Too busy to get involved in trustmark? as The story of the British Association of Landscape Industries shows, trade bodies and their members may already be some way to achieving trustmark status without even realising it

It's one thing dealing with professional commercial clients; quite another with one-off clients from the domestic market - as the British Association of Landscape Industries knows only too well. In the commercial environment, membership of BALI is often necessary for the landscape and grounds maintenance contractors who want to tender for work in the public sector. But informing the domestic market of the benefits of using a BALI member has been a much more difficult for the association. Few, if any, trade bodies have the sort of promotional budget needed to reach the domestic consumer nationwide.

Gardeners’ world: not all gardens are finished to this standard, but now BALI is a member of TrustMark its members will become better known to the public

Gardeners’ world: not all gardens are finished to this standard, but now BALI is a member of TrustMark its members will become better known to the public

"Redoing your house and garden has become a lot more attractive," says Sandra Loton-Jones, chief executive of BALI. "The public's awareness has been raised, largely by the media, and they are investing in their gardens. And because people are spending more money on their gardens, they are expecting a range of expertise and skills and something that will last."

The quality issue was already challenging BALI's leadership when the National Specialist Contractors' Council (NSCC), of which BALI is a member, was approached by the government to become involved in the working group that was setting up the TrustMark scheme. All members of this group were asked to submit recommended criteria that any tradesperson or company wishing to become a TrustMark-registered operator would have to meet.

BALI submitted its own criteria which it already used to vet applicants for membership of the association. These were:

1. Contractors must have traded for a minimum of two years and be willing to submit their business and its operations to the association's vetting procedure. This involves the association's technical officers visiting a number of sites landscaped or maintained by the company, obtaining references from clients and businesses and validating the organisation's insurances, technical skills, training and business practices.

2. If the company makes it through the initial vetting, in addition to its statutory, environmental and community responsibilities, the company must sign up to the BALI code of conduct, which requires that:

  • The organisation will ensure everything it undertakes will enhance public and professional confidence in the services provided by members of the association;
  • The organisation accepts full responsibility for the actions of its staff and subcontractors;
  • The standing of the industry will be upheld by the organisation and it will strive to contribute to the level of knowledge in the association;
  • The organisation will only perform those services that are within its areas of competence and its staff will be fully trained, well supervised and operate in line with current standards of good practice;
  • Adequate insurance cover is maintained for all normal risks.
3. Contractors agree to the quality of their work, trading practices and customer satisfaction being monitored and that they will submit to a full revetting at least every five years.

Gardeners’ world: not all gardens are finished to this standard, but now BALI is a member of TrustMark its members will become better known to the public

BALI's membership criteria helped to shape the qualifying route of entry to the TrustMark scheme, but to receive its licence from TrustMark, the association had to improve its standards in two key areas.

BALI now ensures that the quality standards review of TrustMark-approved organisations are carried out every three years, rather than every five. And customers are now given the opportunity to buy a warranty from BALI that protects them by ensuring that if a member firm goes out of business before completing a job, another TrustMark member will come in to complete the job as originally contracted.

"As a trade association we are very aware of industry standards and the beauty of TrustMark is that it ensures these standards exist and are recognised for contractors operating in the domestic area," says Loton-Jones.

Now that TrustMark has been officially launched, all of BALI's full contracting members are now eligible for TrustMark status - and the association is a step closer to changing the perception of the landscaping industry, from one of an industry blighted by rogue traders to that of a professional industry with exemplary standards of service delivery. 

Check card

Skills training and health and safety

BALI operates the Registration of Landscape Operatives (ROLO) card scheme. The ROLO card shows that the holder has undertaken and passed a stringent health and safety course designed specifically for the landscaping industry and also covering the essential elements of the CSCS card’s health and safety requirement. The ROLO card also records all industry-specific qualifications held, such as national proficiency training council certificates in pesticide application, chainsaw operation, forklift operation and so on; NVQs in amenity horticulture; and first aid qualifications.

The BALI/BSI Landscape Contractors and Designers Business Management Standard

BALI, in consultation with the British Standards Institute, has helped develop a management standard that not only covers best business management practice, as in ISO 9000 (2004), but also incorporates best landscaping practice. BALI is also represented on the Highways
Agency advisory committee, which was set up to develop a sector scheme for the environment, landscape and ecology. Following months of detailed discussions, draft six of the document is currently out for consultation.