Our story – Ecus’s history and the people involved

Ecus is entering an exciting new chapter, as we become part of Cura Terrae*, a new environmental service group. New investment, new colleagues, and huge growth means that Ecus has come a long way since its inception as an applied consultancy service developed at the University of Sheffield back in 1986.

Ecus Communications Team
Written by:

Ecus Communications Team

March 22, 2022

After 36 years leading the way in delivering a diverse range of environmental services, we thought we’d take a look back over our history, the people responsible for our success, and celebrate how we got to where we are.

Ecus’s story as a full-time business starts with Chris Routh. Chris was born and bred in Leeds and studied Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester.  He quickly moved into managing a consultancy service at the University of Essex and established a reputation as somebody who saw the link between academic research and how it could be marketable in industry.

In 1989, he was approached by the University of Sheffield to discuss the establishment of a similar consultancy using academics from the Departments of Animal & Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture (Drs Bryan Wheeler, Alan Baker, Trevor Elkington and Prof. Anne Beer amongst many).  These research academics wanted Chris’s support and guidance in undertaking commercial work linked to their research, especially as at that time research funding was becoming increasingly difficult to come by, and working with external industry was easier to manage as a commercial contracts.  So, in 1990, Chris became Manager, the first full-time member of staff at the Environmental Consultancy University of Sheffield (ECUS), establishing offices within the Department of Landscape Architecture in Sheffield’s iconic Arts Tower, working alongside a part-time Landscape Architect.  ECUS’s business model was based upon matching the expertise of academic staff within the University to solve the environmental problems of industry and business.  This team-building model flourished and ECUS won prestigious government contracts and contributed to writing significant national environmental guidelines (see links below).


Environmental Consultancy

As ECUS’s innovative business model flourished, their staff complement increased, and the Arts Tower quickly become too small for their expanding team.  In 1994, they moved to offices at Endcliffe Holt on Fulwood Road, Sheffield, and the premises were opened by Tom Burke, then Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Growth continued, and in 2000 ECUS span out from the University of Sheffield and became Ecus Ltd, with John Phillips, a local business development expert, becoming Director, and Chris becoming Managing Director. In the same year, ECUS played a key role in the University winning the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize focusing on integrated environmental outreach to industry and government.

By 2007, Ecus employed 22 professional staff and implemented a management buy-out.  Again, they outgrew their premises and in 2009 relocated to Blackburn Road in Sheffield but paid homage to their previous home by naming it Brook Holt.

Environmental Consultancy UOS

After 21 years at Ecus, Chris left in 2011 to work as an environmental consultant on international mining projects, leaving a successful legacy of a company that grew from just two employees to a business with an annual turnover of £1.3 million.  Chris has fond memories of establishing and building ECUS; knowing the right people for the job, pulling together brilliant teams from numerous departments across the University of Sheffield,  developing high value project bids and a network of experts across the globe to work on some unique and exciting projects.  These ranged from restoring metal mine sites and peatlands, to undertaking environmental impact assessments and auditing university laboratories in China.  For a period in the 1990s, ECUS even had an office in Santiago in Chile to service the metal mine and smelting industry.


Chris is now happily retired and indulging in his favourite past time of bird watching and contributing to the national bird-ringing scheme – still as passionate about wildlife and environmental research.

Historical publications

The reclamation and management of metalliferous mining sites

Restoration of damaged peatlands (pgs 3 & 4)

ECUS brochure 1

ECUS brochure 2

ECUS brochure 3

Ecus brochure 4

ECUS featured in University of Sheffield newsletter

Ecus featured in Queen’s Anniversary Prize Publication


*Ecus is part of Cura Terrae – a group of market-leading environmental service companies. Read more about Cura Terrae.