Seeing the wood for the trees: embracing sustainability caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 6 May 2021

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #MadeinBritainHour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 21,000 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited but most have been left in their casual Twitter style.

This week we look at embracing sustainability.

Question one: Are businesses fully embracing sustainability or instead choosing to offset their environmental footprint? Is there a difference?

Response: Fully embracing sustainability may require too much resource initially so in the short term they make take small steps into offsetting their carbon footprint, and monitoring how the business changes at each step

Made in Britain: when you say monitoring how the business changes - monitoring what?

Response: Monitoring efficiencies of new supply chains, profitability of new more sustainable and possibly more costly raw materials / resources, different processes etc

Made in Britain: Been interesting to read the articles on LinkedIn from your CEO Paul, some eye opening ones about sustainability and marketing. Over what period of time would this monitoring take place - 1yr, 5 yrs?

Response: Addmaster and parent company @Polygiene really promote the sustainability of our technology, we as a group, offer. Textile and plastic industries are particularly under pressure to declare what they are doing to be 'sustainable' and more 'ecofriendly'. 

Response: As a supplier we can support our clients in the sustainability goals of their companies and consequently their consumers.  See @polygienes work with @hiutdenim supporting their campaign to consumers - not to wash your jeans for 6 months!!

Made in Britain: I'd seen that and it is a little thing that can make a difference. How many people will follow the advice and not wash their jeans? (apart from students that is who go way beyond 6 months)

Response: Well the campaign is challenging their customers to do that and see the benefit to the jeans as well as the environment

Response: Is sustainability in reference to “ecological sustainability”. Would that be the definition for all business owners? What about sustainability towards the survival of the company and its shareholders? Could this lead to “Sustainability washing”? 

Response: I agree with your comments

Made in Britain: That's an excellent observation @NigelTPacker. The term changed from "going green" to "sustainability" didn't it? and the term sustainable means something different to different people?

Response: The word is so general that it becomes meaningless in reference to Going Green. All companies are sustainable so long as they can get raw materials, add value, and sell at a profit. This does not necessarily mean that they are green

Response: Initially it can be costly for many companies to embrace sustainability and for some the cost reductions aren't always enough to offset the initial upfront costs.

Made in Britain: Cost reductions is one part - what about the potential for increased sales due to being seen as "sustainable"? is that possible?

Response: In some industries consumers will search for more sustainable products i.e. food and household and be prepared to part with larger sums of money to support their values - is this true across all industries though?

Response: Good question - as @NigelTPacker said earlier "what does sustainable mean - eco or business survival", some B2B businesses may not be able to make the margins to survive if they have to source more sustainable products in their supply chains?

Response: I genuinely believe the majority of small businesses are working hard to improve their environmental sustainability. Will this make a difference? Not really. The problem starts at the top with the bigger corporations and more effort needs to be made there

Response: You are right...I see more evidence of small businesses working in this area...and it costs them more to do so as well. Kudos to those that do

Made in Britain: Some big corporations/businesses are seemingly moving in that way. Claiming they will be Net-zero by 20xx. Is that them becoming sustainable or just doing enough for the market to notice them?

Response: I often question the validity of making a promise that is 30 years into the future. A lot can happen in a few days or months let alone 30 years, when most of todays readers will have forgotten or will not be around. 

Response: Hopefully, we'll see that in the near future. Some claims are just infuriating, this one springs to mind: https://bbc.co.uk/news/business-51197463… They're aiming to be at least 50% recycled by 2030. That seems such a big timeframe for little results.

Response: The circular economy is not new. We were doing this as a matter of course back in the 60's and 70's. Bin men were called ash men back then, because that is mostly what they picked up. Few things were thrown away. 

Response: We are moving back to fix and reuse but that will impact the expected quality and lifespan of the products which should be good news for those investing in this area.

Made in Britain: It's fascinating going to the local 'tip' or recycling centre as its now called and seeing what people do throw away. They never did in the 60s and 70s they mended it. Now its toasters thrown away because they don't match the new paint colour.....

Response: There are projects for repair of white and brown goods but it requires business to make their products such.

