Commercial Strategy 2021-2026
When we developed the first iteration of this strategy at the start of 2021, the country was in the grip of the Covid pandemic. At the time of this review, we are coming out of the pandemic, although the long-term economic impacts are still being uncovered, and we are now impacted by a cost-of-living crisis a war in Ukraine and during an energy supply crisis. This strategy continues to be an essential platform from which to challenge, mitigate and improve conditions, and drive a greener and more sustainable approach to commercial activities.
In the Commercial Strategy V1.2 we have reassessed the current policy landscape and considered work achieved over the first two years of the Strategy’s implementation to ensure this Strategy remains dynamic and up to date. Details are now clearer about how the energy landscape of Wales will change with the recently announced Welsh Government on Shore Wind Developer Agency. NRW have explored new ways to sell timber product and increase community participation in the timber markets. We have also strengthened our ability to proactively pursue more tourism and recreation activities on the Welsh Government Woodland estate.
Taking a greener and sustainable approach to commercial activities can help us do more for the environment, people and economy of Wales for generations to come. Our vision to generate income for NRW through sustainable commercial activity, so that we can do more for Wales’ environmental, social, economic and cultural well-being, is at the heart of our ambition.
We have a duty to ensure that all our commercial activity is underpinned by our organisational values and our obligation to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources, as well as our broader responsibility to Wales’s well-being goals. NRW has recently agreed its new Corporate Plan which has simplified its language and outcomes to focus on the Nature and Climate and Pollution emergencies. In our first iteration of this strategy, we talked about applying a Planet, People and Prosperity approach and now at the time of this review we are about to pilot a new ‘3P Handbook’ that provides a tangible and measurable way to demonstrate how our commercial activity supports these aims.
Proactive opportunity and innovation are our new normal, working collaboratively to develop a uniquely Welsh approach to the nation’s ambition for a truly circular economy.
Director of Communications, Customer and Commercial
The purpose of our commercial strategy
This strategy sets out our approach to optimising the Prosperity, people and planet benefits to commercial enterprise and development on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate.
We are already managing commercial activities in the context of NRW’s Well-being Objectives and within the remit to deliver against the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) principles.
But our aspirations are to do more, so while we do not aspire to be commercial simply for the sake of being commercial, our strategy is ambitious and does not shy away from big ideas and principles.
We recognise that we have an important role to play in Wales’ green economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, and through the current cost of living crisis and inflation rise and believe that sustainable development and supporting a circular economy is key to Wales’ recovery and future prosperity.
NRW faces pressures from increasing demands on our services, further constraints on our resources and therefore an increasing need to generate our own revenue.
With the right mechanisms and where our ability to retain income is permitted, commercial activity can help to alleviate reliance on Grant in Aid funding, allowing us to do more for the environment and the people of Wales whilst also releasing funds for other social purposes.
This Commercial Strategy provides a new framework around long-term objectives and aspirations across the NRW portfolio. It is a dynamic document, updated annually to ensure that the framework is agile and can evolve to align with current policy and legislation and an ever-changing commercial environment. It is supported by more detailed, sector-specific plans, that are better placed to consider industry-specific requirements and more immediate commercial considerations.
Feedback from our stakeholders and partners has highlighted a consensus on what they would like to see from NRW’s commercial activity in the next five years and we have taken this on board in our strategic approach:
- A growing need for planet and people to be weighted as equally as profit.
- Creation of a more business and customer friendly approach and more agile governance procedures.
- Pro-active not reactive culture.
- An emphasis on creating an ‘international’ Wales to encourage investment and improve the visitor economy.
- A more considered approach to place-based needs, requirements and opportunities.
So, as the context in which we operate changes and industry and external markets evolve, so too will this plan, considering the evidence base and by actively listening to our colleagues and our wider stakeholders.
As this strategy was being developed, Wales and the rest of the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The ultimate impact of this disease on the economy is still yet to be fully determined. NRW is committed to working smarter so that we can engage and contribute to the Welsh economy and focus on a green and just recovery. We also need to ensure that we are building resilience in our offering and markets, so that we can mitigate against future stresses to the economy.
