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Surfing the Wave of Being a Sustainable Business


© The Watch Judge

A former osteopath, Nick Hounsfield founded The Wave in 2010. The Wave is an inland-surfing destination where anyone and everyone can surf on safe waves, every day of the year. It brings surfing, nature and a fresh way of thinking to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities – from a child stepping on a board for the first time, to a professional training for the Olympics. The first Wave’s first destination opened in Bristol in October 2019 and is the first place in the world to use Wavegarden Cove technology. In the blog below, Nick explains how sustainability has been core to The Wave from the outset. 

When I started thinking about creating an inland surfing destination I had a lot of ideas about how it would work and the type of business I wanted it to be. Some of these turned out to be impractical, some were unrealistic and some fell by the wayside, but the core of how I wanted to do business remains. I didn’t want sustainability to be a ‘nice to have’ extra, or simply give a nod to it in the business plan. For me it was always at the heart of what we were trying to do and had to be part of every decision we made.

© Global Shots

I wanted to build a business that could deliver more than just a financial return and this was embedded from the very start. The first person I spoke to about my idea was Chris Hines MBE – a co-founder of environmental campaigning charity, Surfers Against Sewage, and former Head of Sustainability at the Eden Project. I chatted to him about my vision of a place with surfing at its heart, that would help get people out in nature, active and connected to themselves and each other. He got it from the word go and helped me establish our ‘3-Waves’ approach to sustainability. This is based on Triple Bottom Line thinking, whereby we always consider the environmental, social and financial impact and outcomes of any decision we make.

 Our approach is not unique and we are not alone in trying to do business differently. There is a growing movement of purpose-driven businesses, putting true sustainability at the heart of what they do and using their business for a force of good. The fact that Bristol Green Capital Partnership has over 900 members is testament to this. We are all want to work towards a truly sustainable future for the city we love.

I believe that our approach us the right way to do business, but that doesn’t mean it has always been easy. With a multi-million pound project keeping to budget and to deadline is key, and it has sometimes felt like the financial ‘wave’ has had a greater pull over the other elements. There have definitely been rubs during this period, for instance around renewable energy technologies on site. We would have loved to solar panels in place on day one, but we couldn’t release budget for this –  however we have future proofed the building to allow us to add photovoltaics easily at a later date.

© Global Shots

We may not be perfect yet, but I can stand by the fact that all our decisions have been considered and we have thought about the impact on our profit, the people around us and the planet we share. We have put our red lines in place – we are using 100% renewable energy via our partner Ecotricity, our Food Philosophy in the cafe outlines a higher welfare sourcing policy for meat and eggs, we have no disposable cups or single use plastic on site, and the products in our Surf Shop are carefully selected based on a reduce, reuse, recycle approach.

This is just the beginning and I’m under no illusion that it will all be plain sailing…or surfing. There will be challenges and at times we will need to make difficult decisions, but as long as we keep coming back to the process by which we make those decisions, then I think we can ride whatever is thrown at us.

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