Make sustainability your business pledge for 2015
05 January 2015
James Clark, group commercial director of The Airdri Group, outlines the importance of addressing sustainability at the product design stage.
2015 promises to be a milestone for sustainability with the launch of the United Nations' new sustainable development goals (SDGs) in New York from 25 to 27 September 2015, which will help shape the future of sustainable economic development.
But businesses shouldn’t simply be waiting to comply with binding international agreements. Change must be driven from the inside of organisations. In the run up to and after the General Election, UK businesses have an important stake in encouraging the government to establish ambitious policies that create the right incentives for companies to shift to low carbon business methods and models.
There are growing calls for change in the way that the UK manages its resources, with a clear consensus that materials will become more scarce and therefore should be used for as long as possible. The rise of the circular economy concept whereby products should be reused rather than being treated as waste - ending the ‘take, make, dispose’ approach - is reshaping the debate on sustainability. As manufacturers we have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to creating a greener environment by placing sustainability at the heart of product development.
So what steps can businesses take to make sure their product design approach puts sustainability first? At Airdri, we ensure the following factors are addressed when developing and designing our hand dryer range:
Product longevity - This should be built carefully into product design. When companies are investing in new products, reliability is essential. This not only reduces running costs and increases ROI for product rental companies but it also keeps the number of products sent to landfill to a minimum.
Carbon impact - The greatest opportunities for cutting energy, waste water and carbon impacts come at the design stage. Airdri believes it has a corporate responsibility to establish environmentally friendly processes so this is a central part of our product development programme. The reduction of material and energy consumption is built into our on-going research and development and new product design.
End user accessibility – A product that isn’t built to meet the needs of multiple end users won’t survive in the market long term. Every decision made during the design cycle of a product has the potential to include or exclude customers. Looking at the washroom sector as an example, all too often the end user is intimidated by the loud noise emitted from dryers or excluded from entering the washroom because poor product design and physical placement limits their ability to navigate the washroom. Sustainable products should be accessible to everyone – those using wheelchairs, adults, children, the elderly, the partially sighted and the hard of hearing alike.
Energy efficiency – The European Council has endorsed a 27% energy savings target, to be reviewed in 2020. Machinery should be built to be energy efficient. This can generate significant energy savings for user organisations, whilst reducing environmental impact. The use of energy-efficient components, such as motors or converters, also saves energy.
Continuous improvement - As technologies and societal expectation continue to develop, so sustainable products must also be continuously improved addressing social, legislative and environmental factors. Airdri is continuously researching these factors as part of its on-going product development programme.