An organic farm estate has been hailed as a role model after winning a top environmental award for its “incredible” work to become carbon neutral.
The Rhug Estate, near Corwen in Denbighshire, was named as one of the winners of the inaugural Net Zero Leaders’ Awards organised by the North Wales and Mersey Dee Business Council.
Rhug, which produces award-winning organic meat products which are sold wholesale, online and in its highly successful farm shop, café, takeaway and a drive thru alongside the A5, was honoured in the category for medium to large businesses.
The awards were organised as part of the Business Council’s Net Zero 2021 online conference which was designed to encourage private sector and not-for-profit organisations across the Wirral, Cheshire and North Wales to reduce their carbon footprint.
The other winners were Mold-based Celtic Financial Planning who scooped the prize in the micro business category and Anglesey Sea Zoo who were crowned in the small business category.
The awards were presented by the Business Council’s Commercial Director, Ashley Rogers.
Under Lord Newborough’s leadership, Rhug has pioneered a sustainable eco-friendly approach to running the estate.
Livestock range freely on clover-rich pastures that are free of sprays and artificial fertiliser while packaging in the farm shop, drive thru and takeaway are fully compostable or recyclable.
The estate produces its own power through solar, hydro, wind and geothermal schemes which all contribute to minimising its carbon footprint.
Rhug has also launched a range of Wild Beauty skin care products, made using ingredients found on the estate, which are bottled and packaged in recyclable materials.
Earlier this year they appointed a low carbon project manager, Mared Williams, to develop a climate action plan with the aim of reducing carbon emissions even further.
Lord Newborough said: “I am thrilled to win this Net Zero Leaders’ Award. It is the icing on the cake because it reflects what we’re trying to do here in addressing one of the biggest threats that faces our planet – global warming.
“Everything that we’re doing is aimed at sustainability and it doesn’t matter whether it’s farming, the meat business, the farm shop or even the skin care products, we’ve arrived in the right place at the right time.
“Our unique skin care range is probably the most certified, honest, organic and natural skincare collection to be launched onto the global market in the last twelve months.
“Now we have found a new asset in the form of carbon. By doing what we do here, organic farming, we have taken the harmful carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and trapped it in the ground.
“We’re not using artificial fertiliser, we’re not using sprays which enables carbon sequestration to happen in our organic clover-rich pastures.
“This is complemented by the trees growing on the estate, the hedgerows that we’ve planted and the responsible management of the mountain terrain where the peat acts as an enormous reservoir of carbon.
“It is well known that 333 acres of organic grassland is equivalent to taking 117 cars off the road every year, so when people go and buy our meat, they are actually also helping the environment.”
Ashley Rogers said: “I would like to congratulate Lord Newborough and the whole of the team at the Rhug Estate on winning one of our first ever Net Zero Leaders’ Awards.
“The judges were blown away with the incredible amount of work that has already been done at Rhug over a significant number of years to reduce its carbon footprint.
“Rhug is a perfect example for others to get ideas from on how to work towards being carbon neutral. They are an ideal role model.”
According to Rob Lewis, the co-founder of Celtic Financial Planning, being committed to tackling climate change has been at the heart of everything they do.
The firm’s decision to specialise in ethical investments has seen it grow spectacularly by 733 per cent since it was established in 2018.
A year later they moved to larger premises on the Bromfield Industrial Estate where the insulation and LED lighting have helped reduce heating costs by 60 per cent and electrical costs by 40 per cent.
There are now plans for a dozen solar panels on the roof and an electric car charge point outside.
Even before Covid, staff were encouraged to work from home and this has reduced travelling costs by half and in future they are planning to continue holding 70 per cent of their meetings online.
Celtic are founding members of Mold’s Plastic Free campaign and for every new client they take on, they plant British native trees to offset their carbon footprint.
Rob said: “We’re massively excited and chuffed to win the Net Zero Leaders’ Award.
“For us it’s a big tick when it comes to recognition because we have worked really hard from the beginning to make sure that our corporate social responsibility mandate takes care of factors like climate change, being net-zero and just being positive to local community environment as a whole.
“I think it stems back from a personal view of the world that we should be doing more to tackle climate change. I think it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’. I think it’s essential that businesses take care and do business in a greener way. It’s just in our DNA.
“This approach is the golden thread running through everything we do, from looking at our paper usage to the investment funds that we pick for our clients, to how we operate as a business in the processes we have.
“It’s integral to everything, from the milk deliveries that we get from the local dairy where we reuse the glass bottles, all the way up to using recycled paper.
“The next thing is electric charger points for visitors and then we’re looking to get a couple of electric cars for staff to use to be able to see clients and nip out if we need to.”
Since Frankie Hobro took over Anglesey Sea Zoo in Brynsiencyn 14 years ago, it has gone from strength to strength, with marine conservation at the heart of all its activities.
In 2017 it became the UK’s first solar powered sea zoo, with two car charging points, and it’s now within striking distance of becoming a fully net zero operation.
Frankie has now unveiled plans for an ambitious £1 million expansion project which will double the size of the existing facility.
The sea zoo had already changed to all British exhibits using natural sea water with seasonal temperatures, which reduced running costs from heating and recirculating water.
They created a composting area and started recycling waste – with 95 per cent of waste on site being recycled or composted.
There are recycling facilities across the whole site for visitors and the sea zoo produces virtually no landfill waste.
They introduced a refill scheme and bought in a bespoke branded range of novel reusable products and dropped single use plastics.
Frankie also introduced a social, sustainable, ethical and Fairtrade policy for sourcing of goods for the gift shop and café.
She said: “It’s fantastic to win the Net Zero Leaders’ Award. It’s brilliant recognition because I’ve been doing as much as I can sustainably, investing in the environment,, sacrificing short term profit for long term environmental benefit since I bought the business 14 years ago.
“Being green wasn’t fashionable for a long time, it was a little bit hippy, a little bit way out perhaps but it’s finally paid off.
“More and more people are coming round to the idea and recognising that it is vitally important to operate sustainably.
“I am proud of what we have achieved but there is an awful lot more that needs to be done in future
“The expansion is a big project that I could have done on a smaller scale without doing it sustainably but that’s not what I want to do.
“I’d much rather wait and do it in the way I want to do it and do a really first-class project which will be groundbreaking and something that people want to invest in and fund.
“I’m aiming towards becoming carbon neutral. It will mean that the whole site is offset by this new building because it will be so sustainable.”
Ashley Rogers added: “By leading the way on net zero, you’ll have a commercial advantage right now, and the flip side is that companies that don’t operate sustainably will find it increasingly hard if not impossible to compete because of demands from business customers and consumers for low carbon alternatives.
“Also, because many governments across the world now have legally binding net zero targets, there will be extra burdens on carbon heavy businesses of all types through international and domestic carbon taxes.
“Far better to get on board now, and get ahead of the game in the race to Net Zero.”