Cost of living crisis and market pressures
Every household and business in Britain have been hit with increased costs as we come out of the pandemic. This is easily visible at the shop front, in food price increases, petrol prices and of course energy supply bills and supplier failures. But these pressures go way back in the supply chain of nearly every product and impacts service delivery prices and driven skills markets. Therefore, sustainable commercial models, with an emphasis on local circular and local supply chains are so important, giving business and households more options for supply routes and market penetration.
The UK’s exit from the European Union is likely to present both challenges and opportunities for commercial development in Wales. At the time of writing, it is still not clear how it will impact the services that NRW provides. It is possible that we will not know the full impact for several years. We believe that the best response is to continue with our core business and to not hold back on new developments or partnerships. NRW believes this to be a positive message for Wales and its businesses, many of whom in some industries are heavily dependent on the local supply chain. We will continue to monitor the situation and will continue to take guidance from the UK and Welsh Governments on the issue.
The context for commercial activity in NRW
Vision and values
Our vision and values are at the heart of who we are as an organisation and how we deliver our objectives. They outline what is important to us and the standards we live by.
Our vision is Nature and People thriving together.
Our mission is to focus our collective action towards:
- Nature’s recovery
- Resilience to climate change
- Minimising pollution through the sustainable management of our natural resources (SMNR).
We are privileged to serve the people of Wales with the following values:
- Connected: we value our deep-rooted attachment to the land and water, nature and communities of Wales and build meaningful partnerships
- Bold: we use our voice, take action to make a difference and lead by example
- Resourceful: we explore alternative ways of working, innovate to accelerate change, and use our resources effectively
- Caring: we listen to understand, care for each other and the communities we serve
Our well-being objectives
NRW has also recently simplified our Wellbeing Objectives.
By 2030 in Wales, we aim to ensure:
- Nature is recovering
- Communities are resilient to climate change
- Pollution is minimised
More details about all these and they fit together can be found in our Corporate Plan (add links)
NRW has a very diverse and wide remit of responsibilities. Our commercial activity must work alongside these responsibilities, complementing and supporting our overall objectives and working in partnership across the organisation.
Our different roles can be described as:
Adviser: principal adviser to Welsh Government, and adviser to industry and the wider public and voluntary sector, and communicator about issues relating to the environment and its natural resources
Regulator: protecting people and the environment including marine, forest and waste industries, and prosecuting those who breach the regulations that we are responsible for
Designator: for Sites of Special Scientific Interest – areas of particular value for their wildlife or geology, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), and National Parks, as well as declaring National Nature Reserves
Responder: to some 9,000 reported environmental incidents a year as a Category 1 emergency responder
Statutory consultee: to some 9,000 planning applications a year
Manager/Operator: managing seven per cent of Wales’ land area including woodlands, National Nature Reserves, water and flood defences, and operating our visitor centres, recreation facilities, hatcheries and a laboratory
Partner, Educator and Enabler: key collaborator with the public, private and voluntary sectors, providing grant aid, and helping a wide range of people use the environment as a learning resource; acting as a catalyst for others’ work
Evidence gatherer: monitoring our environment, commissioning and undertaking research, developing our knowledge, and being a public records body
Employer: of almost 1,900 staff, as well as supporting other employment through contract work
Policy and legal framework
NRW’s core purpose is to pursue the sustainable management of natural resources and meet our statutory duties in the exercise of our functions.
All NRW commercial activities must comply with applicable UK and EU laws and regulations, Welsh Government and NRW policies and procedures, and where appropriate, voluntary regulation such as the independent certification of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate (WGWE).
As a Welsh Government Sponsored Body (WGSB), any commercial activity undertaken by NRW has to satisfy the requirements set out for public bodies in the Government’s “Classification of Public Bodies: Information and Guidance”.
Although there are a number of acts and polices that apply to govern the work at NRW there are two Wales specific Acts: The Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015) and the Environment (Wales) Act (2016) that touch on all the work undertaken within the commercial team.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public bodies in Wales to consider the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Each public body must develop a set of Well-being Objectives that are reviewed annually and published in a Well-Being Statement.
The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 aims to promote and apply the principles of Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) across Wales.
The two Acts are closely aligned, with the SMNR principles following the five ways of working set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act:
- thinking long-term
Throughout the development of this strategy NRW has been conscious of these five ways of working and each has been carefully considered when developing our overall objectives.
