At Westbridge we take our social responsibility very seriously and with consumers becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, a brands’ sustainability credentials are becoming vital, providing an extra angle with which to engage customers on shop floors – our leading credentials have definitely strengthened our relationship with the large UK group retailers.
In 2006 we started our Eco journey to become the first ‘Model Green Factory’ in the UK in partnership with Marks & Spencer. With our initial goals to reduce our carbon footprint and send zero waste to landfill achieved, we have set the standard to which many are compared and as such have hosted many tours for both retail staff and suppliers. Quite a number of the visitors have gone on to implement similar changes in their organisations. This information sharing is something we are very proud of as, if we’re serious about the environment, then of course it’s very important to share our learning.
Not wanting to ‘rest on our laurels’, we have had continued success reducing the amount of material that becomes waste, rather than recycling it. For example reusable transport packaging for supplies into Westbridge, rather than single-use cardboard, or polythene packaging. With our initial objectives completed we have set new targets – striving to improve efficiencies and establishing recycling initiatives with local businesses, in turn supporting the local economy.
With the help of the Carbon trust and the Carbon Neutral Company, we drew up a “top ten” list of actions, which would have the most significant effect on our Co2 footprint.
Our first step was to involve the workforce in taking ownership, for simply switching off lights and equipment when not in use and to help facilitate better car sharing. We then set up a steering group with architects, engineers and an industrial lighting expert.
Some of the manufacturing machinery has been altered by switching to efficient variable speed drives, where appropriate and we’ve introduced energy efficient compressors. We’ve installed more efficient boilers and a solar thermal system, to improve the heating efficiency. We have looked at our energy usage across the sites and we’ve even replaced all our old hand dryers too.
Our factory lighting was changed to low energy fittings, with both movement and light level (lux) sensors and at the same time, we removed light switches, so the system is now fully automated.
The most challenging programme for us was waste management, as this involved changing everyone’s habits, across all our sites, to separate and put waste material in the correct receptacles to maximise recycling. We also have some difficult materials, particularly fabrics, which are coated to comply with UK Fire Regulations and are therefore very difficult to recycle.
Much of the recent success we’ve had is due not only to our own efforts, but to the help we have received from our partners, JEM Recycling Ltd and Art Services Ltd which takes a proportion of our timber waste and turns it into charcoal for barbeques and filters.