Each week the economic realities are becoming clearer. We’re facing the worst recession in centuries, with domestic and global institutions warning of entire economies being deconstructed in the wake of the pandemic. It sounds scary, and it is. Whilst things appear busy now, the reality is that in a few months time, we are likely to see things go south quickly.

Whilst there is a huge challenge ahead of us, the one thing we should look to take from this is the chance to rebuild our economy, and indeed our fenestration industry on a much more sustainable footing.

It has to be green

2020 was going to be the year where climate change and sustainability was front and centre of people’s minds, and the window and door industry. Obviously, things haven’t panned out that way. However, the climate emergency hasn’t gone away, and as each year passes the damage and risk to communities gets worse. We as an industry have our own part to play in what has to be a global effort to change our behaviour and consumption.

We were quick to adapt to new digital platforms to ensure our businesses continued to function at some level. Proving that when pressed, we can do what we need to, and quickly, in order to survive. Our industry has to take the same approach when it comes to climate change. Although the ramifications may not be at our doorstep in the same way the coronavirus pandemic is for many of us, they are for other communities that live in other parts of the world, even in this country.

During the lockdown, we have seen in other parts of the world what effects human activity has on the environment. The canals in Venice were clear for the first time in decades, so much so that sea life was spotted living there. Huge clouds of pollution that usually hung around big cities lifted as traffic was removed from the roads. Animals roamed our cities as footfall in centres disappeared. We know that if we were to make major changes to what we do and how we do them, we can make a tangible difference.

Our industry already has some companies that have long seen the importance of becoming sustainable. The likes of VEKA, Eurocell, REHAU, Deceuninck and other systems companies have enormous recycling operations set up, with further expansion planned. Morley Glass has introduced its own glass recycling facility. Thermocill is a new internal window board product made from recycled materials that can keep heat on the right side of the window.

A lot more has to be done however across the board, at each level of the supply chain. Attention has to be paid to the smaller actions and consumptions of the smaller companies. Whether its with fixings and silicones, the type of transportation used, digital communications and contracts vs paper. The more you look at each business there more there is to do to reduce our carbon footprints. But in the long run its effort worth expending.

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Unique chance

This pandemic has thrown not only health care, but a long list of other social and economic issues to the forefront. The climate was already on that list, but surely now it must be at the top. When are we going to ever get a chance like this to rebuild an economy from the ground up, and have it centred completely around sustainability? Almost never, and we simply must not pass this opportunity up.

UK fenestration has its part to play. The good news is that all the technology available to make that transition to a more sustainable sector is already available. Electric vehicles can be used for company staff. Contracts can be signed digitally instead of paper. Post-consumer waste can be recycled. Businesses can switch to energy suppliers who use renewable energy. Solar panels can be fitted to company buildings. All the technology and solutions are there, they simply need to be applied in the right ways to transform a business.

It would be a tragic mistake if our industry and indeed the entire economy passed up this chance to rebuild on a more sustainable basis. We already knew how important climate change was. The pandemic has only shone the spotlight on this issue further.

The other factor I would include in this is if we are to reduce our carbon footprint then we have to produce more in the UK so that we decrease emissions caused by foreign freight. Garnalex, the new aluminium systems company is a good example of this. Their billet is made in Wales rather than in Europe or Asia, which means far less in terms of transportation. It would be good to see other major companies switch to UK based manufacturing, not only to help support the British economy but to help reduce emissions too.

We have a chance as a sector to lead where others have stood still, and show other industries that real change can happen. That it can happen quickly, with positive results and that a new, profitable, sustainable industry can be borne from it.

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