These two acts do not entitle NRW to carry out any commercial activity we want, only those that are within our remit as set by the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government would either need to alter the legislation or provide NRW with the necessary delegated authority if we wanted to carry out any commercial activities outside our current legal powers, provided it was within the Welsh Government’s authority to do so.
In order to carry out any commercial activity, we must accommodate and work within all NRW’s existing policies and strategies, ensuring consistency of approach and our overall contribution to the organisation’s well-being objectives.
Some of the most relevant documents are:
- Green recovery: exploring the environmental sector in Wales. A collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic that focusses on green recovery principles and collective values and priorities.
- State of natural resources report for Wales (SoNaRR):A requirement of the Environment Act (Wales)(2016), this report assesses how Wales is performing in sustainably managing its natural resources.
- Area statements: Also, a requirement of the Environment Act (Wales)(2016), these statements adopt an area focussed approach to localised needs, splitting Wales into seven delivery areas.
- Woodlands for Wales: The Welsh Government’s Strategy for Woodlands and Trees in Wales, which is refreshed every five years.
- Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition. This document sets out the Welsh Government’s energy policy and approach to delivering on a low carbon economy.
Our commercial principles
The following principles will guide how we deliver this strategy.
- NRW will give careful consideration to the right performance measures that will provide appropriate parameters for commercial activities to operate within.
- NRW will develop commercial programmes with an understanding of the markets in which they operate and engage appropriately with commercial sectors in which NRW operates and plays a significant role.
- Wherever NRW has freedom of choice (In some circumstance NRW needs to work with third parties with an existing legal or contractual interest in land managed by NRW (or an adjoining land). There may also be situations where NRW is obliged to contract work out through Welsh Government framework contracts) it will award contracts and other commercial agreements through fair and open competition or equable and transparent using criteria clearly defined evaluated, avoiding unfair competition and offering maximum benefits.
- NRW will proactively enable and facilitate opportunities and encourage competition by offering them at a range of scales where practicable, and actively encourage different delivery models where effective.
- NRW will avoid adversely impacting on business sectors through unfair competition and will work to always secure best value and timely full cost recovery.
- NRW will continue to comply with the UK’s international obligations on subsidy control post Brexit through a combination of the above measures and by seeking advice when it is unclear, to avoid breaches.
- In situations where NRW is offering a unique service, NRW will not take advantage of a lack of competition and will ensure that charges relate to a reasonable margin. NRW does not hold a monopoly on any service and welcomes competition.
- NRW will ensure effective internal governance around the development of commercial activities and continuous assessment against financial and performance measures.
- NRW will ensure accuracy and integrity in the reporting of its performance measures and financial data. Financial reporting will identify net margin, but also other key financial indicators dependent on the operating model applied. Where performance measures lead NRW to provide additional public or environmental benefit, NRW will assess the cost of doing so in order to enable consideration of cost/benefit.
- When considering investment decisions and business cases for commercial activities, NRW will take a long-term, whole-life cost approach to include revenue, staff costs, and capital values.
Our commercial vision and strategic objectives
Our commercial vision
Planet, People, Prosperity: to generate income for NRW through green, just, and sustainable commercial development, allowing us to increase our contribution to Wales’s environmental, social, economic, and cultural well-being.
Our new 3P handbook is currently being piloted within our Commercial Development Team in two ways:
- The handbook contains a list of sensible, and measurable parameters that allow us to apply these to new developments and projects
- We are retrospectively measuring against previous projects so we can ascertain a baseline and areas in the 3P orbit in which we are doing well or need to do better.
The pilot phase allows us to fully test the functionality before we publish guidance and approach in early 2024. Although this is a long pilot phase it will allow us to use the approach across all sectors in commercial and define how we will then marry them to create a single measure for determining overall progress. We will collate feedback from new stakeholders and internal applicators as the phase progresses.
A circular business model articulates the logic of how an organisation creates, delivers, and captures value to its broader range of stakeholders while minimising ecological and social costs.
NRW Commercial has a responsibility to facilitate and enable our customers, suppliers and stakeholders to work together to find this resource efficiency and help to move Welsh businesses into a more circular business model.
Businesses applying circular principles and demonstrating a strong commitment to the People, Planet and Prosperity agenda, are working across their supply chains to reduce linear business modelling and have demonstrated greater resilience in times of crisis.
