Like all companies we are constantly aware of the difficulties the world is facing in relation to climate change and the amount of energy we use is something that we consistently look to address. At the same time, there is often a feeling of being unable to really contribute significantly and almost being forced into accepting a certain way of working that is inherently damaging. We therefore thought it might be worth writing a blog about the things we’ve tried and are striving to do, in order to see if anyone had any further ideas about how we could continue to improve our environmental performance.
The first, and most obvious, suggestion in this discussion is to chose the right suppliers. When purchasing energy it is now possible to purchase 100% renewable electricity – even if it is a little bit more expensive it is still something that every company should now be striving towards. Selecting these options drives demand for more renewable energy which will increase the investment that goes into replacing polluting fossil fuel plants with newer, renewable methods of energy generation. It will be a slow process, but without this demand, nothing will be done. Capitalism is undoubtedly one of the most powerful forces for change ever devised and hundreds of thousands of customers stating their preference in this way will have a huge impact.
Likewise with other suppliers, it is possible to see how they work and how they choose to setup their own environmental policies. Companies such as Microsoft have been very vocal about their efforts to not only reduce their carbon emissions to zero but also to take back all the carbon emissions they’ve ever released through carbon capture schemes. Not all companies have the luxury of a budget big enough to enable this type of thinking but there are always ways that we can improve. Looking for companies, whether it be shipping companies, component suppliers or otherwise who are actively working towards this can have a key impact on your wider impact through the supply chain.
This may sound rather dull but proper planning can significantly reduce the environmental impact of a company through reducing the requirement for environmentally negative shipping such as air freight or couriers. One large parcel shipped in a timely manner via sea and road will have a much lower carbon footprint than 10 parcels from the US, China, Europe and elsewhere all coming in at the last minute. Proper planning works.
The primary driver for lean manufacturing principles has been saving money. However, there is often a happy correlation between saving money and saving energy. As with proper planning of orders, so too with lean methods. Are certain pieces of equipment being used inefficiently (for example left on all day when only in use half the day)? Could batch runs on certain machines reduce the on time for a particular machine rather than leaving it running continuously inline? There are a wide number of ways in which efficiencies can be gained in this area and they will also save money in the long run.
A major focus was placed on supply chains in the Covid-19 pandemic with many, previously reliable, supply chains coming under immense pressure and ultimately failing. In part, some of this was caused by the length of these supply chains. Components that are being used in the UK may be being shipped from China to the US to Europe to the UK through numerous methods. Problems at any of these points then leads to major delays and potential complete collapses. The recent example of the Suez canal showed just how vulnerable these supply chains can be once again.
In this case there is both a solid business argument and an environmental argument for looking to shorten supply chains wherever possible. The longer the supply chain, the more vulnerable it is to potential disruption and the likelier it is to have a higher environmental impact.
This is a slightly more controversial one but recruiting staff closer to the site of their work can also improve the company’s carbon footprint. Equally encouraging them to walk in (if possible) or cycle or use public transport will also have a positive impact. The recent rise in those who work from home has had a significant impact on energy use via
This is a particularly tricky one. Like a lot of companies we currently rent our premises and therefore have little say on how they are insulated. However, certain landlords are much more open to making changes to buildings than you might think as they have a broader outlook on the issues that we’re all facing.
One area that is increasingly being looked at is the role that replacing or upgrading old equipment can play in increasing energy efficiency. Many older pieces of equipment were designed with performance in mind but energy efficiency lower in priority. However, increasingly this trend is being reversed with energy efficiency now a major factor in design. This is often the start of many design projects we receive with inefficient options such as brushed DC motors being replaced with more efficient brushless DC options.
In conclusion, it’s easy to see how big of a challenge this is for all of us. However it’s also easy to see how a wide number of small changes can all add up to a significant improvement on the way in which people work. It’s important to remember how quickly these measures can all add up. For one company to make these changes may seem insignificant but, if thousands of companies look to make these changes, then a significant net impact is achieved. We’re always open to new ideas or suggestions on how to improve in this area so if you have any suggestions or ideas you think may help then please get in touch.