Ethical Hub : Ethical Reviews - Ethical Investment Review September 2023

MJ Gleeson

One of our fund managers was invited to visit one of its sites on the outskirts of the former mining village of New Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, to inspect the quality of homes being constructed and learn about the positive impact this was having on the area.

MJ Gleeson is building 305 high quality, affordable new homes on this site, equipped with family friendly gardens, garages and driveways. Two-bedroom homes on the site start from under £165k, meaning a couple earning the National Living Wage can afford to buy many of the homes being constructed. The company is also contributing to the local infrastructure needed to support these new dwellings, such as schools, health care facilities and roads, providing over £1.2m to the local authority for this development alone.

These homes are designed to be efficient to live in, using almost 50% less energy than the average UK home – this not only saves running costs for residents, but also helps to reduce the considerable carbon emissions generated from the UK’s housing stock. In addition, instead of traditional gas boilers, more than half the homes on this site will have air source heat pumps installed.

As a long-term shareholder, Epworth has been engaging with Gleeson for many years to improve the sustainability of the homes it builds. As well as this leading to the company shifting to installing heat pumps, Gleeson is also rolling out other initiatives, such as building with reconstituted bricks that have half the embodied carbon of traditional clay bricks.

Gleeson has also employed a senior ecologist to improve the biodiversity strategy on each site Gleeson develops, another area where Epworth is continuing to push for improvements.

The site visit also provided Epworth an opportunity to see how Gleeson has overhauled its approach to construction waste, utilising data, and centralising recycling areas on sites to ensure it contributes to the circular economy.

Ten Entertainment

Epworth has enhanced its engagement efforts with Ten Entertainment Group, the 2nd largest ten-pin bowling company in the UK. Initiatives to further improve the rates of recycling around the business include new training given to staff on separating rubbish, who are now proactively taking responsibility and clearing away customer’s areas to ensure those who know how to properly dispose of the waste do so. They have also partnered with a waste management company with the view to improve the process of their waste removal and avoid it going to landfill.

Regarding energy, Ten Entertainment recently signed a 100% renewable energy contract until 2026 meaning all their energy originates from renewable sources, as well as finalizing plans to install 8 arrays of solar panels across their UK sites with the intention to endogenously produce 25-35% of the energy for their sites.

Greggs

Greggs recently became an investee company of Epworth, and during the process of assessing the company, our research has brought to view plenty of reasons as to why this allocation fits well within our values. The company offers a lot of positive ethical characteristics through its efforts to reduce food poverty, cutting food waste and packaging, sourcing sustainably and promoting healthy eating.

Greggs launched its current sustainability plan in 2021, named ‘Greggs Pledge’. A plan based upon the UN SDGs and focuses on three key areas where the company believes it can make the biggest difference: Building Stronger, Healthier Communities – providing free breakfasts to schoolchildren, giving surplus food to those most in need and playing a part in improving the nation’s diet to help tackle obesity; Making the Planet Safer – a pledge to become a carbon-neutral, zero waste business; and Becoming a Better Business – to increase the diversity of the workforce and to use purchasing power responsibly with the aim of making things better in the supply chain.

Below is an excerpted slide from their 2022 Sustainability Report:

Greggs 2022 Sustainability Report Slide

The cost-of-living crisis in the UK has seen a record amount of people living in food poverty, with the Trussel Trust recently reporting that it had seen a record number of people seeking help. The issue is particularly prevalent amongst families, with Food Foundation estimating that almost 4 million school children in the UK are in food poverty.

Greggs is at the forefront of addressing the issue of food poverty amongst school children through its Breakfast Club Programme, which currently operates over 800 clubs across the country. The programme helps primary school children to get a nutritious start to their school day, with schools being provided with fresh bread from their nearest Greggs shop and a grant to support start-up and ongoing costs. The programme is run by the Greggs Foundation, of which Greggs donates around 1% of its profits to, with it also receiving funds from initiatives such as their dedicated products, colleague fundraising and in store collection boxes.