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Resource Efficiency - The new watchword of sustainability
 

Resource Efficiency - The new watchword of sustainability

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There’s a growing global consensus that we’re at a crossroads on the environment. Not only do we face the increasingly urgent challenge of climate change, but we are also witnessing unprecedented ...

There’s a growing global consensus that we’re at a crossroads on the environment. Not only do we face the increasingly urgent challenge of climate change, but we are also witnessing unprecedented demands on energy and fuel, water and material resource scarcity, huge population and life expectancy growth, concerns about food security, and a growing consumerism in the East that is putting an added strain on the global store of raw materials.
Resource productivity improvements could satisfy nearly 30% of demand by 2030.
Recent rises in global GDP and inroads into tackling poverty have largely been achieved by increasing economic growth. But the resource- dependent models that have allowed this to happen can no longer be sustained. In the past, increases in productivity have often come through more efficient use of labour, but the opportunity for further gains here is limited. To continue to make progress we need to squeeze more out of the resources at our disposal.
‘Resource efficiency’ will become the new watchword of sustainability. Accenture and the World Economic Forum recently produced a report looking at how to make consumption more sustainable by decoupling growth from environmental impact. They suggested that $2 trillion manufacturers of products that worth of economic output could be at risk by 2030 if major global economies fail to respond to shortages in the supply of just one resource - iron (and, more importantly, the steel that comes from it). This demonstrates the scale of the challenge we are up against. Accenture and the WEF conclude that ‘the need for rapid action to shift towards a resource-efficient economy is high’ - and that despite some successes to date, ‘change is now. More positively, greater resource efficiency also creates a business opportunity; it improves productivity, reduces costs and enhances competitiveness. If companies are less dependent on the availability of certain raw materials, they are less vulnerable to supply fluctuations and hikes in prices. This in turn means they can offer customers a more reliable supply of their products.

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    Resource Efficiency - The new watchword of sustainability Resource Efficiency - The new watchword of sustainability Document Transcript

