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Good Business Practice & Sustainability

As with anything that’s really important quite a lot of comment is ill informed and lovingly sprinkled with a particular prejudice or political viewpoint; the truth being different things to different people and although the internet is a wonderful thing, it also allows any viewpoint to be widely expressed without any regard for accuracy.

Global warming is clearly one of these subjects, and you can find information to support any opinion you like. The general consensus is that global warming is real and we need to do something about it soon or disaster awaits. It is heartening that our politicians have taken the matter seriously and provided some leadership as well as funds for various initiatives. To my mind, the thing that shows me how serious the situation is, is when big business starts making provision for the potential effects such as French companies buying land in England to grow grapes to protect their means of production.

So, what has this to do with a small woodworking business in rural Warwickshire?

I would like to think we are a responsible company, we care about our staff and do our bit for the local community, but I am certain that isn’t enough, fundamentally we are users of resources and ultimately polluters of our environment, either directly or someway down either end of our supply chain.

What therefore are we doing about it? Once you start thinking about it, it can look like a completely hopeless task as the list of things we could and should look at is huge. Frankly, it’s a full-time job and adding another overhead to the team is not something I would be keen to bring up at the management meeting.

In my experience there is nothing incompatible between good business practice and sustainability. Reduction of waste makes good sense in any climate (warming or otherwise), cutting out harmful chemicals reduces risk to staff and the expense of ethical disposal. Reducing electricity usage by fitting LED lighting and more efficient machinery is just good business and putting a PV array on the roof gives us free power and an income.

Now some of the choices are finally balanced and maybe it’s a case of the lesser of two evils; we produce timber waste, what should we do with? Send it to landfill or incinerate it, the first just doesn’t make any sense to me but burning it means we don’t have to transport it anywhere but what if we burn it to heat the workshops? We are still pumping something into the atmosphere but we aren’t buying another fuel with all the attendant transport and pollution costs attached.

The heaters don’t like sawdust and we have a lot of that too, surely it must be of use to someone? Yes, it is, our local farm used to buy bedding for its animals but now they get it free, well almost free they have to park a trailer under our extraction system and then swap it when it’s full.

So, what next, I keep looking at the amount of packaging we buy and think back to when we used to buy old blankets from Oxfam to wrap everything. Checking with accounts we spend £5000 a year on packaging pretty much none of which gets reused.

Perhaps there is a business case for another overhead!