An Exciting Vision for the Future

By Helen Ward

Posted on 01 March 2024

SWTC is actually First Ecology reimagined! In this blog, we talked to Helen Ward about the rebrand; why the change, why now and what makes SWTC so different? So, Helen… what is SWTC?

SWTC is the magic that happens when you bring together the very best of breed ecological and environmental services and expertise, with the 60 year track record and unparalleled knowledge of a conservation organisation that delivers evidence-based land management and technical habitat conservation and restoration across the entire county for the benefit of nature, people and community.

Formed in 2010 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Somerset Wildlife Trust, First Ecology and its accredited team of specialists and consultants have been providing the whole spectrum of professional, high integrity ecological services to a diverse client base in Somerset and beyond, including a wide range of different surveys and assessments, and long term management planning and advice. Clients to date have spanned multiple sectors and include local authorities, government departments, utility companies, transport infrastructure, urban developers, dozens of landowners, and, of course, Somerset Wildlife Trust itself.

To date, whilst it has operated as a separate entity operationally, First Ecology’s purpose has always been strategically aligned with the charity’s goal of nature conservation and, as such, all of its profits are channelled back to the charity.

Legislative change, particularly in light of the Environment Act 2021 and the UK’s net zero targets has meant the gap between nature conservation and ecological and environmental planning and development is shrinking rapidly.

Statutory requirements for developments and human activity to mitigate for nature and biodiversity loss such as Biodiversity Net Gain, and the rise in voluntary green markets, including those for Carbon and Nutrient Credits to match the growing commercial appetite for enhancing corporate sustainability and fast-tracking net zero strategies means that increasingly, ecological services no longer exist purely as a standalone service requirement, but are fast becoming the cornerstone upon which organisations are able to deliver more impactful and environmentally sustainable projects where the needs of nature, people and community are equitably met.

With this changing landscape and emerging markets come new, complex regulatory frameworks and nature-based solutions metrics, the likes of which can only be effectively navigated and meaningfully delivered upon in tandem with an intimate and deep knowledge of land and habitat management, conservation and restoration, backed up with a strong foundation of science and evidence – the kind that can only be accrued from decades of experience of long-term conservation interventions and improvement.

Uniting the skills, talents, knowledge and services of First Ecology and Somerset Wildlife Trust under a new standalone brand with an exciting vision for the future, is an amazing opportunity to deliver a more positive, nature-friendly future for Somerset and beyond – for nature, for climate, for people and community and the economy.

The new collaboration and more modern brand reflects our new vision and long-term intent to serve the wider market with unique, high-integrity, end-to-end ecological, land management and environmental services that are fit for the future and based on real-world conservation science and knowledge.

It’s an opportunity to use our unparalleled blended expertise to power a new generation of ecological services and science driven nature-based solutions to the net zero challenge. We are already at the forefront of carbon and BNG markets – new opportunities will come and we want our clients to be ready. Where many of the new entrants into new green markets will leave as quickly as they arrived, SWTC is here for the long-term – 60 years says we’re not going anywhere.

Some of your questions answered:

What are you launching?

We are bringing a new ecological and environmental land management brand to the market for developers and land managers and a range of other sectors across the county and beyond – Somerset Wildlife Trust Consultancy. This new identity will replace the First Ecology brand that we have delivered our ecological consulting work under to date.

So who are Somerset Wildlife Trust Consultancy (SWTC)?

SWTC is what happens when you bring together the very best of breed ecological and environmental services and expertise, with the 60-year track record and unparalleled knowledge of a conservation organisation that delivers evidence-based land management and technical habitat conservation and restoration across the entire county for the benefit of nature, people and economy.

Why have your retired the First Ecology brand?

