Green Economy works with buyers and suppliers of low carbon products and services to improve access to the technologies and services that will facilitate the transition to net zero. We also work with local and regional policy makers to grow your local green economy.
Green Intelligence, powered by Green Economy, has been keeping businesses in the know since 2013. With the latest environmental legislation and sector news, along with market intelligence and thought leadership from green business experts, we are here to help you navigate the complex and fast paced green economy.
Just 15 UK businesses can call themselves a King’s Awardee for Sustainable Development. The secret, according to inaugural recipient Thomas Kneale, is to be an ‘influencer’ as much as a ‘doer’.
Previously known as the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, the newly re-named King’s Awards are given annually for outstanding achievement in Innovation, International Trade, Sustainable Development or Promoting Opportunity and reflect His Majesty’s personal commitment to encouraging sustainability as a key goal.
The prestigious Sustainable Development category is highly sought-after and rarely awarded. For Thomas Kneale & Co, a leading Manchester-based supplier of contract textiles to public sector institutions and commercial accommodation providers, the King’s Award is a huge milestone in a long and ongoing sustainability journey that began in earnest in 2015.
Thomas Kneale already has a multitude of sustainability successes under its belt. As well as achieving ISO 14001 Environmental Management System accreditation, the business has halved its scope 1 (direct) and scope 2 (electricity) greenhouse gas emissions since 2018, ahead of a target to halve total emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
The heating system at its Manchester base has been upgraded with an energy-efficient combi-boiler and all lighting has been moved to LEDs – the latter supplied by Green Economy member NPS Energy. The company’s impressive progress towards net zero has been enhanced by enrolling key staff on the popular Low Carbon Skills: Journey to Net Zero training programme, delivered by our parent organisation The Growth Company.
On the product side, Thomas Kneale has made great strides towards recycled content in products and packaging and is a Friend of the Re-use Network, helping its customers to donate products to charity for reuse at end-of-life.
From a wider sustainability perspective, the company also uses Fairtrade cotton, is a Living Wage Foundation employer and is a proactive supporter of local volunteering, mentoring and charitable initiatives.
Perhaps most impressive is Thomas Kneale’s engagement with its suppliers, customers and wider stakeholders. Flagship achievements to date include installing solar panels on the roof of its partner mill in Pakistan and gaining the EcoVadis Sustainability Index Gold Medal, placing the company in the top 5 per cent of suppliers scrutinised by the global ratings platform.
“We have long-standing relationships with our partner mills. We don’t own them, but we respect and work very closely with them and we share guidance with them,” explains Performance Director, Brett Mendell. “We believe that the King’s Award has been given to us not just because of the activities we’ve taken in the UK ourselves, but in recognition of how we work with others and encourage them to commit to progressive policies.
“The thing about sustainability is we all need to embrace it together. You can achieve so much on your own, but so much more when you work in partnership. We’ve kind of become ‘influencers’ as much as we have become ‘doers’. We don’t just want to crack on with what we’re doing quietly, because we feel there’s more value in sharing, helping and working with others collectively.”
Brett’s advice to others starting out their sustainability journey is to start small and increase ambitions as knowledge grows within the organisation: “Sustainability doesn’t need to be rocket science. We try not to get overly bogged down in spreadsheets and detailed plans. I’ve found that walking the walk is more important and you can achieve so much more through your actions rather than your intentions."
“I would say, keep it simple. Look at the quick wins, then move onto things that take a bit more time and investment, set stretching targets and continually build on your achievements. Involve people – we encourage suggestions and have a culture of ‘no idea is a bad idea’ – and, crucially, never feel that you’ve done everything and rest on your laurels."
“There’s always more than you can do. That’s why the networking and the stakeholders are really critical. Push others and allow yourself to be pushed, talk to each other, share information. Having those values has helped us move quicker and do more, and in turn that’s important for helping others to move quicker and do more as well.”