It’s just 12 months since Clean Air, a market-leading UK fume cupboard manufacturer, held its first Environmental Committee meeting. Will Perrott, Managing Director, reflects on the beginning of the going green journey.
I’m writing this as we celebrate Britain passing the landmark of 2 months’ coal-free energy generation.
I’m passionate about climate change, but I recognise it’s not top of everyone’s agenda – even though I believe it should at least be up there in the top three! So, it was quite a step to speak to the Clean Air team. I asked them what they thought about changing our business model and becoming a greener, more sustainable business.
There were three things about the journey so far that I really didn’t expect: people are receptive; it makes business sense; it can be really frustrating.
1 People will be more engaged than you expect
Maybe it was the timing; The UK parliament had declared a climate change emergency; Greta Thunberg was keeping the green agenda in the headlines and there was a fresh news story almost daily.
I was surprised at the response when we launched our internal Clean Air Environmental Committee. We were inundated with volunteers and they all had great ideas. Together we agreed our vision:
Clean Air will lead the fume cupboard industry in environmental responsibility, reduce its carbon footprint, and educate users to choose products that will cause less climate damage.
Externally, every supplier and agency we’ve spoken with has been supportive. They’ve either wanted to know more or signposted us to help and going green initiatives. We’ve shared some learning with our suppliers too – particularly around packaging.
2 Going green can save money
Before we started seriously looking at how we could be greener, we’d committed to funding some of the changes. We thought we might take a financial hit in certain areas, so we agreed that we couldn’t base the ROI on simple financial metrics. We’ve included outcomes such as an increased industry profile and even the satisfaction of just doing the right thing.
However, we’ve found that many initiatives do have a cost benefit. There’s a wealth of advice out there to point you in the direction of funding. The grants available include contributions towards LED lighting and electric vehicle charging points, among others. So far we’ve self-funded, but we don’t rule out applying in the future.
If there isn’t funding, there’s a payback. Clean Air installed solar panels – no grant but we anticipate an annual yield of 8%. That’s better than money in the bank right now. With a lifespan of at least 25 years, they’ll eventually generate us a profit.
And there’s plain old common sense too. Where it was practical, we started skyping clients rather than visiting, saving mileage and reducing emissions. Of course, that’s just how everyone works these days, but it was quite a leap for us at the time. An unforeseen bonus is that we were already on board with virtual meetings before they became the norm
3 It can be frustrating
Just because going green is a no-brainer (in my opinion), don’t expect that to make for a smooth journey to an environmentally responsible business. There is paperwork that can make your eyes water; legislation isn’t always joined up; and some technologies need time to catch up.
One example of frustration for us was the solar panels. We’ve installed enough to generate 80% more energy than we need, with a view to selling our excess back to the grid. Not every energy supplier facilitates this and it took patience and hard work to get it sorted out. It was six months after the panels had begun generating that we started being credited for the energy.
However, going green is definitely worthwhile and we learned some important lessons:
Be bold! People will surprise you.
Be tenacious. It can take time to see results.
Choose your suppliers wisely. Find ones who can guide you with their experience.
Changes you make today can give you an advantage tomorrow.
Will has considerable experience in the laboratory market. He has been MD of a market-leading laboratory furniture design and manufacture company for 20 years, and spent seven years with ELE International, specialising in the sales and marketing of lab equipment and environmental instrumentation