A new not-for-profit organisation that connects environmental projects to businesses has launched.
Yorkshire-based ARK Business Conservation Projects helps employees to get hands-on working on exciting environmental projects such as ocean plastics, animal rescue and environmental repair.
Major conservation organisations have signed up to ARK to offer these experiences, including the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Project Seagrass, which operates from the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. Employees could find themselves helping with a Puffin project or somewhere more exotic in the world to help conserve seagrass ecosystems, which absorb vast amounts of carbon and support thousands of species.
ARK is the brainchild of two Yorkshire entrepreneurs, Liz Theakston and Nigel Sikora. The duo used lockdown to secure key conservation projects across the UK as well as generate interest from business clients. Liz has 20 years project and event management experience, with expertise in logistics. Nigel’s career is in workplace design, consultancy and change management.
Nigel said: “Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes have become a key focus for organisations, however they can sometimes feel disconnected. Ark enables engagement in projects which helps to attract and retain talent. Some employees are looking for more than traditional benefits, they want to get 'hands on’ and work for organisations they can be proud of, experiencing conservation at the coal face and make a positive impact on the world. We would like an ARK project to become part of their corporate DNA.”
Co-founder, Liz Theakston, added: “We had the idea for ARK over coffee long before lockdown. Our careers are very much grounded in the business and events world, but our passion is for conservation and the environment. ARK was a way to bring the two together.”
ARK is focussing on joining up local UK projects to UK companies, but for global companies that host oversea employee meetings, away-days or conferences, ARK aims to offer its services to link them with nearby environmental projects.
Liz said: “Even before lockdown, Corporate Social Responsibility has become a key motivator for organisations who want to attract the best talent. Staff are no longer motivated just by the offer of a decent pension, they want to work for organisations they can be proud of, that takes responsibility and makes a positive impact on the world.”
Liz added: “Lockdown has just made ARK more pertinent as one of the key positives that came out of the pandemic was the renewed awareness for, and passion, for nature. It has been such a respite for many at a time when the climate emergency is at its peak. This is a way to ensure the business world actively engages and supports our environment. The more we engage with the natural world, the more we care about it and want to protect it”
As well as offering meaningful CSR, the projects offer team-building and bonding experiences. ARK will also offer ‘hands-off’ engagement, where businesses can become corporate sponsors of a conservation project that resonates with their organisation or values.
Photo shows: Nigel Sikora and Liz Theakston, co-founders of Ark. Photographer’s credit: Gabby Papaiacovou.