These companies are:
- sourcing from the economy and not ecological reserves
- adding value to existing materials, products and services
- creating valuable inputs from businesses beyond customer
Through the formation of a Commercial Network, NRW Commercial will foster relationships across businesses between all sector areas and provide that essential enabling opportunity to encourage the circular approach.
Our commercial strategic objectives
In delivering our vision, we will focus on the following commercial strategic objectives:
- Lead the way in Wales and within the management of natural resources by embedding a measurable Planet, People and Prosperity approach (3P approach) across all our commercial activity.
- Create a strong position for NRW in commercial sectors, as a trusted brand that is open for business and a responsible commercial partner.
- Actively support Wales in its Green and just Recovery, and the generation of a Green Marketplace for Wales.
- Seek out new partnerships, products and concepts that will drive Wales forward and will bring a positive reputation for progress on the international stage.
- Diversify our commercial approach and secure maximum benefit across optimum reach.
- Use our income to re-invest in driving forward the Well-being Goals outlined in the Well-Being of Future Generations Act (2015) and NRW’s well-being objectives.
Our commercial approach and areas of focus
Our commercial approach
If we are to achieve our objectives and benefit Wales, NRW needs to ensure that we are innovative, modern, fit for purpose, and an attractive partner for those looking to invest in Wales.
There are seven sector areas within NRW that generate income or facilitate efficiencies, supporting our business to reinvest in doing more for the environment.
These sectors are:
- tourism and recreation
- other business development
We have removed Analytical Services and Procurement from this strategic paper as the development of these two areas are now being covered elsewhere in the organisation
Some of these sector areas are more established than others, and many have responsibilities that overlap or will work closely together.
This strategy links all these areas with overarching expectations, regardless of speciality.
There are also other areas of the business that generate income not situated in the commercial team such as our permissions and permits offering. These are out of direct scope of this strategy but Commercial will get involved in facilitating for example helping to set competitive rates for Filming and Events.
Our areas of focus
There are five where we want to improve, which we believe will be crucial to success.
Delivering in partnership
Delivering this strategy will require partnership-working across NRW and with external partners.
The need to address the climate and nature emergencies is the backbone of our strategic outlook. We are actively seeking partners who share our values and want to work with us to drive the green economy and our environmental agenda forward. It requires stronger networks across Wales and the sharing of best practice.
We already work with many partners such as the Welsh Government, which provide a cumulative opportunity for enabling development. But we want to do more to work collaboratively with new and existing partners to reach solutions and to share experiences on what works well. Widening our current networks and the data and information they bring will help to develop sustainable commercial activities and provide potential commercial extras that can enhance an offer and widen the benefit and impact.
In order to facilitate our partnerships, NRW Commercial pledges to abide by the following SOFT approach in all our transactions with stakeholders and customers:
Share: Sharing information inevitably leads to collaboration and innovation. So NRW Commercial will be more forthright in its sharing of information and feeding back our successes.
Open: Willing to consider and enable different approaches across our commercial development opportunities, working with stakeholders at all levels, including small and big businesses, community groups and third sector organisations.
Free: We will continue to ensure that the Welsh Government estate retains its freedom and open access for the people of Wales and will improve access to the estate to increase equity for the people of Wales
Trust: NRW will be transparent in its undertakings and be held accountable to the people of Wales when pursuing its commercial agenda.
We will develop more agile processes and governance within NRW to enable quicker delivery from concept to market while adhering to our legal obligations.
Improved routes to market are essential if we are to create a supply chain that is robust and reduces waste and carbon release. There is significant potential to create new products by building on what we already have and marketing this to either current or new markets. This is a key area for developing circular economies by using local supply chains and Wales-based operators. We have already started this by engaging in exciting developments such as the Timber Industrial Strategy and by being more proactive with our estate offers for development, increasing the scope of marketing and engagement.
We will develop greater market intelligence by fully utilising available data sets and market trends internally and externally. While the world is incredibly data-rich, the challenge is to know what is available and where and how we can harness the information suited to our requirements. Cross correlation of datasets aimed at future forecasting will improve our ability to be proactive. It is also about finding ways to better present data and market intelligence, making it easier for people to understand and to facilitate decision-making.
