Going green means more than a day out planting trees. Ask the team at Appleby Isle of Man, where a new focus on sustainability has delivered environmental results, fostered team spirit and helped a global business maintain a competitive edge in a decarbonising world. And, in their spare time, the team has taken part in a number of tree planting sessions

Like many organisations, Appleby had a relatively ad hoc approach to its charity and community work when Mark Holligon became Managing Partner in 2022. ‘It was quite disjointed and not really led by the team,’ he said. ‘I believed strongly that it needed to be the entire office engaged in deciding what we did.’

This led to the formation of an empowered Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee featuring representatives from all levels of the business, including one of the partners for some board-level firepower. The group quickly focused Appleby’s scattergun community efforts in one direction: on the Isle of Man’s natural environment.

In the two years since, the team has planted trees with the Isle of Man Woodland Trust, cleaned beaches with Beach Buddies, sponsored Manx Wildlife Trust’s nature discovery centre at the Ayres, made contributions to the Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch and supplied an incubator for the Manx Hedgehog Society.

The tree planting days, in particular, have proved to be wildly successful, with virtually everyone in the 60-strong team taking part. According to Amber Oakley, Marketing and Business Development Executive, it’s the ideal combination of creating visible results, making a meaningful difference and getting the team involved: ‘Our team go out, get in the fresh air and get their hands dirty. And it gives everyone a chance to talk to people in the business that they wouldn't normally speak to on a day to day basis.’

Internally, the CSR committee investigated the sustainability of supply chains, refreshed the firm’s flexible working policies to emphasise work-from-home and active travel options and provided reusable water bottles and coffee cups to reduce the use of single use plastics.

So far, so conventional. It was the committee’s next move that risked making some waves: removing all desk bins in favour of central recycling hubs on each floor of the office. 

In a busy workplace this was a small change of routine that can make a big difference.‘Everybody got on board really quickly,’ said Gemma McGuill, Business Lead in Appleby’s Group Initiatives team. ‘It's a good example of something that you think might not work, then you realise how quickly behavioural change happens.’

Appleby Isle of Man is now a UNESCO Biosphere partner and one of only 11 businesses in the island to have achieved the Sustainable Mann accreditation, in recognition of its support for sustainable working practices.

Beyond the local benefits and the feelgood factor, there are some hard-headed truths behind these initiatives: Appleby’s international corporate clients are increasingly subject to regulatory requirements and required to make disclosures about their carbon emissions. Keeping pace with these developments is becoming an essential part of doing international business in a decarbonising world.

Last year the Appleby Group, covering 10 locations across the world, was awarded the Planet Mark Business Certification for its work in measuring and reducing its carbon emissions. ‘It is an externally verified, trusted sustainability certification,’ Gemma said. ‘If we want to work with somebody externally, they can verify our carbon footprint and hold us accountable for showing them a reduction in emissions each year.’

‘People are increasingly challenging corporates like us on whether what they're doing is authentic or not,’ she continued. ‘What we've tried really hard to do is show we're building relationships with some of these partners. It's not just putting our hand in our pocket, it's about having staff involvement from the beginning, then giving practical help to those charities. And I think people can see that this is authentic and it's part of who we are as a business.’

Not a bad record for a CSR committee formed just two years ago. Mark said: ‘The best thing is that everyone is given the opportunity to be involved, and people are wanting to join in.

‘It’s become a part of daily life within the firm, and that is a really big change. We have no pushback from the partners saying, ‘why are we sending 15 people out to plant trees or beach clean on a Tuesday afternoon?’ Everyone just goes, ‘That's great, that's what we do.’