Environmental performance – Managing to measure?

Thousands of UK companies are still failing to get to grips with minimising waste and improving process efficiency, according to an Envirowise report. For companies of all sizes, measuring and monitoring performance plays a fundamental role in the design and manufacture of a product. For efficiency to be improved, performance must be measured systematically for any improvements to be visible. One area in particular which many companies often overlook is environmental performance – despite the fact that relatively simple efforts in this area yield major cost benefits, often at little investment.

A recent survey by Envirowise, a primary government waste minimisation programme, concluded that many companies did not routinely measure even relatively straightforward factors like raw material and utility use. As a result, they have no access to the information, which would enable them to identify opportunities for improvement. Put simply – if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.

For companies that have yet to set out on the path to measuring, or benchmarking, environmental performance – it may seem a daunting prospect. However help is at hand. The Envirowise Programme is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes reduce operating costs by improving the efficiency of business activities that affect the environment. Since its inception, Envirowise has helped UK business save in excess of £797m.

The key message that Envirowise wants to get across is that significant savings can be made which don’t involve a disproportionate amount of time and effort. These savings can be made by any company at often little or even no cost.

Any company, regardless of size and location-can benefit from the Envirowise approach. Hundreds of businesses have already done so. With 170 Employees, Welback, for example, processes around 350,000 metres of fabric per week at its Derbyshire factory. Faced with rising costs for water supply and effluent disposal, the company adopted a systematic approach to improve the monitoring of water and energy use. Following Envirowise advice, Welbeck reduced water usage by over 40%. This was achieved by comparing performance of individual machines with original manufacturer specifications, together with the optimisation of settings for fabric conditioning units. In addition, better house keeping, control of cleaning hoses and the use of simple water saving devices, resulted in overall savings of more than £37,000 per year.

The Envirowise range of waste minimisation reference publications along with the advice services are available to any company free of charge and no strings attached. The measures are appropriate to business regardless of whether it is already implementing measures or if it is completely new to the subject. A first port-of call is their publication Measuring to manage (EN330) which outlines the step by step practical approach an organisation needs to take to identify, manage and reduce waste costs.

A wide range of Envirowise publications providing the latest information on waste minimisation issues, case studies, best practice guides and detailed reference notes can be ordered from the Environment and Energy Helpline on 0800 585794, or downloaded from the Envirowise website www.envirowise.gov.uk.

If measuring environmental performance delivers reduced costs as well as waste minimisation, no company can afford in the long term to view it as an expensive, ‘green’ luxury.

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