Asa McGillian, the head of composite door maker Apeer, says that the implementation of sustainability strategies throughout the business has brought significant and measurable benefits
With soaring energy bills continuing to dominate news headlines and editorials, homeowners are turning their attention to the energy performance of windows and doors once again. With many homeowners previously paying more attention to aesthetics than energy efficiency, thermal performance is now likely to come under much closer scrutiny than for many years.
The marketing-led retail window and door industry is likely to respond quickly, with ‘U’ values and especially the ‘rainbow’ charts of Window Energy Ratings, gaining new prominence in showrooms and on websites. Including our own retailers of course, who will be delighted with the ‘A’ rating that all Apeer doors offer, achieved through the solid foam core and coated, triple glazed cassettes, where fitted.
However, whilst our products have been ‘A’ rated for some time, rather than being a knee jerk reaction to the new emphasis on energy efficiency, we believe that a focus not just on the performance of our products but our whole organisation, is far more important. Whilst our collective efforts are far more difficult to communicate, the efficiencies that we seek and apply throughout our organisation, bring rewards to everyone in the route to the ultimate customers for our products, in terms of reduced energy and environmental impact of course; but also, in the inherent efficiencies that the introduction of sustainable strategies bring with them.
Like many organisations I suspect, we began with a series of individual processes that have built into what is now a clear and identifiable strategy under the all-encompassing concept of ‘sustainability’. Our instinctive dislike of waste has resulted in a 93% reduction in the amount of non-recyclable packaging materials for example, whilst the processes by which we fill the cores of all Apeer doors with PU foam have been improved to reduce overfill and therefore waste of that material. The spin-off of the improvements in these two practices alone, has reduced manufacturing costs and also sped up the production time for each unit.
The energy efficiency of our production and logistical processes, from glass toughening ovens to delivery vehicles, is continuously evaluated, with existing equipment improved where possible and with a close eye on energy efficiency when we replace and renew. Heating 120,000 feet2 of factory space, especially here in the gusty, often inclement weather of our region, is becoming a particularly heavy burden with efficiencies in the heating system now a priority.
However, the benefits of seeking out and applying ‘sustainable’ practices throughout our business have far wider implications than cost savings and energy efficiency, as important as these are.
Strengthening our brands
As a business we invest a great deal of money and effort on marketing. As such, we have come to recognise the importance of our brands being associated with environmentally conscious practices by consumers, especially as younger buyers move up the purchasing ladder.
With millennials now increasingly driving trends, each generation on is increasingly aware of the sustainability of the products and services in which they invest. A new video that we are about to launch addresses the sustainability of our brands precisely for that reason.
Meeting the demands of consumers
Research increasingly confirms that the majority of consumers (66%, according to Neilsen) are prepared to spend more money on products that have strong sustainability credentials, a figure that I believe might have increased significantly following recent events.
By definition, the implementation of sustainability strategies will result in efficiencies, even if that was not the intended outcome. Collectively, we believe that the sustainable measures that we have implemented in our production facilities, for example, have resulted in increases in output of around 65% during the past three years, despite that not being the intended outcome. These include energy efficiency, waste reduction, improved tolerances, recirculated water, heat exchangers and other measures.
Attitude of Mind
Somewhat more difficult to measure but important nonetheless, is what I believe to be a significantly improved attitude throughout the workforce and at every level. Staff have an improved outlook when they believe that the purpose is not merely to make money but to improve conditions for their workplace, for their community and therefore, for themselves.
The existence of an ongoing commitment to sustainability is also beginning to make itself felt during recruitment, with younger applicants increasingly asking about the company’s carbon footprint and policies, for example.
Like many SMEs, the pursuit of sustainability may have been begun somewhat piecemeal at first. But now everything that we do, is closely examined for the impact our business has way beyond our factory gates.