B&Q's DIY approach to water conservation

Andy Francis, energy manager of B&Q, explains how its store-wide campaign to cut consumption of water is starting to have a positive effect on the bottom line

B&Q has been building on its sustainability foundations since 1991, when it first developed a progressive timber policy.

B&Q has also been monitoring its water consumption since 1992. Its target is to reduce mains use in its stores by 10% by the end of 2011/12. This is on 2007/08 consumption.

To achieve the goal, storage tanks to harvest rainwater from the roofs of stores at Stevenage in Hertfordshire, Norwich in Norfolk, South Torquay in Devon, and Halifax in Yorkshire,­ have been put into place. Future specifications for the design of all new stores incorporate at least 25,000-litre tanks for medium- format and 30,000-litre tanks for large-format stores. B&Q anticipates these will provide half of the water required for toilet flushing and irrigating garden centres.

Water wastage
B&Q has also installed smart water-metering systems at 28 Scottish stores. These allow the retailer to dial up information at any time, and profile its water consumption at individual store level. Real-time profiling enables B&Q to identify and prevent excessive water usage. It has resulted in water savings of 13.6Ml a year, and a reduction in B&Q's water bill of £25,800 so far.

B&Q is also changing the way it washes its fleet of vehicles. Out of a fleet of 240, 169 vehicles are washed using recycled water - from washing machines - at centres at Preston Brook in Cheshire, Redhouse in Yorkshire, Worksop in Nottinghamshire, Radlett in Hertfordshire, and Coventry in the West Midlands. All of the chain's 750 trailers are washed with recycled water. B&Q has, for several years, been fitting sensor flows on urinals. Percussion taps are also in place, reducing the amount of flow time. B&Q's toilets now use a six-litre flush capacity cistern. It is trialling a new bowl and a reduced flush capacity - four-litre or two-litre dual-flush cistern - in its store in Halifax. B&Q is also trialling an irrigation system, to water the garden centres more efficiently, in 17 stores, and is looking at the potential of combining this with a water-harvesting system.

As part of its water-saving initiative, regular advice is issued to stores about how to reduce usage, including reminding staff to check taps and pipes for leaks, and to ensure faults are quickly reported to the maintenance manager. During periods of drought, B&Q runs awareness campaigns for its staff.

Environment champions
To ensure these measures are successful, B&Q reviews its activities and tracks water usage across stores. In February this year, it appointed a group of environment champions, one for each store, to report back on progress, and to suggest further improvements to reduce energy use and water consumption. The company sees these initiatives as not only sustainable actions, but as cost-effective measures that play a part in the future success and growth of the business. The retailer has also reported an increased willingness on the part of staff to get behind its initiatives.

B&Q is starting to reap the financial benefits associated with reducing water consumption, underlining the fact that sustainability is not only good for the planet, it is good for business.

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