Its nearly September, COVID has dominated pretty much all year, it’s safe to say we can write it off and start looking towards 2021. The one major issue that 2020 was supposed to be about was sustainability and recycling. Even if COVID is going to be here for another year or not, climate change and the health of the environment remains a fundamental problem our industry must play its part in to solve.

COVID Catalyst

Quite rightly, the pandemic is front and centre of everyone’s attention right now. These things historically take around two years to get over so we may have some more time to run before we can wave this terrible period goodbye. However, the even larger issue of climate change and sustainability remains and continues to get worse as our focus is taken away to deal with COVID-19.

But as we start to refocus on what the future might look like, now is the perfect time to use this crisis as a catalyst to fast-track change to how we spend our time on this planet. We as individuals all have a responsibility to make sure we do what we can to turn around the impacts we’re having on our planet. Our industry as a whole has its part to play in doing as much as we can to make our sector fully sustainable and carbon-neutral as quickly as we can.

One fantastic story we can draw inspiration on is how BrewDog have bought over 2000 acres of land in Scotland and plan to plant 1 million trees which will see the company become carbon-negative, which means the company removes more carbon from the climate than it emits. I am a personal fan of the company, I drink a lot of their beer as some of you will know who watch our regular videos on Periscope and now YouTube. But from the start, they have done what they can to limit the impacts their business has on the environment. Their investment to create a new forest to take carbon out of the atmosphere is a bold, innovative and meaningful step to create a better environment and proof that if businesses commit significant money then they can make a genuine difference.

Now I’m not saying all our sector’s major companies should go out and instantly buy thousands of acres of land to plant trees. That would be massively expensive. But the above should demonstrate that a bit of creative thinking can unlock new opportunities and create new ideas about how to reduce the environmental impacts fenestration creates.

The BrewDog forest is a very good example of a company taking measures beyond what it can do to their actual business. I am sure they have done all they practically can to make their business as efficient and clean as possible. But they will know that there is only so much they can do within reason and what is possible. So they have looked at what else can be done outside the direct processes of their business to see what they can do to offset the rest of their carbon emissions. That is what our sector should be looking.

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Outside the box

The BrewDog forest is a very good example of thinking outside the box. There are plenty our own businesses could do to make sure their own premises and processes are as efficient and clean as possible. These are just some of the ways a fenestration business can operate as green as possible:

  • change energy suppliers to ones that use renewable energy
  • fit solar panels where possible
  • fit wind turbines where possible
  • fit ground source heat pumps where possible
  • install insulation in work buildings
  • recycle all post-consumer waste and waste generated by daily processes
  • ensure windows and doors in buildings are as efficient as possible
  • swap company cars that are traditionally fueled to electric or hybrid versions

Last week VEKA published their Corporate Social Responsibility report. This is what they said:

We have recently published VEKA UK’s first report on corporate social responsibility. As a major business in Lancashire, and part of one of the world’s largest PVCu systems company, we decided we needed to do more to show how we measure our impacts, and what we are doing to address any issues and operate more sustainably.

The CSR report is just the beginning, a starting point from which we can demonstrate our commitment to people, the environment and the community we operate in. And of course, at the same time, we will continue to develop and produce products that shape living spaces, one window, door and home at a time.

Our biggest businesses have been the front runners in terms of recycling and sustainability. Most systems companies now have an established and impressive set of recycling facilities which keep millions of old PVCu frames out of the ground. Companies like Morley Glass have seen great success with their glass recycling facility on their Leeds site.

But more has to be done. Whilst measures can be taken directly for business, such as the above, I think we need to be doing more outside our operating environment, such as the example BrewDog have set. Our industry should be looking at, on mass, investing in projects such as tree planting, investing in renewable projects and carbon capture schemes. We won’t be able to take every bit of carbon out of the window and door making process, but we can offset that engaging in projects and initiatives which balances things.

Even though 2020 has not turned out to be the year we thought it might be, and there is still Brexit at the end of the year to deal with, the issue of sustainability remains the single most pressing long term danger that we all have to address and address now.

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