As part of this we have introduced the Sustainable Commercial Opportunities Group (SCOG) to our governance process, an internal group with occasional external guests that explores potential trends, new markets and data points using staff from across all sectors and expertise in the business and not just commercial.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are an essential tool for assessing both ongoing progress during developments and for establishing overall success of a project or commercial activity(ies). Picking the right KPIs for each development, ensuring that the KPI is measured correctly and standardising KPIs for cross-comparison against commercial developments in other sectors will give a really clear picture of what we are doing well, what needs to be improved and where projects are failing to hit some of our key objectives.
KPIs will also ensure we can act quickly to mitigate risk, improve efficiencies, make savings, and ensure value for money. Our chosen model for KPIs in commercial is the 3P approach. Unlike other commercial businesses that do not sit within the public sector, measuring gross profit figures, or returns on capital are not very viable approaches to determining how we are functioning as a department, given much of our commercial benefit is focussed on the ‘on-the-ground’ delivery benefits. That is why 3P is so important which is all about the wider benefits of commercial on the estate.
We will explore alternative funding models and new contractual mechanisms that will offer more diversity and resilience across our estate and encourage new partners to engage with NRW and widen the ability for smaller groups to get involved in commercial opportunities. Over the first two years of the contract, we have successfully renegotiated contracts providing better value for NRW and the contracted partner than has traditionally happened in the past. We are also looking at how we procure commercial development by exploring more negotiated procurement processes that will drive benefits through discussion and expectation management.
If NRW is to offer sustainable returns like other leading companies, it will need to consistently innovate and think creatively. New technologies, materials and service delivery models will be essential in supporting initiatives to tackle the climate and nature emergencies, especially in the development of an improved circular economy.
An innovative mindset will encourage business growth in Wales and stimulate the attractiveness of working in partnership with NRW. It will also achieve a wider ambition to draw the natural resources sector together to identify common issues and find operational solutions.
Cross-fertilisation of technology and ideas will be important to success. For example, technology with an intended use in one sector can be transferred to a new sector with a new use. Exploring other sector technologies can enhance and create commercial opportunity or offer a direct improvement.
In innovating, we will manage risks rather than avoid them. While some commercial developments can fail to deliver on expectations, this shouldn’t deter us from considering a new technology or idea if we are aware of the risk and can manage it effectively.
We will aim to measure success against the three pillars of ‘Planet, People and Prosperity’, which will require us to innovate in this area.
We will support start-ups and investors, using our commercial arm to encourage and advise new business and to inspire new products and services to help grow the green economy.
The commercial portfolio is already diverse covering timber, energy and analytical services. However, there is scope to diversify further into tourism and recreation, arts and culture.
In some cases, these new markets might be small and bring in small financial returns initially. However, the returns for people, for the planet and the contribution towards local economic growth could be far greater.
It is vital that we grow responsibly with projects that will offer sustainable benefits that support multiple outcomes.
Attaching special interest products and services with tangible future growth potential, to a core offering, can help attract investors and developers. It offers a unique selling point, the opportunity for additional benefits and profits that competitors may not have and in some cases, can reduce the overall risk of a development.
Positioning NRW as a commercially viable delivery partner is incredibly important. Potential partners need to see NRW not only as a public sector body or a natural resources regulator but as a commercial operator that is a champion for responsible development.
These are the sectors of immediate interest to us, accompanied by some case-studies of some recent successes in these areas.
Energy: Green and Cost-Effective Future
NRW’s energy programme had been designed in response to the Welsh Government’s energy policy and targets including the aspirations that 70% of Wales’ electricity is generated by renewables by 2030, and all new energy projects in Wales to have an element of local ownership from 2020 Up to now NRW has been very successful in encouraging developers and investors to come to Wales and invest in onshore wind and energy projects on the WGWE contributing to this ambition. In autumn 2022, the Welsh Government announced their own state-owned onshore wind energy developer body which will impact how NRW delivers its energy services. We fully support the Welsh Governments desire to maximise the benefit of such an investment for the people and the economy of Wales.
We have all been impacted in recent months by the rising cost of energising our homes and businesses, which has emphasised the need for energy delivery to be as resilient, diverse, and sustainable as possible, whilst managing consumption needs. We simply cannot mitigate the rise in global temperatures if we continue to depend on fossil fuels and at NRW we remain committed to zero emission, job and skills creating technology.
