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How important is sustainability?

The landscaping industry's thoughts on sustainability

I think that it is safe to say that sustainability is becoming increasingly important, especially with climate change trending the way that it is. The landscaping industry could be hugely impactful on raising awareness and promoting sustainability. We asked barometer participants nationwide in domestic landscaping, commercial landscaping, design and build, and garden design, the following two questions to find out more.

  1. Does sustainability impact your product choices? 
  2. Do you have a sustainability policy and if so, when was it introduced? 
sustainability product choices graph

We can see that an overwhelmingly large number (92%) of respondents said that sustainability impacts their product choices. This is certainly encouraging. There were a few comments about this though, mainly regarding clients. In response to the first question, one design and build company said: “Yes, to an extent, although client reactions can be mixed and many remain price driven.”

Another agreed, saying that it impacts their product choices but clients less so. There will likely be clients that are less concerned about sustainability and prioritise budget higher. This might be an opportunity to highlight the importance of sustainability though, and some companies appear to be doing so already.

A design and build company commented that they “try to push the client towards more sustainable options”. Another suggested they “try to guide our clients to choose more sustainable options”. Surely, to best inform clients of the options available, it is necessary to find out all the facts first. One garden designer said: “Yes, sustainability impacts my product choices, though I am not always able to make the absolute best choice (limitation of the client’s budget or what they want). However, through educating myself, I am gaining confidence to educate clients – this I have found can help client’s buy into a material or product that has a lower environmental impact.”

In the commercial market, a business commented that they make sustainable product choices where possible. However, they noted that “sometimes cost does not allow this choice though, as sustainable options can be more expensive and clients will not always pay the difference”. Another found that it “doesn’t impact choice yet, although clients are increasingly pushing for this now in regard to landscaping aspects of their projects”.

Interestingly, out of all respondents, the majority (54%) do not have a sustainability policy even though nearly all said that sustainability impacts product choices.

Another surprising finding was that the small number that said sustainability does not impact their product choices do have sustainability policies.

It is clear that sustainability plays a major role in influencing product choices. For those that it does not, it is still a part of their business. It might be a good time to reflect on sustainability and formalise the importance of it by introducing a sustainability policy. Whether this encourages clients in working with your business is another matter but it could at least raise their awareness of the subject.

83% of respondents that have a sustainability policy actually implemented it over two years ago. Only 17% introduced it in the last two years.

It is interesting to see that for most, the policy has been part of their business for at least a few years. In fact, the average year that a sustainability policy was introduced was found to be around 2014; over five years ago!

A couple of respondents said they had a policy since they started their businesses, with one elaborating: “I have only just put the full thing on my website. Before, I just had key points on there.”

Many others said that they do not formally have a sustainability policy, but it might be something they will introduce in the future. A design and build company said they have one “in development to formalise”. One domestic landscaper said they do not have one just yet. A garden designer commented that they have “nothing official, but it has been very high on my priorities for the last three years”. Another design and build company said that this survey “has made me realise we should have one!”

It is obvious that sustainability is important to many in the landscaping industry. The question to ask ourselves is whether we are doing enough to promote and highlight it. Including a sustainability policy as part of your business might be a good way to formally agree on its importance, raise awareness about it, and show your clients you are committed to supporting a sustainable future.

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