Making more by using less

The Engineer


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.