It’s not easy being green

While all eyes remain fixed on where Covid and Brexit will take the industry next, Mick Evans, operations director at Lakes Showering Spaces, is urging KBB designers and retailers to ensure sustainability remains a top priority

When I look back on 2020, I will almost certainly remember it as the year the world came to a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic. I will also remember it as the year people finally began to recognise the impact we have on our planet and vowed to do something about it. 

Scientific evidence proves that we are fast approaching the point of no return when it comes to climate change. The global temperature is rising and if it goes beyond 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the impact is likely to be severe, widespread and irreversible.

If you haven’t already considered how to make your business or operation more environmentally friendly, I urge you to start drawing up achievable plans for change.

Everything must be considered with a view towards its long-term sustainability and this needs to happen at every step in the supply chain of our industry – from the products we make, to the way they are packaged, how they are used and what happens to them at the end of their life cycle. 

Regulating for change

As hosts for COP26 – the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow in November – the spotlight is firmly on the environmental performance of the UK, its people and its industries. The Government is not taking its duties as host lightly and recently unveiled ambitious plans to deliver a Green Industrial Revolution, coupled with equally ambitious targets. 

While the Government’s 10-point strategy has few points that explicitly apply to the KBB industry, the way the strategy is interpreted actually gives plenty of scope to implement changes.

For example, one of the key points in the Green Revolution plan relates to carbon capture to remove more than 10Mt of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the next 10 years. More investment, research and development will be required before carbon capture is commonplace in our supply chains, but what we can do as an industry is take steps to significantly reduce our carbon emissions as much as we can.

Switching to renewable sources of power, for example, by installing solar panels on your premises’ roof to generate clean (and free!) electricity. We are looking forward to developing our plans for solar energy in 2021.

We also work with Carbon Footprint Ltd, to offset the carbon emissions we create through our everyday operations. In 2019, we offset more tonnes of CO2 than our UK operations generated by investing in a number of projects, including those to protect the Amazon rainforest and tree-planting schemes in the UK and Kenya.

If you haven’t already considered how to make your business or operation more environmentally friendly, I urge you to start drawing up achievable plans for change

Another of the key points of the Government’s green plan is to accelerate the shift to zero-emission vehicles. We have plans in place to move to an all-electric vehicle fleet. I believe that eventually, sustainability will be the norm, not the exception to the rule, so its best to start making changes today or risk being left behind.

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The legal obligation to be more sustainable doesn’t just stop with the Green Industrial Revolution strategy and we all need to prepare ourselves for what’s coming. Originally tabled in 2019, the Government’s first Environmental Bill was shelved due to the 2019 election but it was reintroduced in 2020 and, if passed into legislation, it will impact us all.

The Environmental Bill 2019-2021 will introduce targets for four key areas including resource efficiency and waste reduction. The Bill’s Resource and Waste strategy mentions the roll-out of initiatives such as a tax on plastic packaging that uses less than 30% recycled plastic, minimum requirements to encourage resource-efficient design, and the introduction of the ‘polluter pays’ principle – where a manufacturer takes responsibility for the full costs of disposing of their packaging.

Packaging is a key environmental battleground for the UK and the world. Researchers estimate that up to 12 million tonnes of plastic rubbish ends up in the oceans every year. The UK’s packaging industry is the largest consumer of plastic and single-use plastic makes up a large percentage of ocean pollution.

We recently looked at the impact our packaging had on the environment and decided we needed to do better. Last year, we became one of the first company’s in the KBB industry to introduce 100% recyclable packaging and so have prevented approximately 2,000 kilometres of banding and nearly two million pieces of polystyrene a year from going to landfill. 

I firmly believe the time has come for us as an industry to stand up and be counted. We have talked the talk for years, but unless we start putting those words into action, we will not win the fight against climate change.

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