Response: A bit of both I think, Customers are becoming more discerning and want the feel good factor that their product choices are 'sustainable / eco friendly / green etc' Do they know what the definitions actually are?

Response: Probably not.

Response: That I think it the question! Many see the term 'eco' or environmentally-friendly and assume that it is good for the long-term environment and sustainability of the company, etc. Unfortunately, that is what I think too

Response: I find this interesting... #Sustainability is more than the environmental footprint...think of raw materials, end of life and circular plans, low carbon footprint, manufacturing and staff policies and procedures. I am interested in what businesses are doing

Made in Britain: The staff policies and procedures is something that has moved this from the concept of "green" - the word green doesn't cover that. Is Green an out of date word?

Response: I think it has broadened in its meaning. There is much more to it than just having a recycled element in the product.

Response: Also, are businesses looking at offsetting their environmental footprint in response to market demand or to use it as a marketing tactic?

Made in Britain: So businesses can offset by "paying to plant trees" - does that make them sustainable?

Response: I would prefer them to actually use more sustainable sources and processes, and also plant trees!

Response: I agree with the dual approach!

Response: The Protool Plastics Group has actively tried to promote using recycled materials for years. Its general acceptance has only been mainstream for a few years but is picking up pace exponentially.

Made in Britain: There are many members of Made in Britain who use recycled material/plastics now.  @muggi_moments is an example along with plastic furniture and decking manufacturers

Response: We are using carbon neutral paper from Premier Paper Group with their Carbon Capture programme supporting the woodland trust. This is a very giod way of planting trees is woodland all around UK

Response: Maybe worth explaining how it works. I have worked with printers who do this and it is a great initiative.

Response: Offsetting is one element, a part of sustainability. If net zero is the target then business needs a holistic programme including process, operational and supply chain initiatives. It depends what they want to achieve, and how far they want to go

Response: There is a huge difference to all of us when we have our consumer/customer head on. And that's what will drive companies to do the right thing. Or of course, fade away into history

Response: I don't think we've seriously considered carbon offsetting, but we do take a holistic approach to sustainability, and we're very serious about maintaining a robust UK supply chain

Question two: Will consumers pay more for more sustainable products, environmentally friendly packaging etc or doesn’t/shouldn’t it cost them more?

Response: I think a lot of that relies on how much money you have. If your living from paycheck to paycheck, buying sustainable probably won't be an option. If you can spare the extra £££ then I think they'd be more willing to pay for more sustainable products.

Made in Britain: The question comes back to "is it more expensive to buy sustainable products" and also is the word "sustainable" often misused.

Response: People's good intentions don't always match their buying behaviour especially when they have to pay considerably more for such products / packaging.

Response: This will be even more apparent in the next year or so as we recover from furlough and other financial packages launched during the pandemic

Made in Britain: Its different in different sectors but I wonder how "niche" sustainable buying is.

Response: Initially the more sustainable products may be more expensive. There is a throw away culture with cheaper products and maybe we need to change the mindset of the public

Response: They should be made to pay less for these. Sustainability is not something that can be done with Tesla owners only. It needs all 7 billion of us to participate. If sustainable products aren't the cheapest option, there'll be no takers

Response: I think you will find that many on low incomes are being more sustainable. They are not buying products in the first place

Response: Following an ISO 14001 certification guidelines will help, but from talking amongst customers, particularly in the industrial side, they are very price sensitive We're fortunate that we work within a sustainable process (i.e. metals that are fully utilised) but arguable many of the worlds steel supply still comes from China who is the largest producer and exporter. And that can't be helped because a lack of support from our own steel industry which is extremely expensive

Made in Britain: Given how much steel is used in British manufacturing is this something that needs to be addressed by Gov?

Response: Definitely, and given the fact that they're boasting about new trade deals, many of which focus on service and IT, what help is that for manufacturers? More markets to trade and setup business for the manufacturing sector is what's needed

Made in Britain: If we're bringing in steel from overseas then we have the added issue of shipping costs and exchange rates to deal with?

Response: Shipping costs haven't been too bad from the far east recently I'd imagine exchange rates potentially have a big impact

Made in Britain: If we made it here then that would mitigate both factors?

Response: Paper does not cost any more! Mostly all paper and board is FSC certified as well.

