Resource efficiency ‘key to sustainable business’

There has always been a solid business case for the frugal use of resources, but there is now a growing environmental argument for increased efficiency.

Businesses can now reap the financial rewards of improving their resource management – while at the same time looking good for helping reduce their impact on the planet.

A series of speakers from high profile companies spoke at Sustainable Business – the Event on how their big-brand firms had made changes.

Charlie Browne, UK environmental manager for Ikea, said the flat pack system for which the furniture company is famous meant that efficiency in the supply chain was part of the firm’s DNA.

“To lead in this day and age it’s not just a matter of leading in market share, sales growth and low prices and such matters, I believe we must also stand out as a trustworthy and responsible company to claim true leadership,” he said.

“When we sawed the legs of the first table in the 1950s and flat packed, it wasn’t about environmental positives, it was about getting more onto a truck and getting to the market at a lower price.

“But when you can turn round and instead of 20 tables on a truck you can put 200 tables on a truck, it has that efficiency in the supply chain.”

Bruno Zago, environmental manager for Hewlett Packard, spoke about removing carbon at the design stage of the IT company’s products.

“Sustainable innovation is about showing leadership,” he said.

He said that the IT industry contributes about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions – the same as aviation – and that figure is around double in industrialised countries.

“The one thing that’s going to happen is that the emissions from IT are going to grow – their set to at least double by 2020, so one of the things that’s key for us is looking at how we can use IT to offset the other 96% of emissions.

“There are lots of pressures coming from various different places – our customers, suppliers, NGOs, government in terms of regulation so for us it really is key that we meet all the demands of all these various faculties from the outside.”

Keeping on the IT theme, Michael Stephenson of IBM spoke about the company’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable planet.

“The question for us all is what can we do as an organisation to help create a better planet for future generations,” he said.

“It’s about more than carbon and we feel quite strongly that it’s actually suboptimal if you only focus on carbon. We’re finding that it’s a balance between water, energy and carbon.”

Sam Bond

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