In 2023, I wrote a series of monthly articles, and their key purpose was to help all readers increase their understanding of sustainability, learn from the experiences of others, and help them deliver sustainable practice in their own organisations and operations. In this new 2024 series, I am taking the opportunity each month to look in more depth at individual organisations, large and small. How are they seeking to be more sustainable and, importantly, how are they seeking to advise and support members or customers? This month we focus on Origin Amenity, a major supplier of products and solutions for the turf, amenity and grounds maintenance sector. I am grateful for their time in meeting me to discuss these issues and providing supporting information.
The Origin group state clearly that they are fully committed to the sustainable agenda and driving forward more sustainable practice. They see themselves as an industry leader in both sustainable agronomy and global food supply responsiveness and have therefore acknowledged the need to integrate sustainable actions into the organisation’s foundations. They sum up their key objective as being to help optimise land use through integrated solutions.
They have done this principally in two main ways, described by them as nurturing the environment and nurturing society. The former involves what they describe as a holistic, innovative and collaborative approach to sustainable land use, with a focus on positive environmental impact and resource efficiency. Essentially this has involved full analysis of all products, services and advice provided to customers that influence the environment, and the impacts on climate change, water usage, waste and operational efficiency.
In flower, West Lancs council
‘Nurturing Society’ is seen as a move to further empower its staff and the communities served, conducting business with integrity and proper governance and reporting. This focuses on making sure that they embed their values through six strategic pillars or priorities, their internal code of conduct, their supplier code of conduct and in working with stakeholders and external influencers.
Setting Priorities and targets
In establishing these priorities, in 2023, as part of Origin’s efforts to maintain its level of transparency and sustainability, they undertook a comprehensive exercise seeking to allow them to, not only work towards more integrated sustainable reporting, but also to evaluate and prioritise external impacts affecting the organisation and the impacts on both society and environment. As stated to me, Origin sees sustainable practice as good practice and this exercise was about giving them focus in driving forward as a business. Diviya Thevarajah, Environmental and Sustainability Manager, says ‘’ Sustainability does not just affect us as a business nor does the work we do, it also affects our customers, suppliers, researchers, policymakers, non-Governmental Organisations, consumers, and shareholders, which is why we made sure all these voices were heard within the exercise’’.
West Lancs council preparing roadside area for wildflower seed
From this, they identified key topics that were a high priority for Origin; these were biodiversity, soil health, sustainable food systems, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change resilience. They redefined their Environmental, Social and Government priorities, reviewed the goals for these six priorities and determined the necessary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. It was a very comprehensive exercise, a factor of their size and complexity, but it emphasises their determination to lead and influence sustainable practice in their sectors.
Biodiversity & Energy Efficiency
As examples provided, one of the targets surrounding biodiversity includes helping to support the creation of 1,000 miles of wildlife corridors throughout Great Britain by 2030 by linking amenity, rural and agricultural land. Origin Enterprises, and its constituent companies, feel well placed to initiate and support projects to join up areas of habitat for important and declining species. They work with farmers, growers, and amenity businesses across the UK, and believe that they have the knowledge and resources required to advise and provide the practical elements needed.
Geoff Fenn, R&D Director explaining one of the trials
Another example, in terms of their KPI targets, relates to Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The targets set include to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to 54.9% by 2032 from a 2019 base year, aligned with the 1.5°C overall reduction national target. Also, it includes seeking to reduce absolute Scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services, upstream transportation and distribution, and use of sold products by 32.5% within the same time frame.
All of this is being achieved by implementing practical measures across their operations. Origin quote that, in the financial year ending 2023, Scope 1 emissions decreased by 18.4% compared to the previous year and by 25.4% from the 2019 baseline. A primary emphasis within Scope 1 emissions is centred on achieving a 37% reduction in group fleet emissions by 2032 through measures such as optimising energy and resource utilisation in offices and business operations. In the current year, they have commenced programmes to reduce diesel usage and cut CO2 emissions, with hydro treated vegetable oil (HVO) introduced into fleets, working towards 80% of their heavy fleet by 2032. They are also moving to 100% renewable grid electricity throughout their extended organisation. A further interesting statistic is that last year, across Origin’s Ireland, UK and European business units, they purchased 12,314 MWh of electricity for use throughout their Group operations, of which 56.3% was certified low carbon.
