The sustainability specialist

With a determination to help the UK on its mission to net zero, Stonbury is using its expertise to redefine operations in the water industry

With an intensified focus from international communities to minimise the impact of carbon emissions on the climate and biodiversity, many businesses have accepted the urgent need to prioritise sustainability, and it would be hard to find one as passionate about supporting this initiative as Stonbury.

The company has reassessed its purpose, vision, and strategic goals to put sustainability at the heart of its culture and operations. Currently holding 20 frameworks, Stonbury works with UK water companies and the Environment Agency to deliver high-value, low-carbon solutions across asset estates. Services include works on potable water, wastewater treatment centres and nature-based ‘green’, and ‘grey’ solutions that deliver smart, low carbon environmental engineering.

The specialist contractor for the water industry has been around since the early eighties, and over the years, it has refined its practices to become a dependable name in the UK. A conversation with the company’s COO, Ian Mellor, highlights the key factors that set Stonbury apart.

“Our biggest trait is repairing and maintaining assets rather than focusing entirely on building new. For us, the real focus is extending asset life, which is helping all our clients reach their Net Zero targets and remain on course to be more sustainably minded businesses,” he shares.

“I think other ways we stand out are our direct delivery to clients. While many companies employ a series of subcontractors, we employ directly and deliver ourselves to offer more efficient and speedy service. I think we’re the only national specialist to do this.”

Ian adds that the company specialises in treatment throughout the water cycle. “It’s not just clean water treatment and storage that we deal with; we work with wastewater and raw water assets as well, since several projects often cross over. When a customer comes to us, we are equipped to tackle every issue regardless of the phase of the water cycle.”

When asked about recent projects or contracts that demonstrate these specialisms, Ian shares that, following a successful tender, Stonbury was contracted by the Environment Agency to complete the removal of a 70-metre-wide weir at Dovecliff – the largest project of its kind in the country. Now works are complete, the channel benefits from a more natural river bend, which allows normal sediment deposition and has improved spawning grounds and habitat. The removal of the weir has opened the Dove catchment for over 300 miles and enables the free passage of fish and other wildlife for the first time in almost 900 years.

“We are continually recruited to renew existing frameworks and we have been working on many of them for decades – which speaks abundantly into our reliability,” he expresses.

Projects aside, Ian is also immensely proud of the Stonbury team, without whom this work would not be possible. He believes that the company’s success is owed to its hard-working staff. “We see the importance of engaging with our staff at all levels to keep them motivated, and we have seen some great ideas come from all corners of the business.

“We also place great importance on our values to inform our decisions: passion, respect, integrity, quality, and innovation. To reinforce this, we have several reward schemes across the business based on our values and how we practice them daily.”

Finally, Ian shares how another aspect that makes the Stonbury culture one of strength and unity is creating opportunities for career development. “We do encourage the career growth of our staff; a good number of directors and senior managers started at Stonbury on the shop floor, i.e., on-site, working on the tools.”

He goes as far as to mention that even during the pandemic, the team demonstrated remarkable agility and with the help of hybrid working, the business was able to continue its operation with minimal impact. “We made sure that all those going out into the field and doing the hard work were safe and working in bubbles of no more than three. We also introduced more on-site accommodation to ensure social distancing and comfort so they could perform at their best. This also helped us keep up to full capacity right through the pandemic, which was vital for our customers who needed us to deliver those projects,” he shares with us.

In terms of lessons learnt from the last two years of living with Covid-19, Ian notes that the business has found that hybrid working is now a permanent fixture of the company’s model. “We’ve not forced anybody back into the office who doesn’t want to be there, and, likewise, we haven’t discouraged anybody who wants to be in either. We’ve stayed incredibly flexible in that regard, and it seems to be making for an excellent and well-oiled team.”

Currently, the water industry is redirecting its gaze towards the importance of sustainability, and Stonbury is doing everything it can to be a part of this mission. “Energy is always a focus for our line of work. As well as seeking wind and solar sources, we are involved in several projects platforming the generation of energy from farm waste, which I believe is the way forward.

“Another way to get involved is by reducing treatment chemicals, which is high on our agenda. We’re encouraging avenues to buy alternatives to reduce electricity and pollutants entering the watercourse in the first place by bringing in nature-based solutions to water treatments,” Ian says.

Bringing the discussion to a close, Ian shares that the company will continue to ramp up its environmental efforts as part of the country’s journey towards Net Zero. “We hope to see a fully electrified vehicle fleet at the end of the coming five years, and we will push for ways in which we as a company can help refine the solutions in which we recycle and restore water and water assets in the UK.”

Services: Water industry contractor