Sustainability. It’s the “ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” and also the “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”.
It’s not often an article is started with a flip through the dictionary, but sustainability is a word – an action – that sometimes gets lost when understanding its real meaning. And if it didn’t, the planet would most likely be in a much healthier state.
What’s encouraging though, is to see so many people and businesses share a common goal, in doing their bit to try and keep the world green. One such company under the spotlight on this topic is bed maker Sleepeezee.
The business has a strong pedigree for its sustainable practices and has such been recognised with various accolades to back up its eco-processes.
Steve Warren, Joint Managing Director at Sleepeezee, emphasises just why this topic is so important and how the business is leading the way. “Sustainability is such an important focus for us at Sleepeezee and has been for a number of years.
No waste has gone to landfill since 2012 and we went fully carbon neutral in 2017, meaning that nearly 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tC02e) have been offset in the last two years. Put into context, that’s the equivalent of offsetting 300 homes or taking over 300 cars off the road.
“We’re the first UK mattress manufacturer to receive the Planet Mark certification, which recognises continuous improvement when it comes to the reduction of carbon emissions and development of sustainable practices.
“Through our carbon offsetting projects, we also work closely with communities across the world to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, supporting the Wayang Windu Phase 2 Geothermal Power Project in Indonesia and the Wind Based Power Generation by Panama Wind in India. As a result, nearly 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide have been offset in these communities, creating jobs and economic opportunities for local people.
“For us, sustainability also goes beyond environmental performance and as one of the largest employers in Medway, we recognise the important role that Sleepeezee has to play in the community. We’re proud to say that 75% of our workforce are from the local area (within five miles) and this, in turn, supports the local economy. We’re also proud to back local charities and donate to the area’s food banks.”
The above are fantastic achievements. Even on the product side, their ethos of sustainable-first thinking shines through, which certainly gets noticed by its customers.
“First and foremost, all of our mattresses and beds are made in the UK so the carbon footprint of each product is very low. All of our timber is sourced under European Union Timber Regulations which guarantees that anything we use to make our products have been obtained sustainably,” Steve says.
“British wool is also a key component in many of our mattresses and we’re an advocate for the Campaign for Wool, which supports sustainable practices in sheep farming and promotes the renewable and biodegradable benefits of wool.
“A number of our products also carry the British Wool Licensee label – this means that the products have been vetted to ensure traceability of the wool content through the entire supply chain, giving consumers the reassurance that the wool content is high and from a vetted sustainable source.
“We also have a collection, Perfectly British, which is made entirely from materials and fillings sourced from within the UK, helping to lower our carbon footprint by utilising materials close to home, not to mention supporting British businesses. We have dedicated POS that retailers can utilise to promote this message to the end customer. Now more than ever, consumers are supporting British made, British sourced products.” In fact, Sleepeezee spends 80% of its raw material expenditure with UK based companies.
The business has been busy maintaining its factory processes too, having significantly reduced energy usage by replacing all fluorescent lighting with LED alternatives, which has proved a “great success. We have also installed destat fans too, which we estimate will save 66 Tonnes of CO2 per year.”
Furthermore, waste segregation has also worked well, with the company now able to maximise what it recycles by splitting out wood, metal, plastics and fabrics. And not slowing down there, Steve revealed that the business is “exploring a few options”, including adding solar panels to the factory and introducing electric delivery vans where possible.
“It’s about constantly striving to improve and making changes where and when you can. You can’t transform anything overnight but as a business, you can make conscious decisions and take the next steps that will have a positive impact in the long term. Sustainability is at the core of everything Sleepeezee does, making it easy to maintain.”
So, the million pound question, why is it important to be a sustainable business?
“When it comes to sustainability each and every one of us has a responsibility to our planet and businesses should be leading the way as we have the power to make a difference on a much larger scale.
“Business can, and needs to be, a force for good.
“Sustainability is also increasingly important to consumers and being able to talk confidently about your philosophy when it comes to eco practices as well as being transparent about supply chains and the providence of materials, will help to set you apart.
“Across the furnishing industry, there is definitely a collective drive to make improvements to supply chains. We’re a member of the Furniture Industry Sustainability programme which helps to identify best practice and support its members to implement change.
“Our efforts to drastically reduce carbon emissions, energy and water consumption has led to recognition from the programme, which is fantastic.
Steve continues: “I think consumers have become even more aware of the impact that carbon emissions and international travel has on the environment, thanks to the sudden drop in road and air traffic during lockdown. This in turn may lead many people to question the air miles associated with products that they are buying and encourage them to consider options that are closer to home.
“The pandemic has also made consumers more conscious than ever about where they are spending their money and what they are spending it on, so there is a huge opportunity for retailers to back British products.”