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Making more by using less


With the worldwide industrial growth of the 20th century largely fuelled by the use of environmentally damaging, finite resources, it’s fair to say sustainability and industry haven’t exactly gone hand in hand.

But today, businesses across all sectors are increasingly equating a sustainable philosophy with long-term economic success. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, at heart, sustainability is all about meeting current demand while preserving the conditions for long-term growth, and what industry worth its salt would want to eschew this mentality?

Under mounting pressure to meet environmental targets and make more efficient use of energy and dwindling resources, there are now a host
of compelling economic reasons for businesses to ensure that their designs, processes and products are as sustainable as possible.

As the stories in our latest Sustainability supplement demonstrate achieving this is never easy. It typically requires high levels of innovation – and often an apparently counter-intuitive change of mindset. The benefits, though, are worth the effort.

“When business does get serious about sustainability, it’s a win-win situation”

There is a compelling example of this in our feature on the UK’s burgeoning energy from-waste industry: the fact that the practice of sending huge volumes of waste to landfill is fundamentally unsustainable has never really been in doubt but, despite this, until relatively recently the UK topped the European landfill league table. Strict targets and new legislation have, however, driven change, and a new industry is emerging that offers an environmentally friendly and highly profitable way of processing waste.

It’s often tempting to be cynical about a company’s claims to be sustainable, and with good reason: industry is awash with examples of companies using ’sustainability’ as an image-enhancing buzzword, repeated mantra like and stripped of any meaning. But as the reports in this special supplement eloquently demonstrate, when business does get serious about sustainability, it’s a win-win situation – one of those all-too-rare occasions where economic growth and concern for the environment can walk hand in hand.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Sorry to say the transport sector does not quite align with the sentiments of the article. Shippers and receivers will pay lip service to green and sustainability issues but will always opt for the cheapest option even if this means using more polluting forms of transport. The container industry and the road haulage sector is riddled with this sort of mentality. Rail may bleat about the level playing field and its green credentials but at present the polluter does not pay and rail's energy efficiency endowment is not fully exploited.

    On a different tack it might be interesting to determine why the Dft is so keen on introducing heavy weight mixed mode new passenger trains with diesel propulsion when most of the rest of the world is electrifying like crazy. Sustainable over a life of 30 years. I think not.

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  • I would urge caution with the current trend of electrification of everything or we will end up in the situation we are currently in with oil.

    One fuel type means the large electricity suppliers will become all powerful, and have little to no competition, only from each other. Currently we are facing an electrical shortage, and not just in the UK, but across Europe, yes we do need to get more from less. This means other forms of electrical generation to meet and exceed demands, produced solely in the UK for use in the UK. Then we will not have countries such as France or Germany controlling our electricity supplies.

    What we need is to use current resources, how about water wheels, plenty of rivers with weirs. Cheap and reliable technology which can be scaled up or down to suit a variety of applications. How about a modern water mill producing electricity instead of flour, great for local electricity production.

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  • There are a lot of contradictions and conflicting interests around at the moment regarding sustainability.
    Most local authorities agressively promote recycling by segregating domestic waste. Waste that would be vital to support combustion in incinerator plants will not reach the incinerator. Such waste is paper, cardboard, garden and food waste. The rest of the garbage is high in toxins and low in calorific value.
    A current event will promote the environment; the closing of the unprofitable Plymouth airport. But it will cost jobs.
    Heavy weight mixed mode trains proposed for the Great Western routes are a necessity because numerous routes radiate out from Paddington. Many would be uneconomical to electrify.

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