LEADING figures in the regional business community have been swapping the boardroom for the coalface — literally — to find out more about how responsible business methods work in practice.
Nine business leaders visited The Banks Group's Delhi surface mine on the Blagdon Estate, near Morpeth, as part of corporate responsibility organisation Business In The Community's 'Opening Doors' programme.
The programme provides opportunities to visit companies who have previously won one of BITC's prestigious 'Big Tick' Awards for Excellence, which aim to identify, celebrate and communicate the positive impact of business on society.
The County Durham-based Banks Group was the first company from the North East to win an award in the Marketplace Innovation Category in recognition of its 1m Noise Control Programme, which dramatically reduced the noise emitted by machinery at its mining operations.
Pioneering work carried out by Banks at the Delhi site led to the development of unique 'world first' technologies that both reduced noise levels by far more than had first been expected and set a new industry benchmark for such emissions.
Delegates including Sir Mike Darrington of Greggs plc, Jamie Martin of Ward Hadaway, Tyne Tees TV's Graham Thompson and Robin Bloom of Dickinson Dees toured the Delhi site to see the noise reduction technologies in action, and heard about the steps that Banks take to conduct their operations in an environmentally and socially-responsible manner.
Mark Dowdall, Environment and Community Director at The Banks Group, said: "The whole company is run on an ethos of 'Development With Care,' and the principles of corporate social responsibility have long been at the core of all our operations.
"We have a fleet of over 100 items of mining plant, including bulldozers, dump trucks and excavators, and having been unable to find the technologies we required to make the noise reductions we were looking for, we took the decision to invest significantly in developing them for ourselves.
"The resulting technologies and techniques have had a range of benefits, for both the communities in which we work and for ourselves as a commercial organization — not only have we been able to reduce noise emissions from our plant by far greater levels than we had first expected, but this has enabled us to obtain planning permission to operate at new sites where we would not have been able to achieve noise limits without this work.
"All forward-thinking businesses understand the duty that they have to operate in a socially responsible manner, and it was a real honour for us to welcome such a distinguished group of guests and show them how we make our own contributions in this field."
Karen Wilkinson-Bell, North East Regional Director for Business In The Community, added: "Our Opening Doors programme gives delegates the chance to learn more about a particular award-winning initiative, and to explore how responsible business works in practice.
“Responsible business practice has become increasingly important to the UK business community in recent years, and the work that the Banks Group has done at their Delhi site is a prime example of how such ways of working can impact positively on a company in many different ways.”