A team of four business leaders have been appointed as official ambassadors to spearhead a drive to make North Wales a net zero region.
The environmentally-friendly quartet were unveiled at a meeting of the new Net Zero North Wales network that’s been established by the North Wales Business Council as part of their campaign to create a greener future.
The fab four will meet with regional and national eco-pioneers and visit the HQs of companies making strides in the battle to achieve carbon neutral status.
Their aim is to share the information they gather to arm firms across the region with increased intelligence for reducing their own carbon footprints.
The team includes Frankie Hobro, owner and director of Anglesey Sea Zoo, Mared Williams, Low Carbon Project Manager for Rhug Estate in Corwen, Rob Lewis, co-owner and director of Mold-based Celtic Financial Planning and Gareth Jones, managing director of renewables company Carbon Zero.
Representatives from around 90 enterprises attended the meeting of Net Zero North Wales network at the Conwy Business Centre in Llandudno Junction where their names were announced.
North Wales Business Council Chief Executive Ashley Rogers told the forum: “It makes sound commercial sense for businesses to work in partnership to help the region and indeed the entire planet reverse the dire effects of climate change.
“We can only succeed by sharing the very latest information available and jointly gaining access to experts, best practice and the most advanced technology in this field.”
His words were echoed by Frankie Hobro whose efforts to achieve sustainability at Anglesey Sea Zoo have won her a clutch of awards over the last decade.
But she said she has been increasingly frustrated by a lack of clarity and co-ordination between environmental authorities, while the need to take further improvements becomes ever more urgent.
She said: “From the day I took over the zoo my priority was to make it as sustainable a business as possible and I’m proud of the advances we’ve made.
“But every business gets to a point where having done as much as they can on their own, they will need more help to advance further.
“Practical projects like installing solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, LED lights, or eradicating single use plastics, we’ve done all these.
“They can all be done fairly quickly but the payback from these sort of improvements is relatively slow, while upgrades in other areas still need to be made.
“This is when funding to go further becomes a significant issue, particularly for small businesses.
“We need more facilitators – free or discounted access to experts, innovators, infrastructure, grants and positive pathways to reach the ultimate target of turning round past damages we have inflicted on the planet.
“It’s important to remember that being sustainable is not a competition. There should be no rivalry here, no race to be top of the eco rankings, our only goal is to secure our planet for future generations and the only way to do that is to work together. That means every business, every service, local authority and public body, every family and every individual.
“We can’t do it on our own, we all have to look to each other to push for a Net Zero approach in everything we do which impacts on the environment around us. That’s why initiatives like the Net Zero North Wales network are so important
“Taking the sustainable approach needs to be at the forefront of all our minds, the natural first instinct in every action and that means governments must enable us all to follow those instincts without barriers or hesitation.”
Fellow Net Zero North Wales ambassador Mared Williams said she was delighted and honoured to have been appointed to the role.
She said: “As I see it we are now at a stage where we all need to reduce our carbon footprint at home and abroad. On a global level we need to reinstate and repair damage which has already been done.
“It’s a massive task but, looking at it from a grassroots-up level, each challenge will seem less daunting if businesses work together and share their eco-blueprints for the common good.”
At the meeting, Mared delivered a presentation explaining her role as Low Carbon Projects Manager at Rhug Estate, which covers an area of 12,500 acres in Denbighshire, owned by Lord Newborough. It includes an organic farm, a farm shop and retail business, forestry and residential properties.
The farm has been organic since 1998 and uses no fossil-based foods, fuels or fertilisers. It maintains a hedgerow planting regime to boost wildlife diversity, boost soil health and improve water quality.
Mared has been recruited to oversee investigations into ways in which Rhug Estate can continue to improve its impressive eco-record.
She said: “Among our current work is a survey of soil health on the farm, examining the condition of the soil and looking at ways to negate any adverse impact caused by long-term livestock farming.”
It involves measuring and monitoring levels of carbon, methane and nitrous oxides, and looking at potential ways to improve carbon sequestration where carbon dioxide is naturally captured to reduce its levels in the atmosphere.
Mared said Rhug Estate is keen to share any knowledge it gleans from its research.
She said: “It’s important to spread the word about successes and as an ambassador I’m also looking forward to learning from other businesses about their different ways of working towards Net Zero, and maybe instigating some of them on the estate.”
Gareth Jones, of St Asaph-based Carbon Zero, said one of the most exciting benefits of the ambassador scheme is that it enables businesses to better assess the progress of steps already implemented to reach carbon neutral status.
He said: “There are now numerous companies which installed renewables or other carbon reduction schemes a number of years ago.
“I’m eager to visit some of these businesses to gain valuable feedback on how the schemes have fared over the long term.
“They can tell us how they have operated over a significant time period, and offer ideas on the pros and cons they have had to deal with in practice.
“This is a key way of how we can learn more about developing the new generation of technologies and framing carbon neutral policies into the future.”
Financial planner Rob Lewis said it is always useful to meet representatives of other business sectors and learn of new approaches to reducing carbon footprints, while improving productivity at the same time.
He said: “A by-product of being an ambassador will be that I can better educate myself and my team about the latest carbon-reducing science but also, being in the service sector, we can pass on that information to our clients who are increasingly looking to establish greener work and home lifestyles.”
All four ambassadors will deliver reports back to the Net Zero North Wales meetings about their field visits and what they learn, passing on best practice to support other organisations in the network on the journey.
Ashley Rogers added: “Each of our ambassadors is already at the forefront of the crusade for better energy efficiency and sustainability, but they all know there is so much more to be achieved.
“They are keen to improve the landscape in this field not just for their own businesses but for others who are still struggling to find a feasible route towards Net Zero.
“A difficult road lies ahead in achieving these all important targets, but it must be remembered they are not just a fanciful dream but an absolute necessity.”