Warehouse and industrial construction company Gazeley's acquisition by Dubai-based Economic Zones World (EZW) will extend the firm's reach even further than its current operations in 14 countries including Europe, China, Mexico, India and the Middle East.
And while "green" building is today all the rage, Gazeley has been intently focused on bringing sustainable practices to warehouse and industrial construction for more than 20 years.
Established in 1987, the United Kingdom-based company initially worked as the warehouse development arm of the retailer Azda in the UK, and then began operating increasingly as a stand-alone developer working not only with Azda, but also with other international third-party logistics suppliers.
"From the start our focus was on doing significant warehouse and distribution development projects," said Jonathan Fenton-Jones, Gazeley's Director of Global Procurement and Sustainability. "Then, in 1999, Azda was acquired by Wal-Mart and Gazeley became Wal-Mart's developer of choice outside of the United States."
Extending its efforts onto the European mainland in 2001, Gazeley has since built about one-third of Wal-Mart's distribution centres on the continent and is now active in 14 countries.
While sustainability has been a core value of the company from its very beginning,
Fenton-Jones said no one with the company in the late 1980s would have guessed that they were at the vanguard of what would become a worldwide green movement. "We just did what we did, and acted on our affinity for the natural environment," he said. "Broadly, they would be called bioremediation strategies: we employed reed beds to clean up disposed waste water from sites. Over the years we've probably planted a million trees… in 1987 that was pretty new stuff, but it really served to give us a shape."
In 2000 Gazeley reached out to William McDonough, the US-based architect, designer and author whose Charlottesville, Virginia-based company was also making its reputation for designing environmentally sustainable buildings and transforming industrial manufacturing processes.
"We'd come to a point within the business where there was a lot of noise going on in this whole area of green, and we realised that we did not know what we did not know," Fenton-Jones said. "As a responsible business, we wanted to be leaders in this area, but needed to come to some conclusions about how to do that. It was at that point, I think, that we really started to take our first faltering steps toward having a defined green policy, and Bill McDonough, a very eminent environmental architect, was a big part of bringing that to fruition."
Fenton-Jones refers to the 114-page document that grew out of that collaboration as "our eco-template".
"It is not light bedtime reading, but it provided us with a roadmap for how to proceed, defining what approaches we could embrace immediately without putting ourselves out of business, and gave us benchmarks for what we could achieve 12-months, 18-months and five years on."