    • Cut The Fluff Series 3Resourceefficiency – thenew watchwordof sustainabilityBy Ramon ArratiaJune 2012www.interfaceflorcutthefluff.comwww.interfaceflor.eu/gobeyond
    • Resource efficiency – the new watchword of sustainabilityResource efficiency – the newwatchword of sustainabilityThere’s a growing global consensus that we’re urgently required at a scale and greater pace thanat a crossroads on the environment. Not only current initiatives, policies or strategies are likely todo we face the increasingly urgent challenge achieve’.of climate change, but we are also witnessingunprecedented demands on energy and fuel, They also argue that businesses, rather thanwater and material resource scarcity, huge governments, need to play the major role in makingpopulation and life expectancy growth, concerns this happen. And this is not just a question of a fewabout food security, and a growing consumerism businesses taking the lead. To achieve this urgentin the East that is putting an added strain on the transition, every company must deliver resource-global store of raw materials. efficient growth. The management consultancy McKinseyResource productivity sees things in a similar light. Its recent study,improvements could satisfy Resource Revolution: meeting the world’s energy, materials, food, and water needs,nearly 30% of demand by 2030. argues that resource productivity improvements could satisfy nearly 30% of demand by 2030.Recent rises in global GDP and inroads into However, it warns that only 20% of the potential istackling poverty have largely been achieved by readily achievable and 40% ‘will be hard to capture’.increasing economic growth. But the resource- However, KPMG - in its own report, Expect thedependent models that have allowed this to unexpected: building business value in a changinghappen can no longer be sustained. In the past, world - is optimistic that increasing resourceincreases in productivity have often come through efficiency makes good business sense. One rathermore efficient use of labour, but the opportunity for negative incentive is that as developing countriesfurther gains here is limited. To continue to make industrialise rapidly and global demand for materialprogress we need to squeeze more out of the resources increases dramatically, businesses areresources at our disposal. more likely to face trade restrictions that clamp‘Resource efficiency’ will become the new down on the use of raw materials. If companies canwatchword of sustainability. use resources more efficiently then they may be able to prevent this eventuality.Accenture and the World Economic Forumrecently produced a report looking at howto make consumption more sustainable Regulatory frameworks aroundby decoupling growth from environmental the world must change to rewardimpact. They suggested that $2 trillion manufacturers of products thatworth of economic output could be at riskby 2030 if major global economies fail to are more resource efficient.respond to shortages in the supply of justone resource - iron (and, more importantly, the More positively, greater resource efficiency alsosteel that comes from it). creates a business opportunity; it improves productivity, reduces costs and enhancesThis demonstrates the scale of the challenge we competitiveness. If companies are less dependentare up against. Accenture and the WEF conclude on the availability of certain raw materials, they arethat ‘the need for rapid action to shift towards less vulnerable to supply fluctuations and hikes ina resource-efficient economy is high’ - and that prices. This in turn means they can offer customersdespite some successes to date, ‘change is now a more reliable supply of their products.The Cut The Fluff Series 3 Ramon Arratia June 2012 02
    • Resource efficiency – the new watchword of sustainabilityThe challenge of resource efficiency is beginning •  ur innovative TacTiles system means carpet tiles oto exercise the minds of governments as well can be fixed in position without using liquid glue,as business analysts. In September 2011 the almost banishing the environmental footprint ofEuropean Commission produced a white paper the adhesive used in traditional carpet tiles.on ‘a resource-efficient Europe’, which argues •  andom design tiles generate just 3-4% waste rthat it is ‘perfectly possible to produce more value during installation, compared with up to 12% forwith fewer inputs’, and sets out a vision for thestructural and technological changes needed to broadloom carpet.make this happen by 2050. •  ltrasonic cutting equipment is doubling u productivity, reducing excess trimmings andAt Interface we have already begun to take improving efficiency. This idea was borrowedon this challenge. from the aeronautical industry.LCA gives your designers a clear As KPMG has predicted, at Interface weobjective to guide the design of have discovered that new markets canyour products, focusing on reducing be found from an innovation-led focus on resource efficiency. We’ve found, forkey impacts rather than creating example, that, our Microtuft flat carpet tiles‘feel-good’ green gimmicks. appeal to certain regions that have not traditionally been interested in carpets, suchResource efficiency fits well with our ‘Mission as Spain, Italy or the Nordic countries. In some ofZero’ goal of delivering zero negative impacts on these countries Microtuft now accounts for morethe environment by 2020 while maintaining and than 40% of our sales.even improving profitability. Since 1996 we havemade concerted and successful efforts to reduce But despite clear business benefits, we haveour use of resources, not least because using mainly been treading this path because we believeless material reduces production costs. Today, for it is the right thing to do. If other companies areinstance, our waste costs per unit of product are to embrace this radical agenda - in their tens of41% lower than they were in 1995. thousands as Accenture and WEF suggest – then as a society we need to create incentives for themWe have introduced several to explore and take up resource efficiency.successful measures on radical That means current regulatory frameworks aroundresource efficiency: the world must change to reward manufacturers of•  e have created Microtuft, a new range of w products that are more resource efficient. carpet tile with around 50% less yarn than conventional carpet. Yet this has not sacrificed performance, as the biggest If EPDs were the norm, then contributor to both carbon footprint and the it would be easy for everyone depletion of petrochemical resources is the to know which products have nylon yarn in carpet. more or less impact in terms of• rom all our raw materials purchased f resource efficiency. globally, 44% are recycled or bio-based, saving a significant amount of virgin resources. The best place to start is from the central point of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).•  e introduced a 100% recycled nylon in 2011, w even though we had been told in the 1990s that An EPD reveals the ingredients of a product, its this would be impossible. More than 140 colour methods of production, and the full environmental shades in our product range now use this 100% impact of each stage of its life cycle, measured recycled material. in several impact categories such as impact onThe Cut The Fluff Series 3 Ramon Arratia June 2012 03
