Cardiff-based TB Davies is a fourth-generation family business founded in the 1940s and is today a leading supplier of access equipment in the UK.
The company manufactures and distributes a wide range of climbing products, including steps, ladders, towers, and podiums for the professional, trade and domestic user. It has taken pride in staying one step ahead through innovation ever since it became one of the first companies to introduce a range of revolutionary new aluminium ladders into its product range in the 1960s.
Today its product range still has innovation at its core, offering light, compact ladders that are easy to set up and operate safely when working at height.
With a reputation for well-designed, well-engineered products, its customers include Screwfix, Arco and Amazon. It also sells direct to consumers, a market which saw a boom during COVID when householders finally got around to tackling those long-planned DIY projects.
TB Davies employs 21 people at its site in Lewis Road, Splott, and achieved a turnover of £8 million in 2022.
As a family business proudly rooted in the Cardiff community, the company has always felt a strong sense of social responsibility, including a commitment to sustainability. In 2019, it took the first step in developing an action plan to reduce its environmental impact. That project involved considering areas within its direct control, such as harnessing solar energy for its operations, reducing plastic packaging and introducing hybrid vehicles.
However, the firm struggled to measure its scope two and three emissions and needed support and dedicated resources to further its work. When the company's Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme Relationship Manager, Howard Jones, mentioned the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme Carbon Emission Reduction Pilot, they jumped at the opportunity to participate.
Here, Director Mat Gray explains how the business has benefited from the pilot programme and shares the lessons learned.
Tell us how you went about developing your carbon emission reduction plan?
We started by identifying what data we already had and where we could make improvements. For example, we use solar panels to supply most of our electricity, and we don't use gas on site, so we knew we were very "clean" regarding pollution.
Previously, we struggled to measure Scope Three emissions, which we do not create. Instead, they are the emissions from those we are indirectly responsible for, up and down our supply chain.
The production of aluminium ladders is relatively energy and carbon-intensive. And a lot depends on where the raw materials come from.
Once our data was in order, we asked for more data from our supply chain, including shipping companies. We then drew it together and produced a pie chart, which we further analysed to show where we could make the most significant carbon savings in the shortest timeframe.
The Pilot placed an intern with us - a Master's student - who was instrumental in helping us gather and analyse the data. We made significant progress quickly, thanks to his expertise and guidance.
The first phase of the journey has culminated in a Decarbonisation Plan, with a commitment to become Net Zero by 2050. The plan identifies multiple goals to create company-wide transformation and shift all of our stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors and end-users, from a 'use-and-dispose' mindset towards one of 'repair and reuse', investing in a circular economy based on founding principles of quality, durability and recyclability.
How did you get the data you needed to calculate your baseline emissions?
Fortunately, some of the data was already within reach. We had some of it through our system's invoices and reporting from various sources. But, first, we had to research industry standards for elements such as metals and raw material production because that data wasn't readily available. Then we had to talk to people in our supply chain. So, for example, one of the first things we did was speak to our contract carrier because we're shipping out huge volumes of ladders daily to customers across the UK.
It was encouraging to learn that our primary contract carrier is already in the process of looking at their own emissions. Because they do a lot of work for the public sector, they have a PPN 06/21 document. This is a relatively new Government procurement requirement requiring suppliers to detail their commitment to achieving Net Zero by publishing a detailed Carbon Reduction Plan. As part of our carrier's plan, they are transitioning to an entirely electric fleet to make deliveries cleaner and greener.
Working with partners to get the data we needed was sometimes simple and sometimes more challenging. But it was worth the effort.
What were your biggest challenges or barriers while developing your plan?
Some of the challenges involved getting to grips with new data formats! We're all used to working in miles per gallon - but kilograms of carbon per mile, less so! So that took a bit of head-scratching before we could input our data into the web portal provided to us as part of the Pilot.
Another challenge was getting the supply chain on board. Our big customers, such as Screwfix and Toolstation, were already on the ball with sustainability. They've asked us for variations of this data for the last 18 months. But trying to get our supply chain on board has been challenging because they have had less exposure to this requirement.
The further up the supply chain, the more novel it is to the people you work with. It is down to an "old school" approach where they don't understand why you need all this new data.
How did you go about involving your team in the process of developing your carbon emission reduction plan?
A lightbulb moment came early in the Pilot when we attended a webinar presented by comms expert Sara Robinson. She recommended we get our staff on board early, which struck a chord with me. So the next day, I gathered the team and explained what we were trying to do and why it mattered. That made a big difference because the team felt informed, and we were then all rowing in the same direction.
The more people were aware of what we were trying to achieve, the more they were thinking about what differences they could make with their everyday decisions. For example, we import some materials through shipping containers. So our team looked at our shipping container delivery and established that the shipping company could provide a report on emissions for our container's routes.
We also established that we could use "cleaner" shipping routes. Getting the team involved from the outset means we empowered them to suggest improvements, which was a big part of our success in this project. That's just one way the pilot programme supported us in making good strategic decisions. There were too many more to mention here!
Winning the 'Best Small Business Carbon Reduction Plan' award was a fantastic boost for the team because everybody worked hard to develop our plan. We're all incredibly proud of our achievement. It has motivated us all to continue working hard on reducing our environmental impact.
What are the next steps for your business on your carbon emission reduction journey?
We want to build our dataset and improve its accuracy. So we will ask more of our staff and supply chain and ensure we record as much as possible. We can't manage what we can't measure, after all!
We will continue working with our entire supply chain and customer base. We want to cascade our efforts downwards to our customers by showing what steps we take to make our offering more sustainable. Through more proactive marketing, we hope to educate our customers so they can demand more from their other suppliers. It's about having a ripple effect. The more the ecosystem works towards reducing emissions, the more impact we can have. So for our part, we want to shout about what we are doing. Winning an award from the pilot programme will help us raise awareness of our work and the importance of measuring and reducing emissions.
What advice would you give to other businesses embarking on a journey to reduce their carbon emissions?
It can be overwhelming when you don't know where to begin, but my advice is to start now and optimise later. Having said that, as soon as we started on the pilot programme, we realised that a lot of the data was more readily available than we'd assumed.
Another key to success is getting people on board. If you can win hearts and minds throughout your organisation and the supply chain, that is half the battle.
What were the biggest benefits of participating in the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme Carbon Emission Reduction pilot?
Participating in the Carbon Emission Reduction pilot allowed us to focus on this vital mission. Before joining, we had good intentions but were struggling to make progress. The opportunity to have a dedicated intern work with us was invaluable, as was the expertise of the sustainability coaches. The webinars were also fantastic for bite-sized, intensive learning. We learned so much so quickly, which helped us move ahead at pace.
I honestly don't think we could have made such swift progress without the support we received. The programme was designed for businesses like ours and gave us the expertise and resources to take the next steps.
We are now on the front foot and in an excellent position to maximise commercial opportunities from like-minded suppliers and customers.
To learn more about TB Davies, visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme
The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.