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    • General Sustainability

How HSBC is helping Panthera to reduce carbon in construction

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Using HSBC UK’s new Green SME Fund, this family-run business is having a global impact on the construction industry’s carbon footprint.

How the HSBC Green SME Fund is helping Panthera reduce carbon in construction

When Panthera founder Neal James was faced with tonnes of unrecyclable plywood, as a result of his company’s temporary construction site management systems, he decided their approach had to change.

We’d always installed plywood hoarding, like many other hoarding contractors,” says Neal – referring to the temporary fencing systems used on construction sites across the country. “The amount of waste that we’d throw away was astronomical. It was unbelievable. Two 40 yard skips every week. So, I made a decision during the first lockdown to start to develop a more sustainable system.”

Just a few years later, Neal’s patented EnviroHoard system is receiving international acclaim, and has increased the businesses’ hoarding division's turnover by £1.4 million in its first reported year.

This family-owned SME has designed and developed an innovative solution to one of the industry’s major environmental challenges, and as a result, may well have changed the construction industry on a global scale.

Every business in the UK can make a difference, whether it’s looking at recycling, where you buy your products from, how you travel – all of these things can make a difference.

James Clague | Relationship Manager, HSBC UK

Taking a first sustainable step

For many SMEs, starting down the sustainability road can feel daunting, and unaffordable. But, as James Clague, Panthera’s HSBC UK Relationship Manager explains, it is about starting small, locating areas for improvement, and focusing on achievable change.

“I know a lot of SMEs and small micro-enterprises think sustainability is just for the large corporations – businesses who can afford to do these things,” says James. “But actually, every business in the UK can make a difference, whether it’s looking at recycling, where you buy your products from, how you travel – all of these things can make a difference.”

“When I was sat in my office during lockdown, just planning and designing something, it was never my intention for it to be used around the world,” adds Neal, referring to the international interest in possible licensing opportunities Envirohoard has received since launch.

Why change?

EnviroHoard is Panthera’s sustainable alternative to the hoarding used to contain and secure construction sites. Typically, these structures would be built from unrecyclable, single-use plywood; Neal realised that not only was this approach bad for the environment, but it was also problematic from a business standpoint.

“I don’t think it would have been sustainable for us to continue to install traditional hoarding systems,” says Neal. “The drive to change was necessary to develop and grow the business. From speaking to a number of large contractors, there is also a drive from the clients themselves. Investors are looking for sustainable building projects. In turn, they’re pushing that pressure onto the tier one contractors to deliver low carbon projects.”

By starting the project with a sustainable net zero hoarding system, contractors are making sustainable decisions before the project has even begun.

We’ve made these changes. If we can do that, and we’re just a small SME in the construction industry, then there’s no reason why other contractors can’t do more to improve the sustainability of their projects.

Neal James | Founder, Panthera

Working with HSBC

In the case of Panthera, the business had formed a close banking relationship with HSBC UK, having worked together for over a decade. HSBC UK were delighted when Neal brought his commercial proposal to the table, and realised they could play a part funding the company's growth into the green space.

“From our discussions we identified that they would qualify for the HSBC UK Green Loan and, and would also qualify for the Green SME Fund, ” says James.

This three generational family-run business was the first company in the UK to be awarded the HSBC UK Green SME Fund.

HSBC UK are proud to offer our customers support in turning their sustainability goals into action: through funding, resources, advice and genuine relationships. “When I’ve needed some advice, some help, some guidance, James is always on the phone. That’s been invaluable to me personally, and allowed the business itself to grow,” says Neal.

“We’re a small family run business. We’ve made these changes. If we can do that, and we’re just a small business in the construction industry, then there’s no reason why other subcontractors, large contractors, can’t do more to improve the sustainability of their projects.”

Reaping the rewards

“Since we’ve launched EnviroHoard, it has given us a huge competitive edge,” says Neal. “There’s been a marked increase in interest from clients who want to promote that they’re using a net zero hoarding system. What’s been really exciting is that, since launching the system, we’ve reached international shores; we’ve had interest from Canada, America, Belgium, Ireland, and Germany!”

Panthera has seen a huge upswing in both turnover, and their ability to win major contracts. Within the first eight months since its launch they’ve reduced 446 tonnes of carbon emissions and set up a partnership with Circular Ecology and Trees for Cities, to help offset their installations carbon impact. The EnviroHoard™ system reduces 70% of their carbon footprint, and since launch Panthera have planted over 1000 trees (and saved countless more from being cut down).

“Increasingly, we find that clients want to take decisive action on sustainability, but can find it complex. By starting a conversation with HSBC UK, we can provide the guidance and finance that can translate into achievable actions. The changes may start small but done right, they can lead to a big impact and could make a massive difference to both the planet and your business,” says Rob King, Head of Sustainable Finance at HSBC UK.

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