But we must prioritise what we can deliver where and when to ensure maximum impact as early as possible; there are things we must do now so we can do more later. This does mean that our resources capacity in energy delivery is focussed on projects that will deliver the greatest returns in the fastest time available to us. We can’t do everything now, but we will do everything as soon as we can. These are difficult decisions as we receive so many excellent proposals, but we must prioritise.
We outlined in V1.1 that we would undertake an assessment of potential future scale and location of wind energy development opportunities and we did this with a delivery partner ARUP in 2021. This work helped the Welsh Government with their own exploration into their state-owned developer body, narrowing the time needed between concept and delivery.
We also promised to develop clear decision-making procedures and have since started by creating the Sustainable Commercial Opportunities Group (SCOG) which gives greater oversight to NRW staff on potential developers and will form part of the 3P handbook approach.
- Work with Welsh Government and their developer body to identify preferred delivery models for energy projects and remove barriers to these models
- Create a developer guidebook which outlines our governance procedures and explains why we do certain things at certain times, managing expectations and making it clearer how the process works for developers and members of the public.
- Look for more local partnerships and community developments to facilitate local ownership in the energy sector.
- Offer our services in an advisory capacity to other landowners that are looking to facilitate renewable energy developments on their land.
Pen-y-Cymoedd Wind Farm, delivered by Vattenfall UK Ltd, is situated in the Afan Forest Park between Neath and Merthyr Tydfil and showcases the range of SMNR benefits brought to Wales by renewable energy.
The wind farm consists of 76 wind turbines, each 145m in height, that can generate 228 MW of electricity at maximum capacity. This means that it can provide power to around 188,000 homes and will displace the equivalent of 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuels over the lifetime of the project.
The project generates significant rental income to the Welsh Government.
In addition, the project has set up a £50million community benefit fund which is actively supporting local community initiatives and includes a £3million habitat management plan that is delivering large-scale peatland restoration.
Timber: a new approach
NRW is responsible for the sale of timber from the Welsh Government Woodland Estate.
NRW currently offers an available timber harvest of around 800,000m3 per annum, approximately two-thirds of the total Welsh market, generating a typical gross income of approximately £30-£35million.
Current timber sales range from 15m3 to 15000m3 per tender, including small firewood parcels.
The timber on the estate consists of Spruce (60%) and Larch (25%) and a mixture of other species in the remainder, but this can vary dramatically across areas of Wales.
Because trees take around 60 years to grow to maturity for market, NRW can provide a production forecast that allows us to establish what will be available for market over the long-term. However, NRW cannot predict how prosperous that market will be year on year.
However, over the last two years the team have been working hard to explore and determine alternative ways of offering timber to market – which would not only increase our customer base and diversify the product offering on the estate but may also allow us to account for market fluctuations to offer better prediction of income and hence budget parameters. This work has had to feed into our compliance and governance procedures, and we will be going live with some pilot sites on the new approaches in 2023.
The team are also involved in supply chain considerations such as active participation in looking at the timber industrial strategy, social value products for timber and new management practices.
There has also been extensive work done on the agility of our sales process, and our compliance team have recently conducted a full review of our timber sales governance standards to test where we are creating inefficiencies, duplication or unnecessary paperwork and adding governance and protections where they may be considered weaker than needed.
- Continue to develop the Alternative Timber Sales approaches and governance structures.
- Look to expand our sales process and increase market availability of timber product.
- Continue to improve our ICT processes and procedures for slicker and more agile processes.
- Apply the 3P Handbook when considering alternative approaches to the selling of timber on the woodland estate.
- Work with interest groups and facilitate stronger and diverse circular supply chains, such as Welsh wood in Welsh product lines.
A new timber valuation tool has been developed by NRW to ensure a reliable, consistent, data-orientated approach to timber sales, across the NRW estate.
This tool assesses working costs, crop product, crop prices across species and accounts for differences in timber quality. Additional consideration is given to the location, to the nearest supply chain, and size of timber parcels.
Included in every valuation document is a narrative explaining how the tool was used, ensuring transparency in our approach and demonstrating we are achieving best value for money on our timber sale transactions.
The approach is also fairer to our suppliers and helps to maintain a reasonable level of competition in the marketplace; each sale can attract over 25 customers bidding against each other for each timber sale.
