You wear lots of different hats at Cantifix, and away from your main role in procurement, you are also one of the leaders of our movement to create a greener company. Why do you think it is important that companies act in a more environmentally friendly way?
It is every business’ (and individual’s) moral duty to ensure that their actions don’t have a negative impact on future generations. The environment is at breaking point and we all need to do our best to ensure the planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. The best businesses will ensure that they have a net positive impact on the environment, as we’ve already degraded it to a tipping point over the past 100 years and businesses and individuals need to improve the environment to bring it back to the level it was at the start of the industrial revolution.
It also makes sense from a business perspective – as the environment deteriorates, there will be untold damage to the world economy and every type of business will suffer the consequences of changes in material and labour supplies. Going green can also be cheaper – reducing waste and reusing materials where possible and avoiding potential government levies on polluting activities makes good financial as well as moral sense.
What initiatives have you created to reduce Cantifix’s environmental footprint?
It’s a team effort and a big part of the credit has to go to our CEO, Charlie Sharman, who initially came up with the idea of reducing Cantifix’s environmental impact. Our team has introduced a number of initiatives to make Cantifix a greener company in all sorts of areas.
Probably the most eye-catching is our drive to clean up the banks of the stream that runs past the back of our factory – the Silk Stream. Years of neglect and littering made it a pretty unattractive area, but we decided to clear the space and turn it into a small sanctuary for both our staff and the wildlife that calls the area home. We removed bags and bags of rubbish and cleared a space for our staff to take a relaxing lunch break by the stream, with plans for picnic benches, bug hotels, a wildflower garden and an art installation created out of the dead wood that littered the area (once again, this was Charlie’s idea – he’s quite arty and has even volunteered to create the sculpture!)
More prosaically, we’ve also installed LED “natural light” panels in our office to improve employee wellbeing, reduce electricity use, and mitigate the effects of “sick building syndrome”. We are eliminating paper waste by creating a paperless office and we’ve switched all our cleaning products to greener alternatives, such as Ecover – this helps reduce emission of toxic pollution in our waterways and plastic waste. We’ve replaced a number of our vehicles with electric vehicles to reduce transport-related emissions and have introduced a bike scheme to help our employees make their commute healthier for both the environment and themselves.
We’ve also changed the supplies we buy for the installation of our products, reducing plastic packaging by, for example, using structural silicone that comes in recyclable foil “sausages” rather than the traditional plastic cartridges.
Finally, we’re working with an ecological consultant towards gaining B Corp accreditation – the steps above are all part of this, and we are awaiting her final report to identify other solutions to the problems that are both present across all businesses and particular to construction.
What does success look like for our green initiatives?
The main mark of our success will be achieving B Corp accreditation, which we hope to do by the middle of next year. B Corp is one of the most stringent, and therefore difficult, environmental accreditations around. It doesn’t just take into account our environmental footprint, but also that of our suppliers and partners, not just getting our house in order, but ensuring those we work with also have theirs in order.
More broadly, we hope that the steps we take (making our employees more aware of waste and recycling, our bike scheme, improving the small part of our natural environment that we have control over) will encourage our employees to do the same things in their own lives. By engaging every employee in the fight against environmental degradation, we will equip them with the skills and knowledge to carry out these vital steps in their own homes and communities – that’s what real success looks like. Not just changing our outlook as employees of Cantifix, but changing those of our friends and families.
How do you marry up Cantifix’s status as a construction company, which is historically environmentally unfriendly, with our attempts to go green?
We understand that the construction industry has historically been difficult to “green”, with lots of travel in vans and trucks and the consumption of raw materials in large quantities. As structural glazing specialists, we feel that we are part of the solution. Using glass instead of brick or concrete is an important tool in fighting climate change through reduced lighting and heating needs. In summer, a glass wall fills a space with light, reducing the need for electrical lighting, while in winter, a space can be warmed by passive heating, reducing the need for artificial heating, which comes at a huge cost to the environment through carbon emissions. Our use of low-emission (low-E) glass as standard prevents heat escaping from buildings, further improving their energy efficiency. Over a building’s lifespan, the use of glass to passively heat and cool a property and reduce lighting costs can reduce the Life Cycle CO2 of a building by up to 25%.
Our chosen materials are also a lot greener than alternatives such as brick and concrete. Whereas concrete takes huge amounts of raw materials to manufacture and has been implicated in 7% of global human-released CO2 globally, glass and aluminium can be recycled and up to 30% of the glass we use has been created from old waste glass.
Even our logistics department is involved, scheduling deliveries so that multiple drops can be made with one trip, reducing the carbon footprint of our transportation (as well as costs, so the finance department are kept happy!)
It’s not just the planet’s health, but you’re also helping to improve the wellbeing of all our employees as well. What does this involve?
Cleaning up the Silk Stream will give our employees a nice area to relax and recharge their batteries on their lunch breaks and we are running education campaigns about other wellbeing topics, such as staying hydrated in the warm weather and mental health and wellbeing. Again, this is team effort, and this credit goes to all of us. It is nice to be involved which is selfless things to do, very mindful and be humble and grateful what planet (Mother Nature) is giving us and we are restoring some way. We are also thinking to make vegetable patch, Bee Hotel, Bug House, Wild flower area..
The big initiative on the employee wellbeing front is the creation of a natural breakout space behind our factory unit, with wildflower beds, the babbling Silk Stream and a quiet, reflective picnic area. This will help employees an area to relax, reflect on nature and recharge their batteries on their lunch breaks. Spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress, poor mental health and improve mood and overall subjective wellbeing.
Alongside this, we’ve introduced a number of educational campaigns to ensure our employees stay hydrated in warm weather (that we should in theory be experiencing by mid-July, but that’s the British summer for you!) and can identify the precursors to poor mental health and actively take steps to improve their mental health. We’ve sent out educational materials and plastered posters across our offices and factory to ensure everyone has access to this vital information.
I’d like to take this final opportunity to stress that this really is a team effort and I can’t take all the credit for it. However, on a personal level, it’s hugely satisfying and humbling to be part of this selfless drive to improve our environmental credentials and employee wellbeing. It’s refreshing to be able to take time out of my working day to be able to reflect on and be grateful for nature and help, in some small way, to restore it.