The initiative forms part of a wider strategy by the home improvement retailer to create 1,000 products formed from closed loop processes by 2020 – a key target set under its Net Positive programme.

Kingfisher’s head of innovation James Walker revealed the company’s latest thinking in this area earlier today at the launch of Defra’s Resource Dashboard in London hosted by ESKTN, the Knowledge Transfer Network for Environmental Sustainability.

Acknowledging how challenging the initiative was, Walker said: “It’s very tricky, but we think we can make it financially work.”

Kingfisher has developed a lifecycle analysis tool to help inform product innovation, dubbed the ‘circularity index’. However Walker stressed that this in itself would not create commercial opportunities – and that value creation was critical to drive success in this area.

“We have to ask how are we going to create more customer footfall and revenue – this is the business case, not sustainability,” he told delegates.

Walker said for Kingfisher to take back used power tools through its Screwfix or B&Q outlets and disassemble them for potential remanufacture was currently not that profitable.

“We’d just about break even,” he said. “The irony is that the less well made power tools are easier and cheaper to disassemble than the higher quality ones.”

That said, the company is looking to broaden its tool rental and leasing service to offer more repair and refurbishment going forward.

Both Screwfix and B&Q are trialling customer take back services on certain tools which offer the potential to feed back materials such as metals and plastics into Kingfisher’s own supply chain.

Such services would also present an opportunity to educate customers on how to operate and handle products more carefully – as a case in point, Walker highlighted the fact that 80% of returned chainsaws were not from the item being faulty but from the user not setting it up properly.

“Offering such services will not only differentiate us from our competitors, but will get more customers back into our stores – this will be what drives value for us, especially in this age of online commerce,” he pointed out.

Maxine Perella

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