Another advantage is that this bottom-up budgeting approach to our timber valuations allows for just-in-time valuation adjustments to respond to an often volatile market palace, ensuring that we attain the current market value for timber, and giving NRW confidence and assurance if we decide not to award a sale because the bids are not attractive.
Whilst we will avoid selling at any price, we do recognise the importance of a consistent supply chain of timber to the wood processing industry in Wales, and our commitment to offer and supply timber from the WGWE benefits the Welsh Government’s ambition to promote and sustain a vibrant circular economy in Wales.
Tourism and recreation: the place to be
Around 10-12% of the workforce in Wales is employed in tourism and recreation enterprises. These jobs are not only located in large towns, but also rural areas, providing essential local employment and revenue. The Tourism and Recreation Sector is easily impacted by many of the current issues facing us; during the pandemic many sector businesses were closed, and now as the cost-of-living crisis reduces households expendable income visitor numbers can drop at the same time as service and supply expenses increase. NRW is committed to providing support to businesses that are essential to immersing people in the environment and the well-being benefits this brings.
Many of the locations that NRW manages make a significant contribution to Wales’ tourism and recreation offer, for both visitors and those living in Wales, Our sites offer captivating walks and hikes, adrenaline-fuelled adventures on world-beating mountain bike trails, adventure playgrounds, wild swimming, and the offer of exploring Wales’ inspiring heritage and culture. NRW is keen to ensure that we grow our recreation offering; that we offer more choice, more experiences and more developments that provide something to suit every taste. We will do so while avoiding the pitfalls of over-tourism and negative impacts to the climate and nature emergencies.
Multiple studies have shown that access to the outdoors brings significant benefits to both physical and mental well-being. But many of these studies have also shown that there is an increasing disconnect between children and nature, therefore increasing access for all to green spaces offers well-being and social benefits as well as tourism benefits.
Concerns about ‘over-tourism’ and the pressure that puts on communities and the environment must be taken into careful consideration in developing tourism opportunities and looking at investment opportunities to spread engagement across the whole of Wales is a vital part of that solution.
We want to be more innovative and data-driven in our approach to the work we do in this sector, taking care not to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to recreation. Instead, we must carefully consider the type of activity and developments that suit our sites and accept that change is not required at every site we manage.
- Work with colleagues to develop a new and comprehensive Recreation Strategy for the estate. This will utilise market analysis of the tourism and recreation sector in Wales over the next five to 25 years to help assess investment possibilities, visitor and demand profiles and promote Wales. Some of this business intelligence will already sit with local partners such as Visit Wales and National Trust
- Work proactively with visitor centres to ensure they offer excellent customer experience and are places for frequent visits both for locals and touring visitors. A comprehensive Visitor Centre Transformation Strategy will be developed; alongside the Recreation Strategy to ensure they are delivering for the people that use them but also offer excellent value for money for the public purse, making what they already do well even better.
- Implement carbon mitigation plans for recreation events on the land we manage
- Promote sustainable travel and the staycation economy
- Look at connecting sites and liaising with landlords in between sites for longer and safer hikes and cycle routes avoiding roads and seeing more of the Welsh landscape
- Look at how we can facilitate staying and considerate camping on the WGWE.
- Explore ways of interacting with NRW sites through technology for an immersive and modern experience. This includes internal needs such as paperless trail inspections processes.
Culture: a burgeoning market opportunity
NRW places significant importance on protecting and promoting our culture. Wales is blessed with a diverse arts, music, literature and heritage sector supported by its own language that gives the people of Wales a sense of belonging and identity.
Creative businesses generate over £2billion of annual turnover and employ around 50,000 people. Levels of attendance and participation or volunteering at cultural events in Wales is high, at around 80% and 40% respectively. There is sound infrastructure in place and heritage sites often offer cultural activities in both Welsh and English. However, many of these sites are concentrated in South Wales and unsurprisingly round key transport hubs. This accessibility offers key opportunities to attract visitors to Wales and to encourage local participation.
Although NRW’s remit focusses on land management, we know that culture empowers and contributes to several well-being goals. NRW wants to use the sites we manage as a facilitator and enabler to promote and grow that culture.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has hit this sector hard and left many independent artists and culture activities vulnerable, with the closure of theatre, music and film sets, disrupted material supplies and commission cancellations. We are also yet to know exactly what opportunities will be available considering the UK’s departure from the EU.
