Q3 2019

38 | Q3 2019 In today’s eco-conscious consumer market, becoming more environmentally friendly can be a bonus to businesses. Alison Brinkworth looks at how SMEs are using innovative ideas to meet the green agenda and boost their success and reputation. How going green can keep you out of the red The rise of the green agenda has shone a light on the impact that businesses, large and small, can have on the environment with pressure mounting to adapt operations and activities. For some SMEs, this move has provided them with opportunities to develop new ideas, product lines and changes that prove good for business as well as the environment. Gloucester-based LifeArt Coffins has used innovation to create a successful business that is making environmental in-roads in the UK’s death care industry. From manufacture through to cremation, LifeArt’s coffins and caskets, made from fibreboard, produce up to 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than regular coffins made of chipboard or MDF. LifeArt Coffins also uses up to 80% fewer trees in its construction process. Simon Rothwell, Chief Executive of LifeArt Coffins, said: “I never really thought much about coffins until I lost my dad. It wasn’t until the funeral that I realised the coffin was veneered chipboard and I knew burning chipboard wasn’t good for the environment. “I started talking to funeral directors and became aware that most coffins were now made of veneered chipboard or MDF. It turns out that these coffins began to replace solid wood in the 1970’s at a time when the environment wasn’t a mainstream public concern - now most coffins are made of this material. “Cremation rates are currently at 77% and cremating these types of coffins are causing a lot of air pollution but the public don’t realise. In the UK alone, we are cremating over 17.5 million tonnes of chipboard or MDF coffins every year.” Simon became aware of ground-breaking innovations in coffin making by Australian company LifeArt International, which was replicating the look of a veneered chipboard coffins. Setting up a joint venture in the UK called LifeArt Coffins Ltd, the company launched a factory in Gloucester in 2017. Going from strength to strength, LifeArt Coffins now supplies to a wide range of funeral homes including Lincolnshire Co-operative, Tamworth Co-op, East of England Co-op, Ian Hazel Funerals and Michael Gamble Funeral Directors. Setting up with environmentally friendly aims from the start, the business also recycles its off- cuts and uses wood sourced from sustainable operations, meaning more trees are planted than harvested. The company also works with suppliers who all adhere to the same set of ecological values as it does. In terms of how being green-friendly can help boost a business, Simon has clear advice for other companies: “There is a growing public expectation that businesses need to have a social purpose as well as a wealth creation one. As a business owner, you have to be aware of both ethical and financial considerations. “Pressure is really growing on governments to act on the climate emergency and manufacturing firms that don’t develop low carbon products may well find themselves legislated out of business in the not-too-distant future.” “Trade bodies ought to be sparking conversations about the environment too, to help sectors across the business community to decarbonise. There’s also an onus on the public to choose suppliers who are truly ethical and for all of us to call out those who engage in “greenwashing”, which is basically putting an “eco spin” on something that isn’t really delivering any benefit to the environment.” That pressure on the Government has never been more apparent than during on-going protests by Extinction Rebellion, the activist group using civil disobedience to call for greater government action against the climate emergency. Protestors want action that goes beyond what was published in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan published last year, which sets out goals for improving the environment within a generation, detailing how it will work with businesses and communities. So far, the Government’s efforts to minimise waste and plastic pollution have seen the introduction of the world’s strongest microbeads ban along with plans to ban plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers, extend the five pence plastic bag charge and introduce a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. Emerging as part of this green agenda is Birmingham-based The Clean Kilo. The company opened in June last year and is the

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