Response: We have been looking at alternatives to plastic as well to try and produce as much #plasticfree printed products as possible.

Response: Yes. This has already been established over many years. People buy value based on quality, customer experience and perception. Price is only relevant to around 8 to 12% of buyers. The vast majority want “Value for Money” 

Response: I think a growing number of customers care deeply and will pay significantly more, but the vast majority would be happy to pay a very small amount for sustainable products, and if the price difference is too much they wouldn't bother.

Response: They already do. Plus what @NigelTPacker said 

Response: No

Question three: Can/will sustainability and sustainable business operations become a competitive advantage for British manufacturers over overseas competition?

Response: Think this may depend in the market in which it is being sold

Response: Agreed!

Made in Britain: and possibly the countries being competed with? IF, and that is a big IF, it costs more to become more sustainable then maybe it could become a competitive disadvantage if the market doesn't value the move by paying a supplement?

Response: In time it will. At the moment, that is challenging, especially if the price is high. Being local is a great advantage, but then the price has to be realistic to compete against the cheaper imported goods. As we said, there is still a lot of education that needs to take place.

Response: Sustainable business operations extend to evaluating how these factors affect the business and their stakeholders and what opportunities that presents

Made in Britain: Can you see the possibility for "tension" between stakeholders. We start to hear about triple bottom lines but some stakeholders are only interested in one of these lines?

Response: You certainly can! That's why it is probably easier to start implementing in smaller and medium sized companies where the stakeholders are hopefully much more involved

Response: And how do you measure your company's impact on its people?

Made in Britain: I would guess not in a way that keeps investors/pension fund managers particularly interested?

Response: We have to think of all the stakeholders as well as the planet.

Response: Indeed, without stakeholders businesses will suffer

Response: We hope that this will be, not so far in the future. We, #UKmfg need to look at the way we produce items and try and find an alternative which is fully Uk made and sustainable and does not have an impact on our

Response: No. sustainability etc is fast becoming the expected norm. If a company is not conducting business in a sustainable way; it will be a competitive disadvantage. This is no longer something to expect congratulations for embracing.

Response: If a company can claim legitimate sustainability credentials without increasing cost they can profit from demand.  Trade on #MadeinBritain Brand, Improve production techniques. Raw material supply issues are negotiable. There will always be compromise.

Question four: Do many businesses have a dedicated person/team working to make the business more sustainable and how many just use it as a marketing tool?

Response: I would say for smaller businesses the policy and objectives would be driven forward by a cross section team and embraced by the whole business. Only larger companies may have dedicated resource

Made in Britain: Does that make it easier to change then? smaller more nimble, or bigger more money?

Response: smaller more nimble and able to implement across the functions..

Response: Possibly - more dynamic flatter structures could make changes more quickly? Larger organisations may take time to implement but they are the ones that may have more resource / marketing budget to promote

Made in Britain: And you could argue that the bigger businesses have more stakeholders looking at the bottom line?

Response: In our industry the more quantity you have the cheaper the individual item costs

Response: We take a dedicated approach to #Sustainability and at any one point we generally have a team of around 5 who make it their duty to develop new initiatives in this regard. Of course we are also @BMTRADA_Timber approved which demonstrates our commitment!

Made in Britain: Were the team of 5 recruited to do this or is this something that has grown organically within the company?

Response: It is something which has grown organically and was initially headed up by one of our directors.

Response: I would hope that this is part of the overall business agenda, and not something left for one person or one department to think about. Move sustainability out of its silo and have it company-wide is what I would say.

Response: Its much easier when one only has one silo!

Response: If they do, they shouldn't have. This is a 'whole business' way of being. A whole team activity 24/7 . If it's a 'special activity' in your business, then you don't understand what's needed.

Response: When QA became a requirement, back in the early 90's, it was given to one of the managers to do. Without board level buy-in it is a tick box exercise.  We are on a long road

Response: No, it's something that would be discussed at all levels within the company. 

Response: As a small business we have a person that has multiple hats that looks after our business’s sustainability.

Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #MadeinBritainHour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). Hopefully, see you there.

By Made in Britain 1 month ago | Made in Britain news

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