Sustainability savings

07 March 2013

Gone are the days when environmentally-sound products and solutions were more expensive than less "green"alternatives. In fact companies can now make a saving by being more sustainable explains Tork Manufacturer SCA

Gone are the days when environmentally-sound products and solutions were more expensive than less "green"alternatives. In fact companies can now make a saving by being more sustainable explains Tork Manufacturer SCA

At one time, products labelled "environmentally-friendly"or "ethical" tended to come with a substantial price tag.

Free range eggs, ethically-produced foods and "natural"detergents were all expected to cost more than traditional alternatives. In some cases they were not even expected to be as good - "green" detergents, for example,were often made up of less aggressive formulations which meant they were potentially less effective.

However,we were all so keen to be "green" that we were prepared to overlook any such deficiencies.

However, increasing customer demand for sustainable solutions has led to greater investment which has, in turn, led to products and systems that work just as well as traditional alternatives - if not better. For example, today's recycled paper products are of a much higher quality than could ever have been achieved in the early days of recycling.

At the same time, the concept of environmentally-friendliness has now been replaced by "sustainability" - and this has changed the whole profile of environmentally-sound companies.

A sustainable business needs to be competitive in order to survive, and an increasing number of companies are discovering that cost savings can actually go hand in hand with sustainability.

One way in which a company can become more sustainable is by reducing waste, which of course also keeps down costs. For example, a company that reuses its wastewater and turns bi-products into fuel will help to conserve water and energy while improving its bottom line.

If a company reduces unnecessary journeys, too, it will again benefit both the environment and the budget. Chemical manufacturers, for example, are increasingly producing more concentrated products to avoid clogging the roads with lorries loaded with large containers filled mostly with water.

We at SCA are constantly developing sustainable systems that are also designed to reduce over-consumption and waste.Tork Elevation washroom dispensers, for example, are long-lasting and durable so that they will not need replacing for many years.And since they are made from recyclable plastic they have a lower environmental footprint.

At point of use Tork Elevation dispensers are designed to give out only one hand towel, napkin, shot of soap or sheet of toilet tissue at a time.The fact that consumption is controlled means that environmental performance is improved since resources are reduced; waste is kept to a minimum, and fewer product packs are required per customer which results in fewer pallets, fewer lorries and lower costs.

The space inside Tork Elevation dispensers has been reduced to make them as compact as possible and the amount of plastic used to pack them has been kept to a minimum.As a result, more dispensers will fit on to a pallet which means fewer lorry journeys are required and energy is reduced throughout the supply chain.

Looking at the bigger picture, there are plenty of other examples of how sustainability and cost savings can go hand in hand. For example, in 2003 SCA invested in a bio-boiler and sludge combustion unit at its Lilla Edet tissue mill in Sweden.

The unit takes sludge from recycled paper de-inking operations and turns it into steam.The heat and steam from combustion provides a cost-effective method of powering the mill while the surplus is used for district heating in the Lilla Edet community -where 70 per cent of the energy used is now renewable energy.

Another example of our long-term sustainability investments can be found in the forests of central Sweden where SCA is building a wind power park in conjunction with Norwegian power producer Statkraft. When fully operational the plant will produce around 2.4 terawatt hours of electricity.

SCA is also constantly striving to reduce its freshwater intake by cleaning and re-using process water, which combines care for the environment with a potential reduction in water consumption costs.

So companies can indeed save money - and pass those cost savings on to customers - by being sustainable.

It is those companies who manage to get the balance right who will go on to survive and prosper well into the future.