Case Study

Hillier Nurseries: Planting the seed for a sustainable future

Hillier Nurseries’ blossoming decarbonisation efforts are driving tangible business growth and climate action

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Planet Mark
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Planet Mark
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As a 4th year certified member of Planet Mark, Hillier Nurseries has committed to ramping up their decarbonisation efforts, and, in return, seen real business growth. Hillier sustainability journey is a prime example of how organisations can fundamentally do good for people, the planet and business.

Key statistics

  • Planet Mark certified – Year Four. 
  • 100% of our electric supply comes from REGO certified renewables at their Three-Legged Cross site.
  • Saved over £30,000 on water and saw a 49% decrease in overall water usage by implementing several water conservation initiatives.

Services included: Business Certification

Sustainability and climate action have been part of Hillier Nurseries DNA since 1864. The very nature of their horticultural business, combined with an inherent desire to support environmental action, has accelerated Hillier Nurseries’ sustainability efforts to be recognised as a leading business in their industry by the Horticultural Trade Association.

A flourishing sustainability journey

Hillier Nurseries want to ensure they leave the world in a better place for future generations to inspire the creation of green living spaces for now and the future. With sustainability embedded in the roots of the organisation, they set out on their journey with Planet Mark with a clear goal: to measure the impact of the work they do and drive more change.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

With positive steps entrenched in their ways of working, Hillier Nurseries set out to work with Planet Mark to measure their impact and ensure their efforts supported the decarbonisation of their operations, because you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Setting a baseline was extremely important to the team at Hillier to ensure they could look back retrospectively and verify how much their climate action and environmental measures were reducing their carbon footprint and explore what else could be done.

Continuous improvement was a crucial piece of the puzzle for Hillier Nurseries. They understood that achieving their goal to build a better future meant a sustainability journey that was far from linear. With Planet Mark’s annual certification, Hillier has been able to hold itself accountable to make year-on-year improvements. In 2022 alone, they achieved a -11.6% reduction in carbon emissions.

“We wanted to work with Planet Mark amongst others because they were very dynamic – it was not a tick box exercise or approach to sustainability”. – George Hillier, CEO

Along the way, Hillier found that their decarbonisation efforts had a direct correlation with their business growth. From switching to clean energy to implementing sustainable initiatives on their sites like reusable trolley jackets and permeable tarmac they have achieved cost savings and an increased brand presence alongside a reduction in their carbon footprint; far surpassing their initial investments.

“When you get that golden combination of good business sense, plus it reduces your carbon emissions, then you’re really onto a winner.” – George Hillier, CEO

For example, Hillier’s Three-Legged Cross site is a member of the Horticultural Trades Association Sustainability Reference Sites Scheme – a scheme recognising HTA members making meaningful progress in the area of sustainability. Other Members can use these sites as a lighthouse for positive impactful climate action.

Planting the Seeds for Change

Hillier Nurseries has covered a lot of ground over the last five years to drive climate action and decarbonisation.

Water Conservation Initiatives.

In 2022, Hillier saved around £35,000 on water and saw a 49% decrease in overall water usage by implementing several water conservation initiatives. For example, Hillier constructed their own reservoir to capture rainwater and as a result, their nurseries are 85% water self-sufficient.

At the three-legged cross site, a permeable tarmac provides drainage for excess water and slowly infiltrates the soil acting as a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly method than traditional options. This reduced Hillier’s spend on drainage and reduced the amount of plastic in the ground in terms of drainage pipes.

Community Collaboration

Hillier is on a trajectory to reach net zero in line with the UK’s net zero targets and has found value in collaborating with Planet Mark members to build a value chain working towards the same goal.

“There’s a great network within the Planet Mark of other members that we can talk to and work with in collaboration”.

Building an engaged and forward-thinking value chain is crucial for organisations to tackle scope 3. Collaboration across the Planet Mark community helps organisations like Hillier optimise their value chain and meet their net-zero goals.

In collaboration with Planet Mark member Clarke Controls, Hillier stripped out all the gas-fired heating at Three Legged Cross, replacing it with reverse-cycle air conditioning units, which are electric run, this helped drastically reduce their carbon footprint. They also supported the installation of a 100mm thick insulated roof across the entire structure, upon which we are installing a solar farm. This will generate half of the electricity demands across this site.

Similarly, courtesy of Planet Mark certified, Open Energy Market, 100% of our electric supply comes from REGO certified renewables. This allowed Hillier to reduce its dependency on the grid with eight onsite installations and achieve a quicker return on investment (between two and three years).

Employee engagement.

Hillier found incredible drive and passion from their team towards climate change but found employees had different ideas on mitigating their environmental impact.

Hillier took part in a Planet Mark Sustainability energiser to get their staff’s input into one space and build a plan that had buy-in across the business. The energiser helped unearth their team’s passion and innovative ideas.

The energiser also provided Hillier employees with an insight into waste management and recycling to inspire mindful and better-informed decisions to reduce their waste consumption.

A sustainability initiative to come out of the energizer workshop was reusable trolley jackets that would remove single-use plastic when transporting plants from the nursery to the garden centre.

Hillier has found the golden synergy between business growth and decarbonisation, demonstrating to all organisations that sustainability and business go hand in hand. By measuring and certifying their incredible journey with Planet Mark, we help them to unlock their passion and ambition to create a brighter, sustainable future. Together we will support them in accelerating their climate action and supporting their people, profit and the planet.

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