S2E19 - Andy Middleton, Founder and Chief Exploration Officer of TYF Group - Part2

Andy Middleton is the founder of TYF group, adventure pioneers, committed to using the power of play and learning in wild places to reconnect people to each other, our environment, and the shift needed to re-balance wellbeing.

TYF’s mission is to help people fall so deeply in love with nature that it changes the way they live every day. In addition to supporting the TYF team, my role is to inspire and enable leaders to deliver radical and transformational innovation to help solve carbon, biodiversity, resource and wellbeing challenges.


  • Advice on how to find your purpose
  • TYF’s journey into environmental management
  • How to encourage schools to be more environmental
  • Teaching kids in schools and having an impacting on parents behaviour
  • Andy’s strong believe in multi-generation collaborations
  • Andy’s passion in educating others

Useful link:

TYF Group


Intro: (00:08)

Welcome back to the Green Element Podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host Will Richardson and I can’t wait to meet our guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability.

Will: (00:28)

We’re absolutely seeing that already. We’re saying, I mean the fact that I’m running an Environmental Management Consultancy living just North of Edinburgh and we’re based predominantly in London. Connie says it all. I go to London one said every month, sometimes longer, and I’ll go down by train in the morning and sometimes I can get on the train in the evening and come back up again. And that says it all. And I think that we’re seeing a shift in London of people moving out and moving to different parts of the UK because they don’t need to necessarily live in London anymore. And it’s brilliant because it’s just pulling everything.

Andy: (01:05)

And there’s a friend last night and there’s a whole bunch of restaurant professionals who camp on where the beaches are couple miles from here and they camp here last 15 years. Two of them are hot desking at TYF yesterday, you know this, but the daytime doing serious environmental corporate law stuff, but then at 5 o’clock they are in the ocean.

Will: (01:28)


Andy: (01:29)

10 plus five they’re playing with the kids or whatever else they’re doing. And I think it just shows that we haven’t all got it permanently confined we can find by the walls of kind of corporate. Definitely. That’s really encouraging. Yeah. For some babies away from some of that, the normalization of the kind of corporate world, I think it’s, they bring richness and ideas to the communities that they’re based in was around such trends or around whatever else is, and I think that brings to light the micronutrients that allow communities to thrive.

Will: (01:57)

If you could offer one piece of advice to my listeners, which could help them with that purpose, what do you reckon that would be?

Andy: (02:03)

I think it’s, one of the things that we used to talk about was the, whenever we’re working with businesses is that we’re not capable of building or creating anything that we can’t imagine. And that in a world where so much success as measured to protect the fragility of our egos, we too many people have been encouraged to not dream big. And therefore if you don’t drink big, you reduce the risk of, of not succeeding and you protect yourself from failure and a bunch of other things. But you also stop yourself doing things that are truly remarkable. So I think that to spend a bit of time thinking about in it, what would you do if you knew for certain that you couldn’t fail? What’s the change you’d set out to make? And this, the longer you spend thinking that through and the clearer you get on it, the more likely it is to happen because you haven’t got a clear dream about what your own heart wants to say. You can’t ask other people for help. And I think clearer and more compelling and true at that dream is the more likely as other people I will go, Hey, well how can I help you?

Andy: (03:08)

But if your dream is a Buxton incremental improvement in something, just wants to just carry on and do your day job. Yeah. So I think, yeah, I think so. Really, really listening to the heart and my wife Sarah talks about when you’re doing that and then listening to what a heart wants, notice where you feel that in your body. When you talk about already bold dream, where do you feel it? Which part of your body does it make tingle? Listen, notice what we’re saying kind of deep down when we think those things through and the world clearly needs bold change. I’ve no doubt that we’re capable of making it and the biggest barrier in many ways as people believe in that. That is so for, so for anyone starting a business or changing direction on knowing that they might need to do more, invest time by yourself and invest time with other people.

Andy: (03:56)

Thinking if we knew that we had green lights all the way, if we knew we couldn’t fail, what is it that I would set out to do with this true and precious life of mine?

Will: (04:06)

That’s probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard. That’s brilliant. Can you tell us a bit about, um, how you approach environments and management? Um, carbon footprint saying within TYF. So like I guess just understanding, um, how you look at the sustainability and environmental managements.

Andy: (04:27)

Sure. So I guess the journey, our first kind of proper dive into some of that stuff. But you know, when we, when we switched our hotel and in fact our entire, we switched out hotel towards organic and it was a really expensive process because of course in a hotel it’s organic everything now, and this was like 15 years ago, probably everything had to be organic.

