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From the Industry: Giving in to Green Peer Pressure? Should be both a want and a need…

November 10, 2022

Businesses are increasingly under pressure to create space to review, analyse and improve their energy resources plus their energy waste, and this is no different in the furniture industry. Whilst it has been difficult for a majority of business to make this a priority, the subject matter is gaining importance in business’ agendas, as there is significantly more emphasis on the economic, environmental and social reasons for taking this seriously.

Where does one start when it comes to improving operational practices related to the usage and waste of energy, so as to be more in line with the expectations of the wider ESG (Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance) framework?

With regards to every subject related to becoming ‘greener’, I shall repeat that the crux of the matter initially lies with top management, and even more so when it comes to energy consumption & the waste management of energy.

A structured review and analysis is required to start off with, and creating the headspace and staff time for this is imperative, as it is a very detailed area; it requires research, development and improvement that will take months, if not, years.

The encouraging aspect of all of this is that while the younger generations are highlighting the need for manufacturers to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ through protests, the older generations, who are in top management are starting to listen, understand and as a result deciding to take action.

The first step is developing the company policy and the company culture so that it offers awareness, inspires change and motivates action. And then organises the minds behind
operations to ask the question “What can we really do to become more energy efficient?”

Yes, the furniture industry is not the most energy intensive sector, however there are many areas in our factories that we can look to improve:
– machinery
– compressors
– lighting
– heating
– office equipment

How much energy and natural resources do these areas consume, where are they sourced from, and what is the waste that is produced?

Better management of the resource and its waste, when it comes to air, water, electricity, gas and solid matters is possible and worthwhile to focus on, not only for environmental reasons but also for economic reasons – especially in the long run.

With the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra in mind, it does not have to be a daunting task; we can initially come up with simpler ways of making change within our factories, ie

Water – we can start using machinery that recycles water

Electricity – we can look into using LED lighting and solar panelling

Gas – we can consider insulating better to lessen the gas needed for heating the factory

Solid Waste – we can set up systems to reuse some of the solid waste in different ways

These are simpler areas to start off with to make changes in, and once a manufacturer starts on a simpler level, then the drive to get deeper into it and find more layered solutions to the matter will increase; ultimately, the persons leading on this will also start to get excited by how they can approach the subject more creatively.

An example of a multi layered solution is the use of a PVD machine, which not only lessens the amount of precious metals being mined, it also recycles water, uses less manpower and uses low amounts of energy to deliver results. Solutions such as this, that kill many birds with one stone are definitely what make the journey more exhilarating.

In many cases the time, energy and financial investment required to make changes do not have an obvious financial benefit to the company, however with clients in the  hospitality, cruise & workplace sectors expecting a serious approach to ESG and some governments charging a levy, what is left but to become passionate about doing the right thing?

Jade Ilke
in collaboration with Parla