Organising a Sustainable Company Offsite: a Planner’s Guide
Altruistiq is a sustainability SaaS and helps some of the world’s largest companies to sustainably sell more, spend less, and save time. They chose West Lexham as the low impact venue to help achieve their goals of a sustainable company offsite. Read their planner’s guide to how they championed their mission to do more of what is measurably good and less of what is immeasurably bad in a cost efficient way, and what every company should consider when seeking to organise a successful and sustainable offsite.
Published by Isobel Wild on
As an impact driven company, keeping sustainability at the core of everything we do is critical. Our recent company offsite was no exception. In fact, it offered an unparalleled opportunity to champion our mission to do more of what is measurably good and less of what is immeasurably bad in a cost efficient way.
This article outlines how we navigated the potential impact of our offsite, highlighting five key components we believe every company should consider when seeking to organise a successful and sustainable offsite.
1. Book an accessible, green certified venue
Deciding on a venue that is easily accessible via public transport, and meets Green Tourism recognised requirements is no mean feat. This was particularly true for us at Altruistiq as a purpose-driven, remote-first company, operating across Europe.
Enter West Lexham, a silver certified eco-friendly paradise, located on 22 acres of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) protected wildlands, providing the AQ team with a holistic sanctuary. West Lexham embodies sustainability, giving guests space to recharge and recalibrate whilst practising sustainable values throughout its operations. Their key initiatives which particularly impressed us included:
- Energy: The venue runs on >90% renewable energy; with all water heated by a biomass wood chip boiler and electricity generated from solar panels distributed across the estate.
- Waste: All wastewater (sewage) goes through a microbiome which naturally treats the waste. All organic waste is composted and used in the biodynamic garden. The other generated waste is collected by a local company, Baco Compak, who are committed to recycling the widest range of materials as is possible to minimise landfill.
- Nature: West Lexham is located on 22 acres of SSSI. The owners have restored the chalk stream and wetlands to provide a unique ecosystem that’s brimming with activity and wildlife. This was important to us, both for wellbeing reasons and to act as a proof point and reminder of what we are working to protect at Altruistiq.
- Organic produce: West Lexham’s kitchen garden, cultivated through biodynamic principles, is a living and breathing embodiment of the ‘farm to fork’ principle, supplying the kitchen and guests with their home grown produce. Similarly the water is sourced onsite, drawn from a fresh chalk well and pumped around the site using solar energy.
- Social: As a regenerative business, West Lexham is geared towards giving back to the community and creating local employment opportunities. More recently this has manifested in its kickstart scheme, where unemployed 16-24 year olds at risk of long term unemployment are hired for a minimum of 6 months.
- Construction: Buildings are responsible for 40% of GHG emissions worldwide including operational, construction and material emissions – according to McKinsey. West Lexham endeavours to counteract this, up-cycling old structures, recycling wood felled onsite and using these materials throughout the site (from the treehouses to the newly created library).
2. Nourish your team with seasonal, organic food
Catering for 20+ people with a variety of dietary requirements with nutritious, nature-friendly food can seem daunting. At Altruistiq, we’re well aware of the extensive impact our diets have on the environment and the necessity to track this impact from farm to fork. So it’s essential to consider what we eat and how we grow it.
Having decided to adopt a ‘Climatarian diet’ for the offsite and choose lower-carbon options as much as possible, we hired the expertise of Jess Cattermole, an inspired local chef who offered a delicious, plant based, seasonal and organic menu. The food was sourced locally, even using the home grown produce from the West Lexham biodynamic garden to feed our ravenous team. We also followed a zero waste food policy, designing the menu around the ability to reuse leftovers in future recipes e.g. using leftover roasted vegetables for a veggie lasagne.
3. Sustain your team by creating space for rest and relaxation
Finding the time and space in the offsite agenda to go beyond company building and focus on health and wellbeing initiatives can be difficult. Particularly as we all engage with health and wellbeing in a unique way based on individual preferences.
By continuously checking our agenda against our objectives we highlighted the need to ring-fence time for organised, shared health and wellbeing activities as well as opportunities for individual mindfulness. We went about this in a structured way – encouraging opportune moments that leveraged the surrounding environment, space and onsite facilities.
Examples are as follows:
- Immersive meditation by a local gong bath extraordinaire, Emrys Skye
- Putting our swing to the test with a team axe throwing session
- ‘Cold’ (freezing) water swimming in the fresh water, chalk lake (rumoured to be cleanest in the country)
- Ancient woodland and wetland walks around the estate
4. Prioritise learning and educational opportunities
An offsite can be a considerable time and cost investment. It’s therefore important to deliver results and outcomes that will have an ongoing, sustained impact on your team and business.
Harnessing the expertise of leaders in your industry is a great place to start learning and reconnecting with with your why. Providing relevant and thought provoking insight to your employees can inform your work and provide a long-lasting source of motivation. At Altruistiq, this took the form of a full-day field trip.
Wild Ken Hill, a 4000 acre re-wilding and regenerative agriculture project, provided us with the perfect educational and truly inspirational solution that left the whole team buzzing with excitement. The interactive, informative structure of the day was as follows:
Morning: Nick Padwick, one of the country’s most knowledgeable and leading regenerative farmers, introduced us to a variety of innovative farming techniques, demonstrating and sharing how these have led to impressive results in the form of soil health and yield improvements.
Lunch: A hands-on tree planting session saw the Altruistiq team plant >200 trees of a variety of species (including Blackthorn, Dogrose, Pine, and Oak – to name a few). Giving back to the biodiversity and health of the environment helped to reinforce and remind us of the importance of nature restoration.
Afternoon: An inspirational rewilding tour hosted by Dominic Buscall, where we learnt and saw exceptional re-wilding initiatives in practice – from reintroducing keystone species like beavers to heathland restoration. Dom also walked us through the financial and environmental opportunities and indeed challenges that re-wilding projects face today.
As biodiversity is a metric that we are building into our product, tailoring the day to align our mission was invaluable and has since sparked several business developments.
5. Use low carbon transportation wherever possible
Incentivising lower carbon travel choices is challenging on two fronts. Firstly, there is a time and money trade off that needs to be made. Secondly, as a remote-first company we operate from across Europe, meaning that slower travel was not always the convenient and easy option.
We leveraged the offsite as an opportunity to celebrate a behavioural shift towards low emission travel, strategically organising the offsite logistics to promote lower impact options. Logistical considerations included:
- Time consideration for ‘journey days’ to enable employees to opt out of flying and instead choose a lower, and potentially slower mode of reaching the offsite destination.
- Coordinating train times to reduce individual trips to and from the station and therefore reduce fuel usage.
- Ensuring that our offsite location was easily accessible by train, bus and bike.
Allowing time for mindful, opportunistic planning prior to your offsite will help unearth low impact, green options that align with your sustainability mission. It is a great opportunity to not only support local initiatives and communities but inspire and educate your fellow colleagues. Whether you are part of a start up, SME or large enterprise, these principles are essential to pulling off a sustainable offsite that is truly worthy of the time and financial investment.
Altruistiq is a sustainability SaaS and helps some of the world’s largest companies to sustainably sell more, spend less, and save time.
Published by Isobel Wild on
AT WEST LEXHAM WE HAVE A WEALTH OF FACILITIES ON OFFER:
The West Lexham Garden Kitchen | Unique and magical glamping | New event spaces | Group accommodation | Wild swimming | Kitchen Garden | Sanctuary Garden | Lakeside walks | Chalk Stream | Abundance of wildlife | Naturally filtered swimming pool open May to September and much much more …
You can only truly understand the magic once you have immersed yourself in West Lexham.