Design Insider has been engaging in some incredibly insightful conversations covering sustainability in our industry, discovering the different approaches brands have been taking to ensure sustainable thinking is at the forefront. We had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Reene, Health & Safety and Sustainability Manager at Sleepeezee, about why sustainability is so important to company, their solar panel project, and thoughts on what the future looks like in terms of sustainable practices across the industry.
What’s your background? Tell us about your role at Sleepeezee.
I first started with the company in July 2016, initially as support services administrator. This role encompassed looking at environmental management as well as health and safety management. Fast forward to today and I am now Health & Safety and Sustainability manager, responsible for all things sustainability, driving continuous improvement for health & safety and sustainability in the business.
Do you feel that the current industry is taking the right steps when it comes to sustainability?
Across the industry there’s a lot of progressive thinking surrounding sustainability. I think a lot of companies are trying to keep ahead and look for areas where they can incorporate more sustainable initiatives – which is where my job comes in. I’m aware of what othercompanies are doing, I’m a lot more focussed on driving improvement at Sleepeezee. But regardless, considering recent global events I think most businesses at this point recognize that sustainability is very important.
It’s vital to mention that there are so many angles to consider as well. Where one company might focus on sourcing materials and products, another might be looking at how they can improve their manufacturing methods. It’s a specific process to each and every company how they choose to push more sustainable initiatives.
Why is sustainability important to Sleepeezee?
It’s a part of everything that we do and stand for. It’s a recognition that we need to make sure that we’re looking after the planet because otherwise there’s just no use. We need to be creating and supplying a sustainable future and I think a lot of businesses such as ourselves recognise the impact that we all have on the planet, so really, it’s a case of doing what we can to bring our footprint down so that there is a future and a continuation.
It’s good to look at both the local and global scale of our environmental actions. With Sleepeezee becoming more globally recognised, we need to understand our place in the world and the steps we need to take.
Additionally, we hold the Royal Warrant, so we recognise that this is a privileged position. We therefore reflect the values shared by the Prince of Wales and what he has done for sustainability and it’s something that we take very seriously. Sustainability really is what makes us, us.
What steps has Sleepeezee taken to be more sustainable? What practices are currently in place?
When we first started our sustainability journey, I really wanted to focus on quick wins, whether this meant using LED lighting or incorporating plastic curtains to prevent heated air escaping our factory. We then started to become more ambitious. We first started measuring our organisational carbon footprint and have been offsetting our carbon emissions since 2017 to become carbon neutral Our most recent initiative is our most ambitious yet, our solar panel installation significantly reducing our reliance on electricity from the National Grid.
What is the biggest challenge when incorporating greener initiatives?
I’m very fortunate in my position in that everyone in the company supports me on these projects.
I would say that the next ten years are now our biggest challenge. We’ve gone such a long way so far, so we need to make sure that we keep up the momentum, keep taking action and keep improving. We’re almost getting to the point now where we’re waiting for technology to catch up to our ambition for example, greener methods of transporting our products around the world.
How do you prioritize what you should be doing when it comes to sustainable changes?
This is surprisingly simple to answer. We measure what our carbon footprint is and then we can see what our biggest contributions are. At Sleepeezee, energy usage was the largest contribution. Therefore, we started looking into our gas and electricity. One of the solutions to this was installing destratification fans in our factory. When the factory is heated, air rises and just hangs around in the roof. Last year, we installed the fans in the ceiling to push all that air down and it’s really effective in ensuring that heat is circulating the factory without wasting energy.
My next area will likely be transport, as we use diesel fork trucks currently. This makes up for about 7% of our carbon footprint, and so replacing these with electric alternatives removes that 7% straight away.
Tell us a little bit about the solar panel project. Why was this an important step for Sleepeezee?
Although we’ve been purchasing green electricity, I felt it was important that we took it one step further and started generating our own and become as self-sufficient as we possibly can be.
In the first few weeks, I got very excited as I had access to all of the software. On one particularly sunny day, I started phoning people up and telling people that we were self-sufficient even though the factory was at full capacity with lights and machinery on, we were actually generating more than we were using, which is fantastic.
It’s truly remarkable, even though it’s been just over a month now since we’ve had it installed, it’s made a massive reduction on our energy use.
What does the future look like in terms of sustainable practices? How is this incorporated across retail, hospitality, and export?
Well, for us, it’s just always trying to be at the forefront as new technology develops. We need to follow our continuous improvement process, where we carefully consider what we’re doing. It’s a case of not just going for the latest flavour of the month – we want to avoid any sort of green washing, so we want to make sure that any improvement we do genuinely is an improvement and doesn’t just look good.
Environmental actions are becoming increasingly important to our customers whether it’s in retail or in hospitality. It is my belief that people won’t want to engage with companies that don’t genuinely engage with sustainability. It is therefore our responsibility for our customers and our planet to make sure that we are doing as much as we can when it comes to facing climate change.
Contact Sleepeezee through the BCFA Product Finder.
The BCFA Product Finder is designed to find BCFA member companies and their products and services. There are four ways of searching either by product sector, market sector, company name by A-Z, or use the product search and enter the product or service name e.g. seating, to find companies offering seating and its variants.