CIWM Resource Conference Cymru 2024 speaker Marten Lewis, head of community and sustainability development at Bluestone, explains how the national park resort is working to become a circular economy company.
Spanning 500 acres of National Park in Pembrokeshire, Bluestone is a family holiday resort working to become more sustainable by transitioning to a circular economy.
Early on in the Bluestone journey, the business realised a need to respond to environmental concerns including global climate change and the earth’s finite stock of natural resources.
Increasingly, customers are asking far more detailed questions than they have ever done previously about the environmental impact of products and businesses. While it’s good for the planet, is it good for business? Bluestone thinks so.
In 2019, Bluestone created a new department specifically to bring together all the sustainability-related aspects of Bluestone into one formal business area.
Recognising the need for outside expertise, I was appointed to head up the corporate responsibility and act as an independent, external member of the Bluestone Foundation steering committee.
Responsible for energy, waste, biodiversity, community engagement and the foundation, the new department was underpinned by the 2040 net zero commitment. Achieving this will not happen by accident and requires resources. Bluestone is driving to reduce carbon emissions and has reduced our Scope 1 and 2 emissions (market-based) by over 90% since a 2018 baseline.
This has been achieved through targeted initiatives including decarbonising the vehicle fleet, being the first hospitality business to move to 100% bioLPG and reducing operational energy use per sleeper by 7.1% since 2018, all while growing revenue by 42.6%.
Scope 3 emissions present the largest challenge and work is well underway to engage with the value chain to understand how to reduce emissions up and down stream. Bluestone has already worked with our beef and dairy supply chain to begin life cycle analysis on these products, which carry the greatest greenhouse gas emissions across our supply chain.
Waste has long been a crucial element of Bluestone’s resource management, and the business has a very good track record. Starting with diverting general waste away from landfill in 2017, it became the first business to recycle nappies in 2018 and transitioned to the new segregation legislation in Wales six months ahead of the mandate.
Bluestone has found itself as a national case study for the Welsh Government’s recycling law campaign.
Circular case study: Solving a problem like sofas
Circularity has increasingly become the focus of the business waste strategy in recent years. In 2019 one of the first actions undertaken by the newly formed corporate responsibility department was finding a circular solution for the 100 sofas that become unserviceable each year.
Without a formal upcycling or recycling programme in the county, sofas would historically have ended up in landfill. The business engaged the third sector – notably Pembrokeshire Frame, a local charity that seeks to create employment and engagement opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people in the community.
Bluestone also worked with Norman Industries, a local authority project which sets out to train new skills to disabled and disadvantaged adults to help them gain meaningful volunteering and work opportunities. Woodwork and upholstery are two of the areas of training provided.
Circularity has increasingly become the focus of the business waste strategy in recent years.
A new, more circular approach to managing the surplus sofas was formalised in 2021. Frame now picks up all old sofas and takes them to their depot. Any sofas that are saleable will be cleaned and sold in their shop at a large discount, offering local people the chance to buy sofas at an affordable rate while raising funds for the charity’s good causes and supporting employment.
Norman Industries joined the partnership a year later and sofas that could be upcycled through their woodwork and reupholstering programmes were given a new lease of life. Many sofas were upcycled and donated to community projects in the county.
A new upcycling programme is currently being discussed where sofas and other furniture will be used by the local authority for new developments in the housing and care sectors.
Due to poor condition – or resource capacity – many sofas are not able to be upcycled at this time, so these surplus sofas go back to Pembrokeshire Frame. Here, a paid-for recycling service is provided with the metal, wood and fabric separated and recycled appropriately.
I was very impressed with the level of implementation of circular economy principles across the organisation.
This is done at the local authority’s recycling centre and supports two jobs in the community for vulnerable adults.
This local circular solution to our surplus sofas was picked up by the Circular Economy Innovation Communities (CEIC) project director, and subsequently, the whole process was filmed and is now used as a case study for CEIC.
Project director Dr Gary Walpole said: “I was very impressed with the level of implementation of circular economy principles across the organisation.
“Bluestone appeared fully integrated into the regional economy through their work with regional charities and engagement with the local authority to support projects that deliver social value. I would describe them as an exemplary anchor organisation.”
How Bluestone is becoming a circular economy company
This transition from linear to circular thinking on sofas has been a very useful internal case study at Bluestone, allowing it to be used as context for conversations with all other departments when encouraging them to find circular solutions throughout their portfolios.
Some other examples of simple transitions that move away from linear waste management are:
- Reusable cup policy: all 875+ staff have been given thermal reusable flasks and all new staff receive theirs upon passing their probation period. This has reduced the number of single-use coffee cups in staff areas by over 14,000 every year.
- Halting single-use plastic bottle sales: Bluestone stopped selling water in plastic bottles in 2021, sacrificing £50,000 of profit. All guests are informed before their stay and asked to bring their own reusable bottles to take advantage of the freely available water stations around the resort.
- Reusing textiles: Bluestone also donates old workwear and waterproof clothing to charities that do outside work. The garments are all in good condition (just not smart enough for the service sector guest-facing roles). They are laundered and then the charity’s logo is embroidered over Bluestone’s to remove the security risk of a private business logo in the public domain.
As these examples permeate into the day-to-day at Bluestone, it is helping to change the organisational culture and to raise the aspirations of senior managers to find circular solutions to all manner of resourcing issues across the business.
As part of our new three-year corporate strategy, reducing waste is a key part of our net zero performance indicator. All departments are asked to explore circularity and to work with the corporate responsibility department to build this into their ways of working and departmental strategies from 2024 and beyond.