Will: (04:50)

It’s hard to find, hard to find more expensive to buy. And there’s a whole lot of kind of governance stuff about checking is organic or it’s, it looks organic. And so, you know, in that process we went through an audit, our entire venture though tons shipped it in [inaudible] organic, et cetera. And so one of the ways that we approach is trying to is to buy products and businesses that there’ll be really trust who we know are doing as good as they can be in the space that they’re in. So TYF is the second oldest Patagonia retailer in the UK, like 30 years. And you know, I trust Patagonia to do the work that they do and the way that they say that they do. And as we were talking about earlier, buying from businesses like buying from B-Corp is where we know that there’s a process.

Andy: (05:38)

So in terms of the way we spend our money on products and services, we tried to do that. We work with our suppliers. So there’s one of our car manufacturers is a company called Palm and we help them think through the process of making plastic in a making Cox out of recycled plastic. Half the Cox and I right now are made out of recovered plastics and stuff, which doesn’t solve the problem, but it becomes more of a talking point when you’re taking people on the ocean and seeing plastics and saying, Hey, we shouldn’t be making these boats, but if you didn’t have waste plastic, et cetera. And there are some areas of products that we still use, which are really bad environmentally, bouyant seeds that we use for car King’s ducks are made up of foams that are pretty hard to work with.

Andy: (06:19)

So, so, so purchasing, purchasing becomes, is hard in some areas with better than others. But what we tried to do in terms of environmental management is give as much ownership of that as we can to our customers. So when you’re talking about the way that we use kits in the outdoors, it’s saying use it gently, use it fully and use it, but use it gently so that you’ve done damage it in a careless way. Cause that shortens the life. And if you, shortens its life, clearly it increases the impact. So there’s a story to be told about, you know, one of the reasons for not dragging your surfboard across the beaches, you don’t damage a surfboard, but you also want to leave a trail of microplastics on the beach where you’ve just taken your board. Yeah. Having connection to between their behavior and kind of outcomes that are much bigger than them.

Andy: (07:06)

And then I can own that on the, on the side around on energy and stuff. Like years, we were, you know, we used to offset, we used to offset our carbon going way, way back with future foresters as they were then in the first business, the worst to offset. And has since shifted. We have not, we have our own. So we do all of our heating 100% of our heating and the businesses on biomass and on a feed-in-tariff, if we have, we have a solar pusher, we have so solar installation at the office, which doesn’t produce all of our energy. We talk that up with, you know, with green tariff, with green electricity and you know, the, the, we have a concession that provides, that does a food concession that they are, they’ve got really high governance standards and to reach out through them. So, you know, I would say that we’re probably in some areas like an a B Corp score.

Will: (07:52)

We’re really high on environmental bits cause we’ve been working on that for a long time. Um, I still want to see more about how we use the data that we collected to inform and educate others. Yeah. Well visible that what we’re doing. And, um, and I’m really keen that particularly in terms of the B Corp space that would be, we connect up businesses for argument’s sake, like finished air judging own baby TYF or retailers, um, like B to C retailers to have conversations about how we can communicate and work those sort of things through different things. We’ll have many of the same kinds of challenges,

Will: (08:25)

um, surf time well. Yeah. Cause we’re doing that. We’re now helping them with their environmental reporting across everything. I mean they are really trying to go one step further with, with reporting down to their plastic, um, kind of hangers. They want to know exactly what it is that they are producing. And by doing that they’re going to know what to reduce.

Andy: (08:51)

Yeah, yeah. They’re not a BCorp yet are they? But working with them, they might as well be to be honest with you.

Will: (09:00)

And they’re certainly doing. They’re certainly doing some, some great stuff in that, in that area. For sure. So I think in terms of our, in terms of impact, um, we are, you know, I think I’m pretty proud of what we’re, I guess in terms of where we were at, I kind of described some days in compared to our competitors, like nine out of 10 but compared to where I’d love us to be, we’ve probably still only on three.

Will: (09:23)


Andy: (09:27)

Well I don’t, I guess it’s high standards, I think. And it’s kind of going actually know, I don’t know what that looks like yet, but if we got it right then, then I think there’s so much more that we’d be doing about how we, how we tell the story of managing our environment in a more sustainable way to customers particularly so that they can, they can change things. So, and to give a sense of that light. St David’s, as I mentioned, is a tiny city, but we are assaulted and we’ve just put on a set, we’ve just felt, we just put in a submission to WWF’s One planet cities change, right? But actions are taken at the broad idea that we put together with a bunch of businesses. And the council is to start building St Davids as a sanctuary city, right? People please come for safety, for, to grow and to learn and to change now whilst having a good time doing what they’re doing.