The First Ecology brand has served the market well for nearly 15 years and has supported its primary focus on ecological services. The team has grown over recent years, to reflect the sector’s evolving needs and changes in planning and development legislation – we have accrued new skills in a range of areas, and grown our portfolio of services to meet the needs of a growing client portfolio. We are a different organisation, and new legislation and significant changes in the sector and regulatory environment means that we have the opportunity to expand our services further, putting that accrued expertise in practice, and provide a more holistic service to our clients. We need a new modern brand that reflects our strategy and enables us to deliver that offer and continue to innovate in line with future developments. Our offer now goes beyond pure ecological consultancy and the time was right to better reflect that in a new brand.

Why have you changed the name to Somerset Wildlife Trust Consultancy?

To date, whilst it has operated as a separate entity operationally, First Ecology’s purpose has always been strategically aligned with the charity’s goal of nature conservation and, as such, all of its profits are channelled back to the charity. Legislative change, particularly in light of the Environment Act 2021 and the UK’s net zero targets has meant the gap between nature conservation and ecological and environmental planning and development is shrinking rapidly, and organisations now need as much insight in one space as the other in order to deliver environmental targets or support the ESG strategies of today. Aligning the 60 years of land and habitat conservation experience of the charity and optimising the skills of its people to support the commercial work of the consultancy work going forwards makes absolute common sense and we are proud to be able to make that association directly and visibly in this way.

Why now?

Statutory requirements for developments and human activity to mitigate for nature and biodiversity loss such as Biodiversity Net Gain, and the rise in voluntary green markets, including those for Carbon and Nutrient Credits to match the growing commercial appetite for enhancing corporate sustainability and fast-tracking net zero strategies means that increasingly, ecological services no longer exist purely as a standalone service requirement, but are fast becoming the cornerstone upon which organisations are able to deliver more impactful , measurable and environmentally sustainable projects where the needs of nature, people and community are equitably met.

This and nature markets such as BNG and carbon and their related metrics have created the requirement for deeper surveying and measurement work which can only be delivered with accrued knowledge, data and scientific expertise which many organisations, other existing and new entrants to the market, are unable to offer. SWTC can.

With this changing landscape and emerging markets come new, complex regulatory frameworks and nature-based solutions metrics, the likes of which can only be effectively navigated and meaningfully delivered upon in tandem with an intimate and deep knowledge of land and habitat management, conservation and restoration, backed up with a strong foundation of science and evidence – the kind that can only be accrued from decades of experience of long-term conservation interventions and improvement.

Uniting the skills, talents, knowledge and services of First Ecology and Somerset Wildlife Trust under a new standalone brand with an exciting vision for the future, is an amazing opportunity to deliver a more positive, nature-friendly future for Somerset and beyond – for nature, for climate, for people and community and the economy.

What makes you so different?

We believe we’re the only organisation that can truly deliver a one stop shop service to the market because of…

  • Our people: Uniting the skills, talents, knowledge and accredited services of First Ecology and Somerset Wildlife Trust means we are truly able to deliver a full range of ecological and land management consulting services, providing clients with everything they need for planning and statutory purposes in one place. Whether it is a small-scale ecological survey, landscape-scale land management plan or carbon project, we have the trained and licensed staff that can deliver sustainable projects that are fully compliant with legislation and can be effectively measured and monitored over time using with recognised science, data and evidence.
  • Our accredited team: Our specialists and consultants have been providing the whole spectrum of professional, high integrity ecological services to a diverse client base in Somerset and including a wide range of different surveys and assessments, and long- term management planning and advice. Clients to date have spanned multiple sectors and include local authorities, government departments, utility companies, transport infrastructure, urban developers, dozens of landowners, and, of course, Somerset Wildlife Trust itself.
  • Our combined track record: First Ecology has been providing first class ecological services for over 15 years, and Somerset Wildlife Trust brings over 60 years of unparalleled conservation and land and habitat management expertise – a combination that cannot be matched by any other organisation in the space currently. We believe that to deliver within the new planning and development frameworks emerging, only a combination of both can help deliver high integrity projects with nature’s recovery at its core. Over the past year we have built on this, recruiting carefully, finding experts in their field who can support our clients to navigate the complexities of new opportunities on offer, both in terms of legislation and long-term evaluation and monitoring.
  • Our intimate knowledge of the county’s habitats: With this changing landscape and emerging markets come new, complex regulatory frameworks and nature-based solutions metrics, the likes of which can only be effectively navigated and meaningfully delivered upon in tandem with an intimate and deep knowledge of land and habitat management, conservation and restoration, backed up with a strong foundation of science and evidence – the kind that can only be accrued from decades of experience of long-term conservation interventions and improvement. Our ability to tap into the conservation charity’s expertise is unique and this means we can offer a safe pair of hands for clients, reducing risk within an emerging market, that is attracting a myriad of with a range of new entrants who cannot compare
  • We’re ahead of the curve: When it comes to the new and emerging nature markets, we are of the very few organisations that are currently delivering for live projects. SWT’s early work with Wilder Carbon as a Trusted Deliverer and adoption of its Wilder Carbon standards means that its Honeygar project is already providing ready-to-market, high integrity Soil Association carbon units. We have other sites that are being vetted for inclusion in the Wilder Carbon project family. We are also advancing other schemes with Somerset County Council in the areas of nutrient neutrality.

