VMI: Business improves when you take climate action

By Barry Bassett, VMI, Managing Director  | June 24, 2024

At VMI, as a camera rental company within the TV industry, we’ve always been passionate about what we do, but the journey towards sustainability has truly redefined our purpose of late.

Whilst sustainability has always been important to us, our sustainability journey properly began in 2021 with an invitation to participate in the London Mayor’s funded Better Futures+ programme to support small and medium sized businesses, which opened our eyes to the urgent need for climate action. We saw the potential to make a real difference and decided to commit to net zero by 2030 by joining the SME Climate Hub.

In the short term, we’ve invested in 55KW of solar panels, allowing us to generate most of our electricity and are focusing on transitioning our van fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles by the end of 2024.  Importantly, we have already hit our five-year target of cutting CO2e emissions by 50%, two years ahead of schedule and over the next few years, we’ll keep pushing for more reductions.

Our ultimate goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2030 which we know is a big target, but we’re committed to getting there with continuous annual reductions and by sharing our progress openly.  We use Climate Essentials to track and report our progress and are now on our fourth CO2 audit, which helps us to ensure transparency about our results.

Our clients are more involved, and our staff are more invested and inspired than ever.

Everything has changed. We’ve aligned our external policies and engagement activities with our climate commitments, following Race to Zero’s guidance to “persuade” beyond just our own value chain. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that business improves when you take climate action. Our clients are more involved, and our staff are more invested and inspired than ever and we have achieved the lowest staff turnover on record and received major industry recognition.

Barry Bassett, VMI, Managing Director

We’ve set up a sustainability hub to include all of our competitors and which meets four times a year to share best practices. It’s been amazing to see everyone come together for the common good and this collaboration has been instrumental in driving industry-wide improvements. Our efforts are documented in white papers, and we share everything we’ve learned on the Rental Industry Sustainability Site https://www.rentalsustainability.tv/.

A client’s comment in an annual survey challenged our business practices and ultimately led to our sustainability journey. Now, we poll our staff and clients on various decisions, from choosing offset schemes to deciding how much vegetarian food to provide at company events.

We’ve been using 100% renewable energy since 2017 and in May 2023, became net electricity exporters, generating and exporting more power than we imported for 4 months of the year. We generate no landfill waste and have eradicated single-use plastics, even using biodegradable potato starch bags to seal camera filters with.

Sustainability goes hand in hand with our dedication to our employees.

Our commitment to sustainability goes hand in hand with our dedication to our employees. When COVID-19 hit, we faced significant challenges. Rather than laying off staff, we held a company-wide meeting to discuss the situation. Everyone voluntarily agreed to take a 20% salary cut so we could avoid shedding any staff or laying off recently hired staff.

Our focus on putting our people first was also vividly demonstrated when one of our long-time drivers, Jay, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. Jay had been with us for over 20 years, and we saw him as family, not just an employee, so when he had to give up work due to his illness, we continued to pay his full salary. Thankfully, he made a remarkable recovery and returned to work in a light-duty role we created specifically for him until his passing in 2020.

We generate no landfill waste and have eradicated single-use plastics

The VMI team.

We also encourage a healthy lifestyle among our staff and have run a cycle-to-work scheme for over ten years, and many of our team members, including myself, cycle regularly. Back in 2017, we launched the “Superheroes” campaign, cycling from our London branch to Bristol and even to Amsterdam, raising over £60,000 for MAG International to help the world to eradicate landmines.

We’re seeking to re-establish our Investors in People certification to reflect our commitment to our team’s development and wellbeing. Our sustainability efforts have not gone unnoticed. We’ve received significant recognition for our proactive approach, including being awarded the Hero of Net Zero at COP26 and multiple accolades from West London Business.

Looking ahead, we know there’s still much to be done. We plan to move into a new building in 2026 and are aiming for enhanced sustainability features. We are committed to continuous improvement, reducing our emissions every year, and sharing transparently. Our vision for the future includes not just achieving our net zero goal by 2030 but also inspiring others in the industry to follow our example. Together, we can make a significant impact and drive lasting change in the fight against climate change.

Through all these efforts, we’ve seen our business improve. Our clients are more involved, and our staff are more invested and inspired than ever. The journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. By staying true to our values and committing to a net zero future, we’re not just making a difference in our industry – we’re setting a new standard for what it means to be a responsible, forward-thinking company and exemplifying why we want to be part of the race to net zero.

Find out more about VMI’s sustainability journey

INFOGRAPHIC: Four years of climate action, VMI’s Race to Zero

Join the Race to Zero

 

Race to Zero

The Race To Zero – Mobilising ‘All Hands on Deck’

An interview with Professor Thomas Hale, University of Oxford Dr Thomas Hale is a Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, where he focuses on how societies can manage global problems effectively and fairly, with a particular emphasis on environmental, economic and health issues. To mark the 4th anniversary of the Race […]

VIEW MORE