Andy: (10:15)

And, and in doing that, even though the population of city is tiny, we get something like half a million business that comes through some Davids, every single one of which touches at least one business and St David’s. So if we can tell a story about our environmental impacts, as a city, those visitors in a different way that makes them want to engage, then hopefully we can create some capacity for their own behaviour, change shifts. That’s really good. And in terms of your experience, and where are you finding that the businesses you work with have had the biggest aha moments in terms of their shift on environmental performance?

Will: (10:51)

I think it’s the cultural shifts. What they’re starting to see is everyone they’re employing, um, wants to work for an organization that is sustainable and particularly the younger generations. But I wouldn’t necessarily put it only on the younger generations to be honest with you. I think that that going the minute they start to be go, actually let’s put an environment management program in place. I think they’re all quite surprised. Oh wow. That person in IT, that person in HR, actually everyone across the whole organization wants to be involved and wants to have a part of it and they suddenly all ones have a say in it and they go, brilliant, this is amazing. And the bigger organizations, you know, the likes of Grant Thornton have had massive amounts of savings financially by doing it. But I mean there, then they would actually a really interesting company because they’re an accountancy firm.

Will: (11:45)

They signed up to the SBTI very quickly because they saw the benefit of it and went, actually, we now have been doing environmental management for seven years with these guys and we took them through Science Based Targets Initiative because they saw the benefit of globally reporting on it. And as accountants, they got it quite quickly. But I think there is a massive cultural shift within the organizations that we’re seeing. I remember being with a large advertising agency about 12 years ago and saying to them, Oh, you’re going to save this much money, because that was the conversation that I initially always had with organizations because I knew that was what would get them over the line. I didn’t care what it was. I just wanted something to be more green and the CEO, and it was MNC Saatchi actually, and she turned around and went, we’re not doing this to save money. We’re doing this because we absolutely care about the environment and I was properly put in my place, but it was a great properly put in my place. You know? It’s actually nice to be told off. It was suddenly like that’s the first time that’s happened to me. And then it’s happened ever since. And actually from that moment I changed my language in my initial meetings and it wasn’t all about saving money then because I, you could see that actually things weren’t about only that.

Andy: (13:07)

And I think that, I think that because I think there’s in that process of change, I think the often the absence of the language that allows people to describe just what you said in itself can be a barrial and in some ways saying to people, you need to do this because it’s the right thing to do. And it is a safe grownup way to do that, makes it possible for people to buy different products. Whereas in the past it’s almost like, you know, it took me ages to ask senior people in government to say, look, I’m happy to meet you in wherever or you could stick your walking, stick your walking boots in the back of your car and come down some dangers. But once you start offering it saying, well what? So I could go walking for three hours with my dog was talking business and they’re gonna go, I’ll be there tomorrow.

Will: (13:53)

I think they having the car, it’s about like kind of coming back to the, what would you ask for? What we would ask for is that businesses would do that just cause it’s the right thing to do and it’s one of those, our job is to offer that to people and saying you could do this just because it’s the right thing to do. And in some ways people almost like me to hear that bit and go, of course you’re right. It is the right thing to do. Can you do it for me? You go, yes, that’s what we do. Yeah. I think it’s really interesting and I think for me, I guess coming back, we touched earlier on about some of the works that you’re starting to do around around sort of preparing some potential tool packs to go into schools. We brought in filled the binder and others and again I think the idea of giving next generation change agents familiar schools around around EMS type stuff so that why wouldn’t you in effect create that EMS package for every school in the country?

Will: (14:44)

Yeah. We give away our carbon reporting tool to kids as well. Trying to get schools to learn how to understand their environmental footprint because by putting it all together and understanding everything that they’re doing within the school helps them understand how to reduce and what they’re producing, I guess.

Andy: (15:03)

Okay. So it says that it’s just a, is an idea of development. Question. Okay. So how many, if you had a beat, a decent size secondary school of like a thousand or 1500 kids and he wants to put together an in school EMS team, how many kids would you suggest or working on it together to have a reasonable chance of doing a valid, a valid piece of work?

