By Lorcan Mekitarian, Chair of the CHSA
Ethical and environmental sustainability is one of the most challenging issues facing businesses today. The best way forward is rarely the most obvious. Add to this the intense commercial pressures in our sector and it is easy to see why inertia can set in.
Our Roadmap to Sustainability has been designed by our members for our members. It offers a practical framework they and others in the sector can use to progress towards ethically and environmentally sustainable practices, policies and procedures, whatever their starting position.
At its core, ethical and environmental sustainability is about creating products or services that are not wasteful at any point in their lifecycle, from inception to the end of life. It means treading lightly in all areas of the business, including the social dimension. Experts from within our membership have some simple advice for organisations wanting to progress.
Begin by getting the general approach right. This means:
- Be transparent and authentic.
- Take it one step at a time. Don’t be intimidated by what might feel like a huge challenge or get hung up on perfect.
- Measure what you can. It will help you increase your accountability.
- Certification counts. It proves your commitment.
- Lead by example and persuade others in your supply chain to adopt sustainable practices.
Celebrate your successes.
The Roadmap to Sustainability has Five Pillars – Product, Packaging, Transportation, Social Value, and Corporate Environmental Impact.
To help get people started, we have identified a general approach, accompanied with some practical guidance, for each pillar.
Pillar 1: Product, as it is received, used and disposed of by the end user
Design and develop products with the following principles in mind:
- Aim for a circular economy. This includes thinking about the recapture of resources at the end of the lifecycle.
- Consider the whole lifecycle of the product at its inception. This includes responsible sourcing and resource-efficient production.
- Don’t use what you don’t need. Produce more with fewer resources.
- Re-use wherever possible.
Pillar 2: All the packaging of a product, throughout the supply chain
The ultimate goal is a minimalistic approach. Less is definitely more, both in terms of the amount of packaging used and the resources required for its production.
- Think laterally. Be clever with the design to reduce the packaging.
- Talk to your colleagues, up and down the supply chain, about over-packaging.
- Design the packaging to simplify the waste stream. Make it as easy as possible for people to get the packaging into the right stream.
- One packaging material is not better than another by definition. What matters is whether or not it can be re-used and, if not, the availability and efficiency of the recycling options. This includes making it as easy as possible to recycle.
Pillar 3: Transportation, encompassing the movement of raw materials and delivery of product to the end user
This pillar is complex so keep it simple if you are at the beginning of your sustainability journey.
- Design the product to optimise palletisation and vehicle usage to transport more in the same space.
- Where possible, swap to ‘compressed’ products. For example, the number of pallets could be reduced significantly by swapping from ready to use to concentrated formulations.
- Reduced emission transport options are preferred. This includes, for example, transitioning to electric vehicles and optimising loads and delivery routes.
- Collaborate with customers to ensure full pallets and vehicles. If they need persuading, become a thought leader. Understand their resistance and work with your suppliers to develop the well-evidenced arguments you need to overcome it.
- Develop your strategy for migrating to electric vehicles by 2030.
Pillar 4: Social values, including mental wellbeing and personal development.
Most businesses do far more than they realise in this area.
- Pause, notice everything you are doing already and celebrate it.
- Empower your team to do more. It can really boost retention, offering opportunities for personal and career development.
- Seek partners who share your ideals.
Pillar 5: Corporate environmental impact covering waste, emissions and water.
This area can feel intimidating, so start with a few basics:
- Review your waste stream. Can it be streamlined? What waste currently goes to landfill? What needs to change to reduce the volume?
- Think about the water you use. Do you collect and use rainwater? Are you using grey water, the water collected from sinks and manufacturing processes etc.
- Set annual targets for reducing your energy usage.
- Talk to your partners. Share ideas and approaches.
Complementing this practical advice is our Roadmap to Sustainability Directory. It contains a range of contacts members and others can use to develop and evolve their ethically and environmentally sustainable strategies.
In the context of escalating inflation and a highly competitive industry, focusing on ethical and environmental sustainability is complex and challenging. Our Roadmap offers a practical framework for moving forward. And remember, every step, however small, matters.
For more information, visit: www.chsa.co.uk