“We want this to be the most sustainable example business in the whole world, not just in Ireland, the vision is bigger than that.” (Brendan Dooley, Managing Director of The FACTORY)
There’s a saying in Design, that it’s just as important to use beautiful wood on the back of the cabinet as it is on the front. To invest care and love into the smaller detail and how it affects the planet is never far from the thoughts of The FACTORY in Fivealley, Birr, County Offaly. Sustainability and wellbeing are ingrained into the ethos of the family run business. Just this week, their attention to detail saw them nominated for a national SME award. This year alone they received a National Energy Award for Small and Medium Business from SEAI, and the Green Small Organisation of the Year Award. It’s no surprise their next big venture is to set up an ECO school to guide other businesses into a more ‘green’ way of thinking.
The word ‘team’ crops up many times in my conversation with Managing Director, Brendan and his daughter Lisa who is the Creative Director. “Dad was always aware of sustainability going back 25 years” says Lisa who finished her Masters Degree in Design in 2018 and saw a great opportunity to run the business as sustainable as possible’ She also wants to share their journey, “so others can see it is 100% doable”.
The Factory is built on five and half acres of land, generating 65% of it’s electricity on-site via wind and solar power. “There has always a sustainability core to the business”, according to Brendan. In 2018, they, as a team created an eco-action plan, which incorporated installing solar panels, a wind turbine, changing lights to LEDs, and fitting an air to water heat pump. The Covid 19 lockdown also gave them the opportunity to put in place their Biodiversity plan. Inspired by her late Aunty and neighbour, Freda Rountree (former head of the Heritage Council), they strategically planted native Irish trees, pollinator friendly shrubs and wildflowers while allowing their 5 acres to re-wild. Onsight there are 5 beehives and two adorable pigs. According to Lisa “we don’t have a sustainability officer, our whole team has a sustainability task, everyone is part of the journey”.
Staff wellness is highly prioritized. Part of their ‘eco plan’ means their eleven staff now work a four-day week, have dedicated yoga on sight and there are plans for a staff gardening project, where each staff member gets a dedicated plot. The four-day week not only cuts commuting and heating costs but ensures staff are content. Business, according to Lisa, is much more than just a money-making entity, “It can improve both people’s lives and the environment”.
Driven to spreading the word to a wider community, The FACTORY are developing an educational part of the business called the ‘Eco school’ which will focus on small businesses, in order to show how achievable it is to be sustainable and successful at the same time. Offaly Local Development Company, the Local Enterprise Office in Offaly and another large company (name not revealed yet) are supporting the Eco School. According to Brendan “getting this support enables our journey” and believes painting a visual and positive picture for businesses is the only way forward. With so much negativity around the messages of how to be sustainable, he believes sharing the FACTORY’s company data, of how to generate electricity, or making investments in solar panels, will inform small businesses how achievable it is. According to Brendan, “We’re hoping that by telling our story and sharing our experience it will ease people’s transition”. Small businesses attending the school will learn of the three pillars of sustainability, People, Profit and Planet.
Brendan wants The FACTORY to be “the most sustainable example business in the whole world, not just in Ireland”, the vision is bigger than that, he says “We can have the best teachers for the Eco school, and will be learning continually.” They are hoping to set up the ECO School in the Spring with Rebekah Keaveney from Green Offaly also on board.
Look out for more information on their website The FACTORY