Will: (15:23)

See I don’t have kids that go to school, so therefore I’m assuming it’s roughly 30 kids per class. Um, you could have one kid per year and have subgroups within that year from a child, from each class and then that would work. And then a teacher from each department because I think that would be really interesting cause the geography department would be different. So what the biology department, which would be different to the English department and because there’d be different personalities within there as well. And you’d have such a melting pot, there would be more kids than teachers, which would be, I think a really positive thing because you’d actually want it to be, and it goes back to what you were talking about before, you’d want it to be driven by children because they’ve got no inhibitions. They’ve got no baggage that they’re taking with them. They will come up with ideas that will be great ideas. They may not necessarily be realistic, but they’re not going to have any, Oh, we can’t do that because of this. And I think it’d be really possible to do that. 

Andy: (16:28)

I love the idea of giving a, a formal kind of EMS framework as they kind of the cornerstone of the work they do about reducing the school’s impact or reducing negative impact to maximize and positive impact. So they’ve got a real data and something that actually would be recognized by the council in terms of the stuff they’re working on. And so some of the things that we’ve been talking to the head teachers about are getting kids, for instance, to audit this, all of the plastic that comes across their school gates and the day, count it? What is it? Itemize it. And at one level just come up with a creative solution and stop everything being there but work out how could you make it less bad if that was the case. We teach them to become those kids to problem solve because that’s, that’s where the fun stuff is.

Will: (17:11)

You’re making me think now because, um, we’re just about to launch an online course of how to be more environmental. So an organization can go through the course and we’re literally writing it with a consultant. We’ve already written the PowerPoint presentation and the notes and she’s converting it into a online teachable platform. But we could then, once we’ve done that, we could actually easily just convert that into a, I’m teaching coursing. I would be very happy to give that, I guess to give it away or even just to very low cost to schools so they can just take it and then run with that. And they’ve liked it. Like you’ve just said, they’ve got a pack of what it is that they can do.

Andy: (17:50)

now today I think and particularly older kids getting them to do the, getting them to do it on some of their parents’ businesses. Yeah, it can be quite fun. I love, I love the idea of that and I think yeah it could be okay. It’s I think once it coming back to Alice Stemming on standing and saying I could run to anywhere that I can see on land. If kids are that confidence cause they know they’ve wrestled with the date certain on the uncertain stuff and just on a bit more familiarity with what those are, the languages about change, then they could impact parents behaviour in a huge way. Yeah, and I think for me this idea of multi generations collaborating about how you change the place that you live is it has to be such a rich and important area because actually people do.

Andy: (18:38)

I think more or less people have some care, the place they live in, more so out big cities, but even in cities where you rest your head is your home. Yeah. Work out together to make those places more resilience and more thriving by making different decisions it can becomes become super exciting. And coming right back to the start point that all of that is a kind of like there’s a an engineering stroke accounting solutions that when that’s coupled with our understanding about how to get into nature and enjoy it and absorb it. So this said that you’re, the anchoring of why you’re making that change happen is at a soul level. You connects to the things that matter and support you and that gets really exciting.

Will: (19:22)

This is the longest podcast I’ve ever done. Brilliant. I’ve got one last question for you. What’s one piece of advice you could offer our listeners 

Andy: (19:33)

An extra piece of advice. Okay, so this is on top of taking time to think. What you to do if you couldn’t fail is to think about, imagine yourself in 10 years time and imagine that self in 10 years time advising you today what to do, bearing in mind what you already know in your heart and you had to be the right thing to do and what would the older, wiser you tell you to do today with the hindsight of 10 years and do that today.

Will: (20:03)

I’m going to try that myself and write it down afterwards. Thank you so much.

Will: (20:09)

No, absolutely pleasure speaking. I mean so much of a so much for me to learn. So much to do and the the opportunity of of scaling stuff up I guess through multiple ways but through, you know, particularly work through goals and education is, is that that gets me really excited because there’s an energy there of freshness that can make change and we shouldn’t make some of these things happen together and maybe down the line and get some of those. How about here’s a goal for the service. We get some of this happening in schools. Yeah. For like really in a really exciting transformational way. And then you do a podcast for the kids who made it happen.

Will: (20:43)

Yeah. All right. Okay. That’d be cool. Cool. He’s still in your area as I am. Awesome point,

Andy: (20:48)

Bro. Okay, brilliant. So good to talk and we’ll catch up soon.

Will: (20:57)

Cheers. Right.

Outro: (21:00)

Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of The Green Element Podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues and rate and review this podcast, whatever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation? What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too at GE underscore podcast, the links and show notes for this episode. Visit our website, Green Element dot co.uk for slash podcast. Thank you again. I hope you’ll join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world. 


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