“Manufacturers need to bring about a cultural change”

Paul Gatfield is Head of Manufacturing and SHE at Coram UK. Based at the company’s UK manufacturing site in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, Paul started working for the business in 2001 and takes the lead in supervising Coram’s environmental management systems and protocols. Here, he talks about the company’s recent shortlisting in the 2024 SHE Awards, which take place in May 2024 and the steps it is taking to further increase sustainable manufacturing measures.

Can you tell us about some of the initiatives that Coram UK has implemented to ensure a more sustainable manufacturing environment?

Coram UK encompasses five bathroom brands; Impey, Coram Showers, Geesa, Sealskin and Tiger. We have worked hard over recent years to ensure that we are continuously monitoring and improving our environmental objectives and targets. At our UK manufacturing site, focus areas have included business-wide recycling (over 50 tonnes in 2023), removal of plastic packaging and a full overhaul of packaging methods and products.

Other initiatives have been the replacement of staff vehicles with electric / hybrid, energy efficient lighting changes and assessment of IT protocols to save energy. We were delighted to make the shortlist for SHE Awards, Sustainable Company of the Year, and will actively focus on the continual improvement of our environmental performance throughout 2024 and beyond.

Was it easy to put these changes in place?

Initially, as for all changes, a period of adjustment is required. One example would be our focus on eradicating plastic and non-recyclable foam from the packing of our Aqua-Dec EasyFit wetroom floor former. This strategy incorporated our design and marketing teams working closely with our cardboard supplier and onsite manufacturing teams. They worked together to systematically establish the best product which met the needs of manufacturing, considered environmental benefits and sustainability and also thought about the manual handling of the individuals who would be packing the product. Information flowed up and down the lines of communication to ensure all voices were heard and all options were considered.

Is sustainability important to your business strategy going forward?

It’s hugely important for all departments, at all levels of our business. We are designing for sustainability, it’s been built into our culture.

Are consumers willing to pay more for products which are sourced and manufactured sustainably?

I think they are certainly more likely to consider it now than ever before. There is a growing awareness of the importance of knowing how products have been manufactured, where materials are sourced from and how ethically a business operates.

In your opinion, how can manufacturers focus on sustainability?

To focus on sustainability, manufacturers need to bring about a cultural change. It’s not an exercise in ticking boxes; it requires the adoption of a continuous improvement mentality and everyone in the business needs to be on board. Sustainability is not a ‘nice to have’, it should be a requirement for all businesses going forward.

To help ensure we can concentrate on our sustainable ethos, Emily Moses has recently been promoted into the newly created role of Coram UK Sustainability Officer. She will be focusing on our environmental, social, and economic responsibilities. Primarily her efforts will be centred around further developing and implementing strategies to minimise Coram UK’s environmental impact; this will include continuing to reduce manufacturing waste, and promoting sustainable practices across our business.

How can manufacturers gauge whether they are on the right track with their sustainability efforts?

It’s important to look at the changes which have been implemented and gather evidence of the positive change which has been affected.

For example, referring back to our packaging project for our Aqua-Dec floor formers, over a 12-month period we have been able to evidence the following:

  • Plastic shrink-wrap saving, usages reduced by 46,000 metres which equates to 8,000kg per annum.
  • Blue foam usage reduced by 11,000kg per annum.
  • Associated energy saving (shrink-wrap machine has been decommissioned) is approximately £30,000.
  • Two full time employee roles have been secured to pack the products onsite at Bridgnorth manufacturing plant.
  • Any waste cardboard from the new process is shredded and repurposed as packaging for other manufactured product lines.

Can you explain the challenges to achieving sustainability in UK manufacture?

For those manufacturers just starting on their sustainability journey, adjustment in the way of thinking is the most important place to start. Implementing change may require retrofitting their current manufacturing processes or putting a lot of research into their supply chain or packing and delivery options.

At Coram we feel that it’s important to look at the business as a whole and involve everyone in impacting the positive changes. When you go on the journey as a team, the sustainability mindset really can become second nature.

How do you work with retailers to make them aware of your sustainability goals and processes?

Many of our retailers are very aware of the role of sustainability in the industry. We try to offer them as much information as possible about our sustainability focus, so that they can pass this knowledge onto their customers.

If you would like to find out more about Coram UK and its brands, visit: Coram UK

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