Name: Justin Ott
Company: GreenAir Cars
Position: Managing Director
The subject of climate change has grabbed headlines in recent weeks following on from the VW scandal. There are clear links between vehicle emissions and cost of human health with a recent report from World Health Organisation showing that the EU spends over £1 trillion a year on healthcare services linked to poor air quality. Businesses have been increasingly keen to show their green credentials, oil companies like British Petroleum have adverts promoting clean energy alternatives and Air France sponsored the 2015 climate change summit in Paris, but there is one transport company director who has gone the extra mile to create a business around the principle of cutting vehicle emissions to improve air quality for all.
Justin Ott is the co-founder and managing director of GreenAir Cars, an airport chauffeur company based in Stansted and Cambridge that has a fleet of hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles.
Justin says: “We started GreenAir Cars for two main reasons; to give businesses a green option when it comes to their transport needs and to make a real difference to air quality.”
Leaving a burgeoning career in the City to start a company in an area he felt strongly about, Justin has seen his company grow to now include major blue chip pharmaceutical companies, two airlines, several international charitable bodies and an increasing number of University spin-outs and start-ups. They work mainly B2B in East Anglia chauffeuring employees and clients to airports and destinations further afield.
Their fleet of chauffeur-driven vehicles is made up almost entirely of hybrid E-300 Mercedes or Toyota Prius vehicles and any emissions they do generate are offset by 200% through regular donations to their environmental partners, The Wildlife Trust. Specifically, their donations are used on returning Cambridgeshire’s aptly named Engine Farm to native marshland as part of the Great Fen project.
Justin said of the company’s partnership: “The fen itself acts as a carbon sink sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and locking it away. We produce regular reports for our clients so they know exactly how much carbon they’ve saved by choosing to go green.”
It may seem rare that a company has gone to such lengths to provide substance to aims, especially one that has only been in operation for a few years, but it typifies the intent of Justin to make a real difference. In setting up a business with such strong credentials, did he find any challenges?
Justin said: “The main challenges we face is recruiting suitable drivers and other staff. The matching of bringing new clients on board while having enough vehicles and drivers to support growth has been challenging and is our real barrier for growth. We are now looking at hiring from a wide range of backgrounds to support this having recently hired ex accountant and office worker to find suitable people who enjoy driving and have great customer service skills.”
GreenAir Cars has grown annually by 70% a year since 2013, so it is understandable that this would be a challenge. However, they feel there is potential to reach much more people across East Anglia as this was one of the reasons they approached Ignite was for marketing advice. Another reason they have worked with Ignite is for support with their Essex Big Business Boost competition application.
Their competition entry was ultimately successful as they were awarded £1000 prize money as placed finalists. This exposure further helped their marketing efforts.
Justin said: “We have used the prize money to increase our marketing output to help raise our profile to companies in our area. This should help to add new customers and new jobs going into 2016.”
The company aims to capitalise on these marketing efforts and their ultimate aim is for their entire fleet to run zero emission vehicles. And even though it seems to be contrary to their success, Justin would also like to encourage more companies to share journeys to help combat congestion.
As the managing director of a successful business that benefits not only the local economy but the local environment too, Justin is well placed to offer advice.
He says: “Be quick to build a team around you and get the support functions in place. Early on in the business I was trying to do everything. There’s a great network of support staff around either on contractual or permanent basis that can help support growth. Only by delegating non-essential tasks can you be free to grow the business and go out and meet customers.”
The entry that Justin ended up as a placed finalist with in the countywide Business Boost competition suggests that the model and technologies used by his company could eventually be scaled up well beyond the locality. Given his commitment to his cause and his company’s desire to remain at the head of its field with research and technology, it would be no surprise if the blue sky thinking at GreenAir Cars, really resulted in clean skies for all.