    • Resource efficiency – the new watchword of sustainabilityclimate change (kg CO2 eq), water use (litres) or From 2010, if the average CO2 emissions of aacidification (kg SO2 eq), to name but a few. The manufacturer’s fleet exceeded its limit in any oneright measures will highlight any reductions in year, the company had to pay an excess emissionsresource use. premium for each car registered. With such significant financial implications, the impact of this approach was almost immediate. WithinIn France, the authorities are looking just one year of the regulation coming intoat introducing a requirement that force, for example, the UK car industry hadall environmental claims related to achieved a reduction in tailpipe emissions of more than 5%, compared with justproducts must be based on an EPD. 2.2% in the eight years up to 2006. A similar transformation could be achievedEPDs are becoming more prevalent in Europe: they in other sectors by applying a focus on resourceare already widely used in the construction sector, efficiency through EPDs at European level, linkingfor example. And at Interface we have committed performance to financial penalties or rewards.to produce EPDs for all our carpet tiles. If EPDswere the norm, then it would be easy for everyone If common ‘magic metrics’ can be agreed byto know which products have more or less impact product category and measured through EPDs,in terms of resource efficiency. That would be then the European Union can set minimumgood news for procurers, who are struggling to standards, rewards and penalties – as well asestablish which of the products they need to buy industry targets - based on those metrics atis better for the environment. It would also be good EU level.for consumers who want to buy more ethically. Andgood for companies to benchmark against. As an increasing number of companies focus on EPDs, they are quickly discovering where theyIf EPDs are universally adopted, we will also have a can increase their resource efficiency. So if theclear and simple basis for assigning tax benefits to EU wants to help business move in this direction,products that have greater resource efficiency. For then it must harness the power of EPDs as soon asexample, the best products could qualify for lower possible.product taxes (such as VAT) over a period of time.Additionally, EPDs could eliminategreenwash. In France, the authorities are A visionary landfill ban by 2020looking at introducing a requirement that all would spark into life a new industryenvironmental claims related to products producing post-consumer rawmust be based on an EPD. This would be a materials, as opposed to justneat way of making EPDs the norm withoutdictating that they should be mandatory. focusing on waste management.One of the best ways to appreciate the Another way of increasing resource efficiencypotential transformative power of EPDs in this would be to ban landfill. A visionary landfill banarea is to look at the progress made by the by 2020 would spark into life a new industryEuropean car industry since a 2009 EU regulation producing post-consumer raw materials, asintroduced EPDs as the basis for requirements on opposed to just focusing on waste management.tailpipe emissions. Bans could be implemented immediately on theThe regulation required car manufacturers to landfilling of certain items where best availabledecrease average tailpipe emissions across their recycling technology is already available, and thisportfolio to 130gCO2/km by 2015 and 95gCO2/ would scale up existing technologies. At Interfacekm by 2020. This forced each manufacturer to we are lobbying for a European ban on the landfillcreate an EPD for each of its cars based on of carpet even as we continually improve ourgCO2/km. technology to recycle carpet tiles.The Cut The Fluff Series 3 Ramon Arratia June 2012 04
    • Resource efficiency – the new watchword of sustainability About Interface, Inc. Established in 1973, Interface, Inc. (NASDAQ: IFSIA) is the worldwide leader in design, production and sales of environmentally responsible modular carpet, manufactured for the commercial and institutional markets under the Interface® brand, and for consumer markets as FLOR™. The company is also a leading designer and manufacturer of commercial broadloom and modular carpet under the Bentley Prince Street™ brand. Interface was one of the first companies to publicly commit to sustainability in the mid-nineties, and the company has been widely recognized for its achievements in this area since then. Its products have also achieved numerous awards specifically for design and innovation, the most recent being The Athenaeum Good Design Award for World Textiles. About the author Ramon Arratia is the Sustainability Director Interface EMEAI. His focus is on continuing to develop the company’s sustainability strategy towards Mission Zero as well as reviewing products, services and business processes to ensure that they are as sustainable as possible. Ramon plays a leading role in Interface’s ‘Let’s be clear’ campaign, an anti-greenwash drive calling for full transparency in how companies declare the environmental impact of their products. He has also been instrumental in Interface commitment to have all products covered by Environment Product Declarations (EPDs) by 2012. Ramon is also leading Interface’s ‘war on waste’ campaign, an initiative which calls for action to change European Waste Legislation within the flooring and construction industry.The Cut The Fluff Series 3 Ramon Arratia June 2012 05