IMPORTANT accreditations for environmental, systems and supply chain management have been won by a charity that retrains veterans as tree specialists and land-based workers – less than a year after it was set up.

The Green Task Force, part of the Plant a Tree Today (PATT) Foundation, has become certified as Construction Line ‘Gold’, and achieved ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001, together with SSIP, SMAS and PAS 91.

The green initiative, which has already some 50 veterans on its books, was established in November 2020 by Andrew Steel, whose business model retrains ex-forces and ex-blue light personnel as arboriculturists to carry out tree planting and other environmental works.

Dr Steel served as an engineer in the Royal Navy. He said: “Even the Queen’s current tree surgeons in the UK do not have ISO accreditations – but they are important to us as a start-up organisation that offers the public sector and its private sector partners a means of delivering the Government’s commitments to reforest Britain while also boosting the fight for mental health.

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“Having our way of operating recognised by auditors shows local authorities, water companies, construction businesses and government agencies that they should have confidence in our systems and approach which will match or exceed their needs.

“This will not only open doors for us, it will provide jobs for veterans and blue light services personnel who are on their way back after experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and it will provide the expertise we need to run large-scale, professional planting programmes in any terrain around the UK.”

The Green Task Force is currently operating in Yorkshire, the North East of England, south Wales, Merseyside and Scotland. It is especially engaged with the Northern Forest.

Dr Steel has had many expressions of interest in his organisation’s method, including Rivers Trusts, construction firms, water companies, the Environment Agency, local authorities and Wildlife Trusts.

His team are able to conduct a large range of services in environmental management, including: woodland management, tree surgery, excavations, specialist nurseries for growing trees, and managing of large planting programmes. They are able to divert flood plains and work with dams, drains and dykes.

Dr Steel added: “Some 14,000 people leave the armed forces alone every year, many suffering from some form of mental health issue. Such people are still well suited to working in the land-based sector. We re-train them and provide nature-based therapy as well as employment that helps to re-build their lives. It’s a model where everybody wins.”

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