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Going Green?

20 May 2009

Easy to say but difficult to achieve, becoming a ‘sustainable organisation’ takes commitment, time and vision. Jane Fenwick examines some organisations who can demonstrate that they live the theory in their practice.

CAN ‘SUSTAINABILITY’ SURVIVE THE CURRENT RECESSION? Are environmental initiatives too complex and expensive? Is building a low carbon economy a realistic objective for the UK? The answer to these questions and many more is that organisations cannot afford to forego their ‘green agenda’.

Sustainainability stopped being an ‘nice to have add-on’ some years ago and those organisations that realised this are now well placed to thrive through and after the end of the current economic difficulties. Government has recognised that businesses have a vital role to play against climate change.

According to Minister for Energy & Climate Change Mike O’Brien; “ It is businesses who will be developing products to enable individuals to live low carbon lifestyles. It will be business who will make real reductions in carbon emissions through their manufacturing process and through their supply chains. And it will be businesses that will reap the rewards and create job opportunities, through more efficient, sustainable
products and through taking advantage of this emerging market.”

Organisations that are already taking sustainability seriously did their ‘thinking’ some years ago. Many have appointed senior managers with ‘sustainability’ in their title and often they have a voice on, or very near, the Board. Increasingly corporates are realising that long-term shareholder value depends their reputation, brand and market presence by integrating sustainability throughout their operations.

Organisations that can already call themselves ‘sustainable’ have set their targets and progressed along the road that takes full account of social, environmental and ethical responsibilities as well as economic factors in the way their operate. In the FM sector this also means designing,building, maintaining and operating a new generation of structures that have a minimal carbon footprint, and supporting their customers to develop and achieve their sustainability ambitions. According to the UK Green Building Council, lighting and heating of buildings generates 50 per cent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions, placing the FM community in a leading role as this selection shows.

Living case study
Behaving responsibly towards the environment is more than just a policy at furniture maker, Herman Miller. it is an attitude that has permeated every part of its business since 1953 when its founder, D J De Pree stated: “We will be a good corporate neighbout by being a good steward of the environment.”

A move from the Herman Miller International HQ and manufacturing facility in Bath presented an opportunity to build a living case study in Chippenham. Called Village Green, the Gensler designed building achieved BREEAM Excellent, and LEED Gold awards, one of only few buildings to gain both. It makes full use of natural ventilation and light, using 40 percent less energy than that the Bath building despite housing more people. The internal open plan workplace provides a living case study for its furniture in a range of work settings. It is to show its diverse range of customers how Herman Miller staff now work in 40 percent less space than a decade ago but more effectively and more economically in a global business environment. A video conference suite helps minimise travel, an electronic ordering system minimises paper and space and the open plan layout and strong branding througout has maximised collaboration and productivity. Village Green provides an inspiring place to work as well as standing testament to Herman Miller’s real commitment to a greener, better world.

Integrating solutions
MITIE strongly believes that navigting the green agenda in an integrated way is a growing concern for companies. With the plethora of environmental legislation facing today’s organisations, many may find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the information out there. In going green, it is not simply good enough to implement ‘any old’ initiative with the aim of ‘appearing green’. With so many potential routes to go down from your own wind turbine, to ground source heating and zero-waste strategies, companies can potentiallyinvest large amounts of money into being sustainable. But by applying intelligent thinking
and adopting a joined up approach to your environmental challenges, you can streamline policies and procedures, whilst still maintaining the core values of resource minimisation and environmental protection, thus saving you money.

Some companies assume that the initial costs of green initiatives are too great or the implementation too complicated. For example, with the installation of a wind turbine, there’s the initial research into its feasibility and design choices before the turbine can be erected. Once erected there are also the electrical installations that need to be considered before the final commissioning can then take place. The whole process can be time consuming and end up involving a number of parties and agents.

Many clients are looking for integrated solutions to help them meet green targets. Sainsbury’s has recently developed a partnership with MITIE to help reduce its carbon footprint and cut energy bills. Through understanding their needs and assessing energy requirements, wind turbines have been installed at their Dartmouth store as part of a pilot scheme, one of three groundbreaking stores, which are piloting new
ways to reduce the retailer’s carbon footprint and cut energy bills, with the ultimate aim of a rollout across its 800 outlets across the UK. The wind turbines could to save the company up to a third of its energy bills as well as making a striking addition to the store entrance. By having one company implement the scheme from feasibility stages through to completion meant the project could be managed efficiently and cost effectively.

Thirsty for change
Mars Drinks, makers and suppliers of hot drinks and vending machines, has addressed sustainability issues across its business. In 2007 it launched ‘Thirsty for Change’, a sustainability commitment which set a number goals to be attained by 2010. Daniel Vennard, Sustainability and Corporoate Affairs Director at Mars Drinks explained, “Customers are setting targets for their sustainability goals, and accounts can be won and lost on whether suppliers can achieve these targets. But to do it well, you need to have a
strategy for the business and make be part of the company ethos. Everything we do is driven by five principles – quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.” These translate into producing improvements for the workplace vending:

● Reducing energy used by its vending machines by 12.5 percent. Its new Flavia C400 is 14 percent more efficient than rival bean-to-cup machines, and offers power saving mode for overnight and weekends. By insulating the boiler and closely monitoring energy, the Klix vending machines are 51 percent more efficient than its rivals when idling and 12.5 percent when not.
● Halving waste associated with vending. Mars Drinks is a founder member of the Savacup scheme and last year launched Nviro Cup, a paper cup lined with a corn based material which enables the cups to be composted or incinerated in a waste to energy scheme now available in major cities. Mars is working with the industry to find ways of recycling plastic lined cups. Packaging for its Flavia sachets has been made
thinner to just 0.1 mm thick.
● Source drinks from certified sources. The three top Flavia brands are certified by the Rain Forest Alliance and the coffee has been reformulated to include 30 percent from Free Trade producers. Mars Drinks also works directly with selected cooperatives in Malawi and Kenya in a scheme called Brighter Tommorow at Origin which help the farmers improve the quality of their product to command a higher price for their yield, and to fund for a range of community and environmental projects within the co-operatives.
● Production waste. The UK factory has reduced waste to landfill by 53 percent and waste drinks
powders are now used for animal feed rather than sent to landfill.

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