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Green Business Network

David Lock Associates - common sense approach to greener business

A lot of businesses make hard work out of getting environmental awareness messages out to their staff. It doesn’t have to be that way, and David Lock Associates has proved that taking a simple common sense approach can often be more effective than complex manuals or detailed instructions.

Milton Keynes based David Lock Associates (DLA) is a town planning and urban design consultancy providing master planning consultancy services, ranging from town centre regeneration to the design of new communities.

Unplug equipment detail from posterKeith Brown, Senior Urban Designer, and Gail Revill Principal Planner have been the main driving force behind the company’s environmental initiatives. Both have attended Green Business Network’s (GBN) environmental management workshops and are members of the Network’s resource efficiency club. Gail says, “We were really keen to put what we’d learnt during the seminars into practice.”

With a mainly professional workforce – around 90 planners, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, graphic designers and transport planners – and an office based operation, you might be forgiven for thinking that DLA’s environmental impacts are relatively insignificant. So why did the company decide to develop a sustainability policy?

Keith explained why he felt it was important for DLA to address environmental issues: “We’re in the business of designing new communities, planning towns and looking at urban design. If we’re advising others about how they should work in the future, we ought to be practicing what we preach now,” he says. “We also wanted to look at reducing our running costs by improving the efficiency of our resource use. Costs of waste, electricity and gas are rising all the time and businesses can’t afford to ignore this.”

While the company decided that a certified ISO 14001 environmental management system would probably be overkill at this point, it wanted to put the foundations in place so that a system could be developed over time. Keith and Gail took the textbook approach to looking at environmental management, and their first action was to persuade senior management to sign up to an environmental policy, which would give them the support for implementing policy changes.

This they did by proving the business case for making resource efficiency improvements, which were: cost savings – reducing utility and waste bills; housekeeping benefits – in particular reducing storage costs by generating less paper, and commercial considerations – ISO 14001 may become a future tendering requirement, it may provide a competitive edge, and it’s a good PR tool.

Do you need to print detail from posterThe environmental policy was approved and supported by the Board and is now included in the staff handbook, and given out as part of staff inductions.

All staff were then told about the new sustainability policy and were given an explanation of why the company was going down this route. However, as Keith explains, “It’s easy enough to put a detailed explanation of your environmental policy into the staff handbook, but people generally don’t read things very thoroughly.”

“We wanted something that could be read quickly, was memorable and informative, could be used as a point of reference, and was more fun than pages of text.”

So Keith converted the formal policy into a single-sided sustainability poster, which uses graphics to illustrate what staff need to do to improve the company’s environmental performance. The poster has definitely been effective in getting the message across at DLA – recycling rates have risen dramatically, and lights and computer equipment are switched off throughout the building when not in use. Following a talk given by Keith at a GBN seminar, requests for permission to use the poster have flooded in from a whole variety of businesses. DLA has now kindly given permission for a blank version to be circulated amongst GBN members for their use.