In terms of place, the starting point for this was a prestigious national award that JC Atkinson won back in 2008, The Sunday Time Best Green Company Award. This was a competition to find companies that where striving to improve their environmental performance. It reflected the changing mood in the business world, in that even then, eleven years ago it was not enough simply to make a profit for shareholders. The competition recognised that companies have a wider responsibility to ensure that they minimise the environmental impact of what they do. Consumers, clients and peers expect it.
To be the outright winner of this award no doubt is testament to JC Atkinson’s owner and Managing Director, Julian Atkinson. After all, it was he who insisted that when JC Atkinson moved to its current location in Washington, Tyne and Wear, that the build of the factory incorporated many environmentally friendly features. For example; rainwater harvesting for use and in doing so saving over 200,000 litres of water a year and a Biomass heat system that utilises our own wood offcuts, sawdust and shavings as fuel (biomass) to heat the premises and dry the goods. Later these initiatives were supplemented with the installation of a 250Kw Solar Farm at our Sedling Road facility, which generates around 30% of our total required power. Other initiatives have included the installation of LED lighting in our warehouse facility, which has led to an annual energy and maintenance saving of 81% and carbon savings of 2.3T.
From place to product
JC Atkinson sources Forest Stewardship Council® raw material for our traditional coffins. We also go further and have Forest Stewardship Council® certification for our production facility, which enables us to put the Forest Stewardship Council® logo onto the products we produce and gives our customers the assurance that the products they get from us have come from sources that do not further damage the environment. As well as this certification JC Atkinson has also been awarded the ISO 14001 standard, which is the internationally recognised standard for the environmental management of businesses. It prescribes controls for those activities that influence the environment, which include the use of natural resources, handling and treatment of waste and energy consumption.
These awards and accolades show how we manage our environmental impact with regards to the manufacturing of products but are only part of what the business does. There is a whole section of the business dedicated to giving back, central to this is our Greener Goodbyes, a service designed to offer a simple way to make your funeral greener by making a positive difference to the environment. Greener Goodbyes is the only service that exists to help all people have a greener funeral in a cost effective and simple manner. It is compatible with all funeral arrangements be it traditional, a woodland burial or a cremation.
Furthermore, there is the Tree Tribute programme where we have a policy of planting a tree for every country range coffin that we sell. So far, we have planted in excess of 10,000 trees and hedgerow. We are very proud of our tree planting initiative and we believe that planting trees is good way to show our commitment to improving the environment that we share.
Carbon Rebalance, introduced on all Country Range coffins. For every Country Range coffin sold a donation is made to Groundwork UK to help families with fuel poverty, using their Green doctor initiative. A great example of environmentally friendly products helping people.
In 2019, JC Atkinson pulled together all the appropriate products from its various product ranges to help customers make informed choices if they wanted to opt for Plastic Free. It is of note that no new products were developed for this initiative as all had existed previously, they just had not been marketed as a plastic free option for consumers.
From product to people
As a business we are very proud to be working with local community interest company Climate Action North East. This group works with local schools and communities across the North East and as such we provide support for projects that address climate action, including environmental and climate change education, litter picking and forest schools.
Our social impact is not limited to the UK though. In recent years, JC Atkinson has worked with its partner Oasis coffins to fundraise across the industry to alleviate the impacts of devastating floods in Bangladesh, which saw farms, houses and whole villages washed away by unprecedented rainfall.
More recently, JC Atkinson has offered to support with the education of children in a village school in India. This is as part of our support for the artisans and craftsman who manufacture some of our Forever Urns products.
Looking back at our full programme of activities it is easy to overlook and forget some of these initiatives. However, they all go to show the difference that one small company in the North East of England can make – not just to the environment but in the lives of people who live many thousands of miles away.
We don’t just look back; the added benefit of auditing what we have and currently do is to identify gaps and areas for improvement, and there are always improvements that can and will be made, small incremental steps that build upon the sound base that we are justifiably proud of. Some such small steps we have recently introduced are reducing paper usage and providing staff with reusable plastic cups. These all add up to make a difference and only go to show that regardless of how well we think we are doing, there is always more that we can do.
Everyone commented on how unusual the coffin was. Usually people are too scared to go up to the coffin at a funeral, but everyone went up to see and spent time looking at the photos that were displayed on the coffin. It made is so much easier to be close to dad- Diane (on behalf of Poetic Endings Funeral Directors)
Mum loved the outdoors and nature. She was very environmentally conscious. When we looked at your Eco friendly coffins we knew we’d be able to find something perfect for mum. It made such a sad time a little easier as we know she would have loved it.- Mr & Mrs Singleton
I loved the design on the picture coffin, it really captured my mother’s hobbies. She loved bowls, and to have the bowling green on was a wonderful way to say goodbye.- Janice Doherty
We wanted to say goodbye to our sister Helen, but in something that was more than just ‘a box’. The different choices that were available in all styles was fascinating. We chose a beautiful American-style Casket and also got a separate keepsake in her memory.- Carl & Becky Taylor