NRW Commercial has started to identify several possible developments that could mitigate some of issues. One year ago, our approach would probably have been very different but over the last year we have been working hard on exploring opportunities, looking not only at what is needed, and how NRW can contribute and various models of delivery, but also how we can do all this post Brexit and post Covid19.
NRWs contribution to culture aims to develop our vision to being ‘unmistakably Wales’ and our mainly outdoor locations are ripe for a post-Covid world where some restrictions may still apply.
We will do this through:
- The redevelopment of the NRW filming permissions process. The review will ensure the rates are market competitive and fit for purpose and explore ways to market our locations to the industry
- Developing outdoor spaces on our estate for work, learning, rest and play
- Offering pop-Up gallery space at recreation centres and tea rooms
- Developing three new medium-sized annual culture partnerships/events to be held across our sites
- Exploring the development of an arts space either as part of a current, or for a future visitor centre with a focus on local and visiting artists and practitioners
- Using artists and practitioners to support on NRW initiatives across all services whether helping to develop walks, marketing materials, education initiatives or events in general
- Offer an NRW ‘artist in residence scheme’
Business development: growth
Although there are areas of commercial activity that can be clearly defined by specific portfolio areas, NRW also undertakes a number of commercial activities that either do not fit succinctly into these portfolios, or do not sit directly with the commercial team but are activities carried out in other areas of the business.
This kind of commercial development currently includes, but isn’t limited to, filming rights and permissions, permits for activities on our land, mineral mining and the green marketplace.
This strategy is also focussed on growth and resilience and ensuring that we develop the right opportunities for different areas of Wales, driving overall socio-economic benefits and promoting innovation. Therefore, we expect our business development growth to be increasingly varied in the future.
It is difficult to be clear what are plans are over the next five years, other than to emphasise the need to be quick to react to markets, but we have outlined some areas of immediate interest.
- Working in close partnership and encouraging green technology companies and start-ups
- Land development opportunities, including purchasing and divestment.
- Land purchase options for carbon capture and pension investment funds
- Diversification of green products available from the estate Environment education and training.
Implementation and governance
The overarching aim of this strategy is to clearly set out the principles and overarching ambitions that the commercial team will deliver.
It is a blueprint that sets out how ambitious we will be in our quest for a more business-like, commercial culture across the organisation. Only by encouraging innovative and creative solutions to the challenges we face now can we achieve that ambition and make a strong contribution to tackling the nature and climate emergencies for future generations.
The NRW commercial team acknowledges that there is a lot of work to be done if we are to be more effective in our commercial approach. Our implementation plan builds on our existing strengths but also addresses the areas we need to develop.
As well as continuing to deliver on its current projects and its business as usual activities in 20/21, the team will need to work towards creating a commercial framework focussed on growth and sustainability.
We will develop a comprehensive commercial communications and marketing plan supported by more detailed portfolio focussed communications plans, such as the five-year Timber Sales and Marketing Plan.
The plan will outline how the commercial team will apply the SOFT principles to increase engagement and awareness both with internal and external stakeholders and interested parties. This will include NRW commercial participation at trade shows, public events (where possible) and will work to showcase the commercial opportunities to both local, UK and international communities.
Integral to this strategy is the communication of the message that NRW Commercial is ‘Open for Business’, and that we are actively looking for new potential partners and industries.
We will create a clear roadmap for potential partners on how to navigate NRW policies and procedures and the governance and compliance checks we must do. This will help to set expectations on what we can or cannot deliver.
A real-time performance dashboard will ensure effective monitoring of the delivery plan and enhance the ongoing scrutiny of the commercial activity(ies).
NRW is a large, dynamic organisation so it is essential that the Commercial Strategy continues to fit succinctly with other areas of the organisation, avoiding contradiction, confusion or cross purpose.
NRW Commercial is overseen by the Head of Sustainable Commercial Development, who reports to the Director of Communications, Customer and Commercial. The Head of Sustainable Commercial Development is supported by the Commercial Business Group (CAG), which includes senior staff from multiple departments including Land Stewardship, Evidence, Policy and Permitting (EPP), Finance and Legal Services.
Through the Commercial Business Group, we will connect regularly with other linked work streams and feed these into the Strategy and our Delivery Plan as required.
- the implementation of NRW’s 2050 vision
- the development of a NRW green market
- NRW place-based area statements