A double whammy

Dr Chris Emslie explains how organisations can go green and saved money, with the instigation of an Environmental Management System

Environment Agency figures show that England and Wales produce a total of 400 million tonnes of domestic and industrial waste per year. The waste generated in less than two hours could fill the Albert Hall. A scary thought – particularly with the landfill tax set to almost double to £35 per tonne.

The Government has made a commitment to introduce environmentally protective legislation which will make radical changes to the way businesses deal with their waste. Industry is resisting the change, but sooner or later the legislation must come and lessons must be learnt.

With the deadline for the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive rapidly approaching, manufacturers should stop ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away. They should recognise that with a little forward thinking the process of adopting legislation can lead to new innovations, greatly improved business practice and, ultimately, increased sales.

A structured approach

On moving into new production facilities in 2003, Fibercore decided to become fully IPPC compliant. To that end, we set up an Environmental Management System (EMS).

An EMS is an effective management tool for controlling and monitoring an organisation’s performance with respect to waste, emissions and use of environmentally sensitive resources. A complete system will encompass an environmental policy, recycling of materials, waste minimisation and energy-saving programmes. It is important to bear in mind that an EMS is not difficult to implement – and it will have a positive effect on an organisation’s bottom line.

There are a number of advantages to implementing an EMS. The three main benefits are as follows:

  • By being aware of environmental regulations, businesses can comply with any new pieces of legislation before the deadline, thus avoiding any enforcement action, associated liability costs and loss of credibility amongst stakeholders;

  • Businesses can achieve cost efficiencies through the inventive use of materials, energy and resources; and,

  • Independent certification of the system to a recognised standard will improve a business’ public image.

  • The universally accepted benchmark for environmental management systems is ISO 14001 from the International Organisation for Standardisation. This specifies the requirements of an EMS so it can be integrated with other management functions to assist the organisation in achieving its environmental and economic goals.

    The standard consists of general requirements, environmental policy, planning, implementation and operation, monitoring and corrective action and management review. Crucial to obtaining ISO 14001 is the ability to demonstrate commitment from senior management to the business’ environmental policy of continuous improvement, prevention of pollution and compliance with environmental legislation.

    While obtaining ISO 14001 is an achievement, it should not be the ultimate objective; it should act as the stepping stone to achieve greater environmental efficiency. By working with Government bodies, staff, local schools, charities, residents’ groups and even competitors, businesses can pioneer solutions and not merely comply with the minimum requirements of a piece of legislation.

    Only the beginning

    Leave no stone unturned in your drive to reduce the company’s environmental impact. Examine areas such as water usage, electricity consumption and even the number of vehicles entering your business park for waste collection. ISO 14001 should be only the beginning.

    For instance, in 2003 Fibercore slashed its paper usage by transferring its paper catalogue onto CD-ROM. In the first year this saved a quantity of paper large enough to cover an area of more than three and a half square kilometres. Production costs were reduced from £2.00 to around 25 pence per copy. However, with a worldwide customer base, the greatest saving was in postal charges. Even with a relatively small production run, the total annual savings can easily approach £20,000.

    In 2004 the company developed GainMaster software, one of the speciality fibre industry’s most advanced erbium-doped fibre amplifier design and simulation packages. To minimise the environmental impact of the product launch, the company used teleconferencing and web-based seminars. Customers had an applications engineer, available at all times, to offer online tutorials to maximise the use of the software. A single covering sheet accompanied the CD-ROM, which contained a comprehensive electronic manual. In addition to the reduction in paper usage, this significantly reduced the weight and therefore the cost of the packages themselves, as well as the cost of shipping.

    To reduce paper consumption, Fibercore is transferring its company management systems into an intranet-based format to save 15kg of paper per annum and a further projected 10kg by transferring the materials procurement system onto the web. It has also installed two duplexers to encourage double-sided printing and thus reduce paper consumption. The resultant cost-saving is in the range of £10-20 per person per annum – noticeable even on a small site.

    Sharing the knowledge

    Fibercore looked to help others in the market improve their environmental performance as well. It advised competitors of the newly designed Fibercore Eco-Spool for the shipping of optical fibres. This new spool maintains an industry-standard diameter, but has its winding-width reduced in keeping with the sub-5,000 metre lengths typical of speciality applications.

    Consequently, the Eco-Spool consumes less material in both manufacture and packaging, and its smaller size reduces two-way shipping costs, making reuse a viable option for the first time. In raw numbers, the volume of shipping cartons can now be halved and, with other speciality fibre manufacturers interested in participating in the project, up to a tonne or more of cardboard may be saved per participant.

    Transport to and from the science park where Fibercore is based is an important issue for local residents, socially as well as environmentally. The company worked closely with other local businesses to reduce traffic. In addition, Fibercore has instigated a ‘milk round’ scheme for the collection of ‘special waste’, which will reduce the number of lorries entering the park . The ‘special waste’ collections will include the collection of fluorescent tubes for complete recycling and also the collection of waste electronic equipment in order to comply with the new WEEE regulations.

    Active monitoring of power usage, combined with lateral thinking and the active participation of a broad spectrum of staff, enabled a 40% reduction in the consumption of electrical energy when compared with measurements taken immediately post-commissioning in Summer 2003. The company has also volunteered to be part of the Envirowise Big Splash scheme (see page 22 for more details).

    Meeting future needs

    Environmental efficiency should not be a challenge to a business. All it requires is dedication and commitment from every member of the organisation. Such joined-up thinking helps organisations to implement environmental efficiency and has a positive impact on their bottom line.

    Over the next two years a range of new waste regulations will require changes to business practice. The IPPC Directive is already being enforced in some industries. By October 2007, it will be implemented across all sectors in EC member states, affecting every type of business, including the energy sector, the production and processing of metals, the mineral and chemical industries, waste management facilities, food production and even livestock farming.

    Companies looking to meet IPPC requirements can obtain sector-specific guidance leaflets from the HMSO. Organisations should assess their systems carefully against the guidelines for each component of the system and set out the application in the same order as the guidance notes. It is important to remember that the IPPC Directive is one of the most tightly controlled pieces of legislation, and a straightforward application will make the whole process easier. Applicants should also consider that IPPC is an ideal platform upon which to build major improvements in the organisation’s overall environmental performance.

    Senior managers who are unsure about the effects of new legislation on their companies should take proactive steps to find out and address it. I believe that a company’s EMS should reflect its corporate ethos and needs to be at the centre of all its operations. Prior to the opening of Fibercore House, the company created a new position to employ an expert to manage the expanded environmental function. Fibercore is also able to monitor environmental issues, pioneering schemes to enhance its operational efficiencies.

    Through a small investment of time, the benefits of a variety of environmental performance improvement schemes have been felt – clearly and quickly. The ISO14001 project implementation was comparatively easy due to the environmental ethos and pro-active approach of both staff and management. This attitude has not only allowed the company to improve environmental performance and reduce costs, but also to enhance commercial competitiveness in an increasingly environmentally aware marketplace.

    Environmental consciousness makes commercial sense – full stop.

    Dr Chris Emslie is Managing Director of Fibercore. For more information visit www.fibercore.com

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