient use of resources.
- New contracts secured.
Paul was extremely enthusiastic about the Green Growth Pledge when I met him at a Business Wales tendering workshop. This really helped me to commit properly to achieving it. He is knowledgeable about sustainability and business, and where he did not have expertise in a subject, he referred me to other Business Wales colleagues. Paul explained very well that the idea is not just to save the environment but to create TRUE sustainability for our businesses and Wales.
Future plans and ambitions
I want to continue in the spirit of the Green Growth Pledge as I have already started to see the benefits in terms of profitability. My real ambition is to convince all people in charge of vegetation management in public spaces to change the way it is managed and to change the priority from visual appearance to biodiversity. Many examples of this are already in place (roundabouts planted with wildflowers, some roadside verges not cut as regularly, etc.) but it is unacceptable that we keep spraying chemicals on grass by kerbs as this is temporary and does not prevent vegetation from growing.
We also keep mowing grass all through summer to make it "tidy". Homeowners are responding (many people do not cut their grass every week anymore) but people in charge of public spaces are not setting a good enough example. We are in the middle of a case study in association with a customer which is already showing that by simply not cutting the grass, we achieve a financial saving for the customer, we create a habitat for bees, butterflies and other wildlife, and the members of the public do not complain if it is explained why.
If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.