As a conservation charity, how will you maintain your ability to oppose inappropriate development or offsetting if you are seeking to drive revenue with STWC?

As a conservation charity, the work of First Ecology with developers, planners and corporates has never impacted on our ability to put across our views or submit objections to that which we feel is not in nature’s best interests – nor have the positions of the charity impacted on their commercial growth. The Trust has stringent corporate due diligence processes and have long held relationships with a range of sectors that might present multiple opportunities such as quarrying or planning and development. The ‘red lines’ we have had in place for years will remain as they transition to being Somerset Wildlife Trust Consultancy.

In the case of BNG specifically – this can only be applied after impacts of development on nature conservation sites, habitats and species have first been avoided. Where impacts are unavoidable these must be sufficiently mitigated and compensated before Biodiversity Net Gain is applied. We are involved only when all other attempts to mitigate have been exhausted. Ambitious delivery of Biodiversity Net Gain on land could provide a way for new development to make a positive contribution to nature’s recovery, informed by Local Nature Recovery Strategies and is something we support.

And in the case of Carbon as another example, we work with Wilder Carbon – the only high supplier of high integrity, Soil Association verified carbon units on the market, which works with only approved projects and approved buyers who can demonstrate a public commitment to achieving net zero emissions and have a credible plan to achieve net zero emissions that follows recognised criteria derived from the Science-Based Targets and has been approved by a verified Wilder Carbon assessor.

Where does the brand design come from?

We have chosen to integrate Somerset Wildlife Trust into the new name as this reflects our core mission for a more nature-friendly future and retains the strong recognition that Somerset Wildlife Trust has in the county and beyond, but the organisation will be called SWT Consultancy or SWTC for short. The new, more modern and professional visual brand brings together the now familiar ‘teardrop’ shape of the Wildlife Trust branding, with the clean lines associated with the land contours on a map, representing the organisation’s core USP – its deep knowledge of land and habitats, which underpins its ability to deliver meaningful and measurable gains for nature and biodiversity on a landscape-scale – a reminder of what sets us apart from other service providers in this space.

The digital age has ushered in a new era of communication and interaction. Social media, websites, and mobile apps have become powerful tools for spreading awareness and mobilising support. The new logo has been designed with digital adaptability in mind. Its sleeker, more modern design ensures clarity and legibility even on small screens, enabling us to reach a wider audience online and the ‘teardrop’ icon can be separated and stand alone as a symbol allows us to stay easily recognisable and memorable. This will help us make the most of digital platforms to engage with customers, share content, and advocate for nature’s recovery with the services we offer.

How much did you have to spend on the new brand?

Creating the new brand did not require the support of external designers or web agencies, or the associated budgets. Luckily, we are fortunate enough to have the in-house creative and digital skills to have been able to deliver this.

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