16 October 2023Sustainability – where we stand
The term Sustainability is one which has grown in popularity in recent years, amongst individuals and businesses alike. As we become aware of the effect we have on our surroundings, our habits and actions have changed accordingly. Many have become accustomed to the changes we have had to make in our day-to-day lives to minimise impact on the environment - may it be driving an electric car or solar panels on roofs - everyone is doing something, even if they don’t realise it. Sustainability has become second nature, but left to the individual to interpret how they wish.
Sustainable Development can be defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Report, 1987). Sustainability forces us, as a business, to be inward looking and assess our current actions, and to then look forward and ask ourselves ‘How will this impact future generations?’. This is a very pertinent question for a family business such as ours, since, as much as we need to think about the future of the planet for those who will be impacted by our actions now, we must also think of this from the perspective of future generations of our family.
Our commitment to the local community
At Evans Vanodine, we are aware of the impact any business can have on their immediate environment, so the company is dedicated to making improvements in products and processes to reduce this. The business believes it has a duty of care over the community in which it is situated and, as an Upper Tier COMAH site, preventing harm to both the people and nature surrounding the site is part of our everyday operation. ISO 14001 Certification for Environmental Management has been held by the business since 2007 and has been maintained for the past 16 years due to the continuous efforts of Team Evans.
We recognise that environment and sustainability doesn’t naturally go hand in hand with our chemical manufacturing business. Therefore, in 2009, we launched the WEIR rating system for our products, which enabled us to score each Evans product against environmental factors and compare like for like products to determine which had the lowest environmental impact. In 2021, the methodology behind the rating system was re-analysed, due to changing environmental factors and this newly updated system and range of low impact products was relaunched as the Greentick range. This allows our users to make informed choices regarding the products they select. We also provide education in the negative impact the incorrect use of chemicals can have by providing COSHH and risk assessment portals and training.
Is eradicating plastic the answer?
A hot topic in many businesses’ sustainability journey is plastic. Removing plastic from a business’s supply chain is a fantastic goal, but is eradicating plastic in its entirety from our business the key? We have adopted non-virgin, post-consumer-recycled material (PCR) containers where possible, as well as promoting re-usability and recycling to push towards a circular economy. We have, however, found that recycled content isn’t always the best solution and can, on occasion, make less sense environmentally. When looking at supplying chemicals we need high quality, reliable products, in durable containers that can be reused and/or recycled. Quality is especially important when looking at refills, as you want the container to last. PCR content does not have the same lifespan as its virgin content counterparts, due to the breakdown of bonds. So, being environmentally conscious will sometimes mean opting for a virgin material, as it will last longer, and less waste will be generated.
We must also consider that some of the chemicals we sell require a UN certified container. These must pass a range of parameters, including drop tests, and as such need to be robust and fit for purpose. Although innovations are now being furthered to include PCR content in these types of packs, certain authorisations do not allow for PCR content to come into contact with authorised products, due to the absence of studies to prove it does not affect efficacy. Therefore, as much as we want to have a complete product range using only containers with PCR content, this is not yet achievable. For Evans, promoting reusability remains a large part of our packaging sustainability vision, as well as reducing the consumption of plastic through the likes of our super concentrates range, e:dose.
The importance of sustainability in processes
In addition to looking at the impact of our products, we continue to push forward with evaluating our processes in terms of sustainability and quality. Following a review of our water usage during manufacturing, we began a water saving project in 2018, to find ways of using it more efficiently. In the first year we saved 3 million litres of water going to drain and, with continuous improvement, our current saving is 6 million litres off the baseline figure.
In 2020 we decided to take further action in terms of carbon responsibility and analysing our footprint. We teamed up with Planet Mark, with a commitment to reducing our carbon footprint by 5% annually. Since our certification with Planet Mark in 2020, Evans are proud to have achieved three continuous years of carbon reduction. Joining the scheme has been a positive driving force for change in our business and, now in our 4th year of improvements, we have seen a total reduction in carbon emissions of 28% from the baseline year. Improvement projects during this period have included replacing all office lighting with LED’s, updating our heating and cooling systems with HVAC systems, switching all company fleet vehicles from solely fossil fuel to either hybrid or electric, and continuing to reduce water consumption year-on-year.
Biodiversity and people
Our journey with sustainability isn’t just limited to the environmental impacts we have on our site; we also recognise biodiversity. This has led to the sponsorship of the management of two beehives at The Bee Centre, close to our head office.
Human and social aspects are often overlooked when considering sustainability. At Evans Vanodine, we recognise the importance of being involved within the local community; recent contributions have included our annual food drive for The Foxton Centre, a homeless shelter in the centre of Preston, helping individuals, families, and victimised women to get off the streets. We take great pride in sponsoring a local women’s football team for their kits and match supplies. We also get involved with national charities, such as MacMillian Coffee Mornings, Save the Children Christmas Jumper Days, as well as The Hygiene Bank. Not only do these events help the charities, but they can also be a boost to staff morale as members of Team Evans can give back to their local community.
Looking to the future
As a family business, the future is a constant topic of conversation, discussing where we want to be and how we will get there. Our 5-year sustainability strategy helps us plan for the future. Current goals include increasing energy efficiency, as well as water and waste reductions. The next major sustainability project on site is to reduce our energy usage further by replacing the lighting in the factory and warehouse with efficient LED lighting. In the future, we plan to look more into biodiversity and where we stand as part of an industrial site. As our business grows and evolves, we continue to acknowledge the impact our actions can have and understand that it is our duty to do what we can today, to make sure we don’t compromise our tomorrow.