The Environmental Stewardship Group

Fran Hall 2 Comments
Fran Hall


It was a pleasant surprise to be invited to the launch of a new initiative in funeralworld this week – the Environmental Stewardship Group ( ESG) was launched on Monday, with a virtual online event attended by many well-known names and organisations. The recording of the launch event and the slides presented can be found here.

The ESG is a voluntary collaboration between the public and the private sector, with four organisations* coming together in late 2020 with a goal of helping to shape the bereavement sector’s response to the Climate Emergency – their aim, as stated on the home page of their new website, is ‘to lead the bereavement sector to sustainability’.

This is not a small task – as outlined in the opening remarks by David Richardson, the sector is valued at over £3 billion per annum, and is comprised of over 300 public and private sector owner/operators, more than 5,000 funeral directors and thousands of other supporting businesses, a huge and disparate number of stakeholders who will all need to be persuaded – or regulated – into changing their ways.

The four founding organisations have agreed that the first step towards a sustainable bereavement sector in the UK is to raise awareness within the sector, which they have identified must involve all key sectors being engaged and motivated to take collaborative and positive action.

The stated objectives of the ESG are to:

  • Protect the environment – to take a series of measures to reduce existing and negative impacts by 2025
  • Promote continuous improvement – to establish an industry wide approach to driving positive change and innovation
  • Shape regulatory requirements – to influence legislation, guidance and advice that reflects the industry as a whole
  • Communicate commitment – to embed within the sector proactive and positive commitment to promoting the sector’s actions and efforts

The Deputy Chair of the Environment Agency, Richard MacDonald and the Environment Agency’s Director of Regulated Industry Lee Rawlinson both contributed to the launch event, with some sobering statistics and information. Professor Hilary Grainger OBE from the Cremation Society outlined the aims and background of the ESG and Martin Birch from the ICCM explained the establishment of this year as ‘Year Zero’ and the activity that is planned – meeting with representatives and interested parties in the public and private sectors in all of the groups represented, with a series of virtual round table events scheduled between March and September 2021.

The findings from the round tables will be collated and used to generate a report in mid October, the final version of which will be published just ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in early November.

Details of the round tables can be found here and places are available to the first 80 individuals or representatives from organisations from each sector (Government, Owner Operators, Funeral Directors and Suppliers).

To reserve a place, email the ESG at

The GFG is going to be attending and is offering our support and encouragement to the ESG as it embarks on this challenging task of hauling the bereavement sector towards the UK’s goal of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – having tried our own GFG version of encouraging funeral directors to assess their environmental impact in 2019, when we were met with a resounding silence, we think the ESG will need as much support as possible, so we encourage anyone involved with funerals who has any sense of responsibility for our impact on the planet to get involved.

*The founding organisations of the ESG are the ICCM (the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management)  theFBCA (the Federation of Burial and Crematorium Authorities), The Cremation Society and The CDS Group (Cemetery Development and Environmental Solutions)


  1. Fran Hall

    Thank goodness the professional bodies are waking up. Now is the time to share all ideas and to imagine how cemeteries and crematoria could make positive changes for the future. Allow me to kick off with the following suggestions:

    1. Switch to electric cremators and renewable energy
    2. Run the cremation facility efficiently in continuous operation to reduce heating/cooling cycles
    3. Permit only memorials made from local materials that are sustainably sourced – quarrying can be very destructive to the environment
    4. Consider limiting the size of memorials and greater use of grouped memorials
    5. Plant new trees and offer greater numbers of tree dedications instead of memorials
    6. Require new memorials not to have vases for cut flowers – instead, encourage native wildflowers to be planted on graves.
    7. Convert vase holes into sockets for sustainable mementos.
    8. Allow florists to use only compostable materials in their arrangements. Reject any plastics, oasis or non-compostable materials
    9. Create on-site facilities for florists to grow and sell only locally grown flowers
    10. Celebrate native plants and create wildflower meadows, groves and copses
    11. Encourage wildlife by creating semi-natural ponds and leaving tussocky grass margins around mown areas.
    12. Mow paths through longer grassy areas instead mowing as lawns

    You can see how the sector will need to rethink it’s offering to the public and its relationships with suppliers. Over to you for more…

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