Castell Howell: Reducing climate impact on land and at sea

With support from BITC, independent food service wholesaler Castell Howell is taking a proactive stance to its environmental impact, reducing its carbon footprint while accruing business benefits.

From its rural beginnings in 1988, family-run Castell Howell Foods has grown to become Wales’ leading independent food service wholesaler, reaching customers in Wales, the border counties, and the south west of England. Castell Howell is deeply proud of its rural roots and close connections in and around its Carmarthenshire home, and is a significant investor in regional produce from Welsh suppliers. Rooted in beautiful natural surroundings, and with strong relationships with Wales’ agricultural sector, Castell Howell takes a proactive stance to its environmental impact, pioneering a range of initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, covering everything from efficient waste management, solar electricity generation, greener vehicle design, and support for local and national recycling efforts.

Setting targets with bespoke support

Castell Howell became a Business in the Community (BITC) member in 2011, and has played a vital role in advancing responsible business in Wales, including by joining BITC’s Wales Leadership Board. To build its understanding of its climate impact, Castell Howell has participated in the Responsible Business Tracker®, BITC’s unique measurement tool, and made use of BITC’s Environment Advisory services to support its ambitions. In order to further formalise its green commitments, and meet national and international reporting standards, Castell Howell is continuing to engage with BITC advisers, who support the business to improve its environmental strategy.

Ed Morgan, Castell Howell’s CSR and Training Manager, and Wales Leadership Board Member, says “We have been on a journey towards being a responsible business for numerous years. In addition to our long-standing commitment to supporting local charities and events (e.g. Young Farmers, Eisteddfod, sports groups) we are active members of BITC, are signatories to the WRAP Courtauld Agreement and sit on their Supply Chain Greenhouse Gas reduction working group. We are also members of three Welsh food clusters, and in frequent dialogue with the National Farmers Union to support their own Net Zero targets.“

Sustainable adjustments in times of major change

As the hospitality and food retail sectors suffered due to COVID-19 lockdowns, Castell Howell has diversified its product and service offering to meet changing needs, always keeping true to its environmental ethos. A key mark of its adaptable approach saw Castell Howell develop customer relations for its seafood business, The Celtic Coast Fish Company, which helped it gain a firmer foothold in the direct-to-door supply chain. Key customer Abel & Cole sell sustainable fish to customers via its website and home delivery service. The online food retailer has embedded environmentally friendly practice and a strong social conscience since it started life over 30 years ago selling potatoes to local people in South East London.

The progress made through Castell Howell’s membership of BITC helped the business work towards meeting Abel & Cole’s responsible supplier requirements. “When completing the assessment via Abel & Cole’s ‘Ecodesk’ portal, it was helpful to be able to reference both our climate-related work with BITC, as well as our support for the National Business Response Network (NBRN), Business Class partnerships, and commitments to wellbeing” says Ed. “Each of these elements helped our scores, and have helped put a thriving, values-led Welsh business firmly on the map.” Stemming from this, Celtic Coast are in the process of working towards B Corp certification, again with the benefit of being a BITC member to help with evolving governance standards and setting challenging environmental and social benefit targets.

Meeting global standards, supporting Welsh society

Ed and his team have also felt real value in having BITC’s support when working with other key customers, stakeholders, and regulators, both in terms of hands-on guidance, and in being able to draw inspiration from examples of best practice from other members of the network. Castell Howell is currently working towards meeting the internationally recognised ISO 14001, involving completing an environmental aspects register. It has found this process has been eased by having a clearer, holistic understanding of its impacts, and opportunities to improve. Closer to home, Castell Howell has engaged with a range of Welsh Government strategies, including the Economic Action Plan, which is intended to drive prosperity for all. “Being a member of BITC has helped us to articulate the social and economic value of our work, both for our local community, and in the places we serve” says Ed. “It has also helped us to really understand the positive climate-conscious contributions we can make through our procurement and supply chain processes.”

Looking ahead, Castell Howell is keen to build on its progress and continue to embody a sustainable business model that not only supports its core business, but also its customers, suppliers, communities, and local ecosystems. It has recognised a need to further strengthen its net zero commitments, and so will work closely with BITC’s Environment Advisers to develop a more robust carbon management strategy. From humble, family beginnings, the food supplier is proving ready to adapt and show valuable leadership to sector peers, and other proudly Welsh businesses. Brian Jones MBE, Managing Director, says “I have always believed that business is based on more than short term profit, it is about trust. For over a decade we have recognised that we have a responsibility to all our stakeholders, our clients, our workforce, the wider community, and the environment. We all need a sustainable business model, one that’s built to last.”

Take action on the environment today

If you are a BITC member, contact your Relationship Manager to discuss how we can support your environmental ambitions.

If you are not a member of Business in the Community, contact our Advisory Services team for more information on our Environmental Advisory services, or speak to our Membership Team to discuss how we can help you take your responsible business journey further.

You can also commit to further action on the environment by taking the actions outlined in our Challenge 2030 campaign, which calls on businesses to put climate action at the heart of efforts to build back responsibly.  

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