This article is based on an interview with Tim Hayes, Quantum’s Marketing and Specification Manger, for the CFA Sustainability Guide

What would you say are the most significant areas where your business has an environmental impact?

All manufacturers will, in recent years, have become familiar with the 3 scopes of CO2 emissions. Basically, Scope 1 is the direct emissions a company makes through running its own machines and vehicles, and Scope 2 is the indirect emissions it makes through the electricity or energy which is produced for the company’s use. Quantum Flooring’s parent company, QPSL, has made great efforts in recent years to reduce these Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.

Scope 3 emissions are much harder to control. Scope 3 encompasses all emissions up and down the company’s value chain such as the delivery and process of raw materials, waste, and business travel. Undoubtably, the biggest environmental impact throughout the company comes from the procurement and processing of PVC and Aluminium. In all, Scope 3 emissions account for around 92% of our total emissions.

What steps have you taken in the past to limit any environmental effects that your business has? E.g. sourcing more sustainable materials, changing packaging, reducing waste from the manufacturing process which goes to landfill, increasing recycling, saving energy etc.

We have taken a range of steps to limit Quantum’s environmental effects. We have reduced disposed waste from our production processes to under 1% through recycling and, where possible, reusing our own waste material on-site.

Quantum has made big energy savings by improving the equipment on our site. This includes transitioning to LED lights throughout our factory and office, relocating chillers to optimal locations on-site, and upgrading machinery to newer, more energy-efficient models.

We have begun to move our fleet of company cars to electric vehicles and installed charging stations at the site of our office and factory. We have also reduced the electricity used to process 1 tonne of PVC by 15% over the last 8 years.

Through these actions, we continue to reduce the emissions which are in our direct control. From 2017 to 2021 we oversaw a reduction of 35% of Scope 1, and 54% of Scope 2 emissions. With regards to Scope 3 emissions, we have managed to reduce waste by 54% in the same timeframe.

When did you start taking these steps?

In 2010, Quantum began investing into creating an Environmental Management System (EMS), implementing the above efforts. This system was accredited under ISO 14001 in 2013.

What further actions do you have planned for the future?

In terms of Scope 1 emissions – as mentioned before, we have already begun moving our company cars to electric vehicles. The target for 2025 is for all of our cars to be electric. For 2035, we are aiming for half of our heavy goods vehicles to be electric or hybrid.

Another long-term action is movement towards a more efficient production site, with the aim of 100% renewable electricity sources by 2025. This will help us to further reduce Scope 2 emissions. We plan to push for a 100% green energy supply at the end of 2022. Thereafter, we aim to find a solar source on-site or locally, to generate our own energy. We will also continue to replace ageing machinery with more energy efficient models.

In order to reduce Scope 3 emissions, we aim to source sustainably and locally. This includes supporting our suppliers who have net zero ambitions themselves, and prioritising companies which have a clear net zero statement. We plan to increase circular transport packaging with suppliers and customers, while prioritising delivery options with low carbon impact.

We also plan to reduce process waste to zero in the coming years, while reducing general waste as much as possible. Our immediate targets for these reductions are: process waste under 1% by 2025 and 0% by 2035; and general waste by 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2035. We will do this by finding recycle streams for our contaminated process waste, and investing in our own reprocessing equipment if necessary. We will also engage in further circular schemes with suppliers and customers.

Do you have a climate pledge, action plan or commitment?

QPSL has developed its own roadmap to reduce CO2 emissions. This is a strategy that not only outlines the goals, but also highlights the actions and resources necessary to achieve those goals. As part of our core strategy, this plan and its progress will be reviewed on regular basis.

Have you considered signing up to the SME Climate Hub Or a similar initiative?

Since 2012, we have been working with the Business Growth Hub’s Green Growth service to improve resource efficiency. With its help, we have achieved annual reductions of 430 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

As far as the contract flooring market is concerned, where do you think the biggest opportunity for improvement lies? With the types of products being used or with the way the industry operates?

A lot of good efforts are already ongoing to recycle old floors. This would be even easier if the industry could find way to minimise contaminated waste, so the recycled material achieves a higher quality. This could open more value streams in the reuse of the materials. If the industry could find more ways to introduce circular packaging without sacrificing secure transport (i.e. preventing damage to products), a cut down on those resources could be significant.

Do you think there is much of an opportunity for increased circularity in the contract flooring business? ie reuse of products.

The way floorings are glued and fitted, they are already used, in most cases, for their maximum lifetime, so the quality for reuse is challenging. Trade shows have cut down on unnecessary carpets in the past few years. So, the main reuse of products might come from proper recycling, and product designs which ensure that the industry does not create mixes of materials that are difficult to segregate or recycle.

In addition to Government regulation, are you seeing more of a demand for sustainable working practices coming from the market, eg from clients and major contractors as part of the tendering process?

Yes, customers often request green credentials for our products. At the same time, we engage with suppliers to ensure that the products they deliver to us have a maximum recycled content or come from environmentally friendly processes.

Do you think improved environmental practice can actually save manufacturers money, rather than being a cost to business?

Definitely – we have achieved annual savings of £147,000 through measures such as compressed air efficiency improvements, reduced raw material usage, process controls and legal compliance.

Quantum’s drive for efficiency was borne out of environmental considerations, simply because a business like ours consumes so much energy. But there is also a strong financial argument for the steps we have taken to become more resource efficient.

How optimistic are you in general terms that we can control global warming and that improvements made in the contract flooring industry can make a meaningful contribution?

The nature of manufacturing and construction means that energy costs and CO2 emissions are inevitable. It would be practically impossible, for instance, for a company to attain net zero on all Scope 3 emissions. This is because certain aspects of manufacturing necessarily expend energy which cannot be offset. However, these emissions can be mitigated by intelligent environmental practices, and liaising with suppliers and customers.

Scope 1 and 2 emission reductions can be addressed more directly, especially with the help of schemes such as Green Growth. There are always efficiencies which can be employed by companies, and technology is constantly improving to make sustainable practices easier and cheaper to implement.

Obviously, controlling global warming is slightly beyond our remit! However, I believe that the contract flooring industry can be front and centre of sustainable practices in manufacturing. Speaking with the big players in the industry, it is clear that other companies are, like Quantum, making a huge effort towards making their practices and supply chains more sustainable.

In the end, the will for change has to be there – and in the flooring industry, I think it is. Like all aspects of global warming, the only way we can really contribute is by controlling our own practices and encouraging others to do the same. If nothing else, I am proud to be part of a company like Quantum which strives for the best environmental policies that it can, and contributes towards the sustainability of the industry as a whole.

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