Posted: Thu 1st Dec 2022
At Enterprise Nation, we love to recognise small businesses across the UK that are making a conscious effort to be sustainable. We launched this year's Sustainable Small Business Awards to champion the achievements of our nation's small businesses.
The awards form part of our Plan it with Purpose initiative. This aims to shine a spotlight on businesses that focus on sustainability, and indeed the five winners have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to sustainability and making a meaningful contribution to communities and social change.
The Sustainable Business Transition Award recognises established businesses that have broken down barriers, explored new opportunities and made changes in pursuit of a more sustainable society. The winner for 2022 is Linwater Caravan Park near Edinburgh, owned by Katie Guinan and family.
Caravan and camping parks are at the core of the age-old quintessential British holiday, but that doesn't mean the owners' approach to business is stuck in the past.
As customer expectations change, Linwater Caravan Park is proudly leading an industry shift and putting sustainability at the centre of its operation.
The family-run business offers camping and touring pitches and self-catering accommodation in Newbridge, near Edinburgh. Owner Katie Guinan has two young children and explains that she doesn't want to do further damage to the planet that will affect their generation.
"We want to protect the viability of what may someday be their enterprise. We've grown up in rural settings and witnessed first-hand the impact climate change is already having, including floods, low crop yields and mini droughts. We don't want to contribute to this, and feel it is our moral responsibility to change.
"Making environmental improvements is costly, but the expense now will be minimal compared to the costs in the future, both financially and economically."
Katie is keen to shift Linwater's operation away from fossil fuel usage as quickly as she can, compensating in areas where this isn't possible. The park is signed up to Earthly, through which it can offset its carbon use.
As well as being mindful of carbon usage, Linwater Caravan Park switched to 100% renewable electricity supplier Good Energy in 2020. Other sustainable features include natural ventilation and insulation through the refurbishment of its reception, which means air conditioning isn't needed and the need for heating is reduced.
"Big improvements require large cash injections. In 2022, we'll use our approved Zero Waste Scotland 0% finance loan for solar panels. We've also applied for the 75% funding for a new electric vehicle (EV) dual 8Kw charging station."
The caravan park doesn't currently have capacity to electrify self-catering heat sources or install rapid chargers. Even with internal upgrades, the supply from the grid is insufficient.
To tackle this hurdle, the park has been approved for a loan to install 50Kw of solar panels this winter. This makes up part of a three-stage plan to self-generate 100% of projected usage by 2030, which includes both wind and water.
The impact of COVID-19 also slowed down the park's planned installation of EV charging points. However, Katie has ordered a 32-amp EV charging point for guests and staff to use, which she hadn't planned to do until after the solar installation.
Finding solutions to meet sustainable business goals has been challenging, but Katie is utilising her role in the hope it can drive change for similar operators.
"Our accommodation is on LPG heating. Despite asking suppliers to build off-the-shelf sustainable units, none have delivered. As a small business, exerting influence is challenging. We're using our position in the British Holiday & Home Parks Association to pressure suppliers, including LPG suppliers who are now looking at Bio-LPG."
Linwater Caravan Park's dedication to sustainability led to its Business Transition win at the Sustainable Small Business Awards this year. It's clear that sustainability isn't just a buzzword for Katie, but a core part of her organisation's future.
"We're always looking for new ways to improve our green credentials. Our focus isn't on fast growth but sustainable growth, which in the current climate many similar businesses have failed to resist the temptation to do.
"We're proud to offer a green alternative to our customer base, and have done this while improving or maintaining our overall guest ratings on customer review forums."
As well as its sustainability triumphs, Linwater is a champion and major contributor to its local community. It supports local primary schools and businesses, facilitates Duke of Edinburgh pursuits and collects donations for both local and national charities.
The park also hosts a Ukrainian family in a static caravan normally used for holiday lets, as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
"We value our staff and they have pride in where they work. We care about our community and the community appreciates us, because we enhance it and offer employment.
"We're also passionate: this isn't about what we can put down on paper, but instead about what we do. Because we truly believe in sustainability."
Plan it with Purpose
A programme designed to help owners of small and medium-sized businesses develop a better understanding of environmental and social issues in the UK. Visit the Plan it with Purpose hub