Stratford Upon Avon District Council's Rainbow Annual Mix
Whilst conducting a recent greenhouse gas inventory analysis review, it was found that 'supply chain' emissions accounted for 99.8% of Origin’s total 2019 base year emissions. As such they are now actively working within their supply chain to reduce such emissions. They continue to proactively explore emerging technologies and develop innovative products to help lower this figure moving forward. Other key performance targets include having zero waste to landfill in the UK and Ireland by 2025, waste recycling programmes in place across the rest of their world operations by 2025 and increasing the use of recycled content in their packaging.
Helping customers become more sustainable
Linked to their services to customers, they include key targets and focus on improving soil health and helping optimise productivity through research and implementation of practices to Increase Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) of crops by 20% by 2030. They are using improved nutrition products to increase the uptake of nitrogen and promoting the application of precision tools for application and measurement.
Microdochium trials day at R&D centre
Origin Amenity Solutions has invested heavily in a Turf Science and Technology Centre aimed at supplying its customers with research-backed products, again linked to promoting better and sustainable practice. The facility aims to provide best-practice advice and to work on integrated management plans over an annual cycle. For example, the centre is carrying out 6 months Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for microdochium from September to March and is currently working on the 3rd year of trial data. This is increasing understanding of the impact of the weather on turf management. Using plant elicitors, moisture management tools, nutrition, bio controls and fungicides, they researched disease outbreaks by applying products using a UK Growth Potential (GP) of 9.5. Growth Potential is a figure taken from the day’s average temperature that indicates likely plant growth. By utilising this figure, they sought to optimise the timings of their plant elicitor programme, the OAS 20/20/30 + Mantle mix, to ensure it is applied when the plant has ‘used up’ all the previous application, or it has been removed by mowing. This is a more sustainable and effective approach as using this method ensures applications are only made when required. It may mean applications are closer together during warm weather, but it will only be applied on plant requirements. During colder weather applications can be spaced out much further.
The current target set is a figure of 9.5 UK GP as the time to re-apply the plant elicitor. A direct comparison was made with the old ‘calendar’ application timing of once every 14 days from September to Christmas, and then monthly afterwards. The research showed similar levels of control of microdochium by applying every 9.5 UK GP compared to the ‘calendar’ method, but this only required six applications to achieve this control. Eleven applications were used following the ‘calendar’ approach, so a substantial product and time saving was demonstrated. They are also researching the new bio-controls that have been introduced to the market. The goal is to understand how to use these technologies as part of an integrated sustainable approach so that they can be used most effectively.
In terms of selective herbicides, as regulations change and products removed from the market, it is important to understand how new technologies work and where they are more efficient. In their selective herbicide trials, Origin compared new technologies against products likely to be lost as a result of regulation changes. Another area is water. Water scarcity is a particular concern to amenity turfgrass managers as it is such an important resource when providing surfaces that play well. Climate change has seen extreme wet periods followed by extreme dry periods. Sports surfaces must drain well to avoid competition cancellations and therefore sand-based constructions have become the norm in the sector. The implication is that, during dry periods, it is very difficult to maintain moisture content in the profile. Origin is putting much effort into providing innovative solutions for water management. They currently have designed surfactant technologies in trial to reduce the risk of surface runoff and reduce water requirements. Last year’s trial results indicated that using a surfactant can reduce water usage by 33% whilst still providing surfaces that perform well.
Origin Amenity Solutions is working closely with partners to source and manufacture products with a lower carbon footprint. Testing raw materials and the products produced is seen as an important part of the technology centre, looking to reduce carbon footprint but still provide products that enhance turf performance.
Looking at sustainability across Origin Amenity and indeed the whole group has been a fascinating experience. It shows that our supply and distribution sector is working hard to help all its customers in their search for more sustainable practice economically, environmentally and in its social context. Certainly these are challenging times, not least economically, but as ever also times of opportunity.
Next month’s article will focus on the lawn care sector and specifically the work of the UK Lawn Care Association in helping members deliver sustainable practice
Previous articles in this series
SUSTAINABILITY IN THE GOLF SECTOR