Consumers care more than ever about what’s in their homes and the cost this has on the world beyond their four walls. Adam Baylis, technical director at Castrads, shares insight into how like-minded companies can adapt to this new age.
A recent Global Sustainability Survey of millennials found almost half would spend more money on products from a company which advocates sustainably.
The pressure is now on for businesses to improve their green credentials to keep relevant and remain competitive. The home design sector must sit up and take note.
Empower the consumer
It’s a self-perpetuating cycle: if ‘green’ home products aren’t widely available, well-designed or affordable, adoption will remain low.
However, without a commercial benefit, the home design industry will be slow to invest in new eco-friendly solutions.
When designing an eco-product, look to your customer base. By understanding your current and target customer’s wider shopping habits, personal values and levels of disposable income, you’ll be able to lessen the risk when it comes to investing in a new eco-product or greener manufacturing.
For example, Castrads identified a gap in the market and acted on this.
Knowing our environmentally-conscious customers, who also value beautiful things in their home, we wanted to offer a radiator valve which was both smart and attractive.
Working in partnership with Genius Hub, we developed a smart valve which gives customers the option to choose a finish or paint which matches their bespoke radiator, instead of having to settle for white garish plastic.
Sustainability is not simply a ‘box ticking’ exercise and won’t happen overnight. Start by bringing together your senior management team to establish a common understanding of your current environmental impact.
Consider carrying out an energy survey, a systematic review of how energy is used within a building or industrial site to discover any areas of potential improvement.
With all manufacturing requiring energy of some kind, explore cleaner options. Solar power reportedly accounted for two-thirds of total energy added to grids worldwide in 2016, and can be a great long-term option for powering manufacturing.
The UK government also currently pays you for the energy you produce, tax-free.
Solar panels can be purchased using a ‘pay as you save’ approach, meaning negligible up-front costs. So, given the duty we all have to save energy and reduce emissions, there really is no excuse not to make the switch.
Castrads recently installed solar panels to its Manchester site which now generates 25% of all electricity used there.
In terms of industrial processes, the development of 3D printing or additive manufacturing has been well documented, making production lines more efficient, accurate and profitable.
For the FMCG market, 3D printing is the best way to prototype a new design as you don’t have to create personalised moulds or invest in new machinery each time.
By leveraging the benefits of this technology, Castrads is able to 3D print our new design prototypes, taking the design and development of these Victorian‐era products into the 21st Century.
If you undertake a non-customer-facing eco-project, be sure to shout about it. Include environmental messaging in your marketing and on your website to attract the attention of new environmentally conscious customers and affirm your brand values with your loyal followers.
An economy of better, not more
Today’s throwaway culture is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. It’s been hard to escape the headlines recently about the damage it’s causing ecosystems around the world, with plastics being one of the main culprits.
As an industry, we have a role to play in promoting the idea of longevity. Contrary to popular belief, creating products which are both emotionally durable and built to last has its business benefits.
By default, the materials you source must be of the highest quality, allowing you to position your product at a higher price-point.
Consumers understand this and are more likely to spend on an “investment” piece. Not only will it not go out of fashion next season, they will also not have to replace it as frequently or pay out for multiple repairs.
When designing a new home product, carrying out an environmental assessment is a good way to measure its impact across its lifecycle.
Take, for example, cast iron radiators which have a long lifespan (around 100 years) and their modular design means they can be easily repaired and refurbished to extend this even further, helping to offset its initial carbon footprint.
In comparison, an equivalent steel radiator would have to be replaced up to four times.
Don’t forget social impact
It’s important to think beyond just “going green” to make sure products and industrial processes have a positive social influence.
The products in our homes not only have an impact on the environment, but on people too.
It may be difficult or even impossible to manufacture in the UK, but there’s no excuse for not managing your supply chain responsibly. The suppliers you use – and their practises – have a knock-on effect on both UK and overseas communities.
Castrads recently moved production of the Neptune design to a boutique foundry in Poland which employs 45 people who take pride in what they’re making and can work in small quantities at high quality.
Unlike the high turnover lines, Neptune moulds are handmade so there’s little wastage and our reject rate is much lower. Transport costs (both monetary and environmental) are lower too as the goods come to us by road.
By not doing your research, or turning a blind-eye, you leave yourself open to a host of reputational, legal and operational risks.
Before choosing or deciding to keep a supplier, find out as much as possible about its policies on areas like equality, environment, safety and wage levels. Set minimum expected standards and make sure to regularly conduct reviews, not just at contract renewal stage.
Investing in your own workforce will also benefit your business. By taking the Living Wage commitment (which Castrads took in 2017), you can increase the motivation and retention rate for employees, differentiate yourself from competitors and improve the reputation of your business.