Sustainability — it really is the current buzzword that features almost everywhere you look. And so it should be, as the effects of climate change are manifesting across every corner of the globe, with frightening speed and devastation. Thus, sustainability has to be something we are thinking about — both individually and collectively in every area of our lives — from the products (and packaging) that we consume to how we operate, contribute and perform in our professional lives as well as our political choices.
The sector where I have the clearest view on this issue is the one in which I am connected to through my work, that of home appliances. Here the drive for sustainable appliances is considerable and has multiple facets. There are specific strategies and goals being developed and implemented to produce energy saving appliances with design and, notably, re-design initiatives to embrace bio-degradable materials that support effective recycling programs that reduce waste and pollution – promoting a more circular economy.
The corporate responsibility of the global OEMs manufacturing home appliances is an essential element of the drive for sustainability in this sector. In this article I will consider the sustainable strategies of some of the leading appliance companies, and how this is being implemented across the entire value chain of an organization. This will be within the context of the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which was released earlier this year (April) and will change regulatory compliance rules from 2024. The standards will be mandatory for large companies, while SMEs will benefit from a simplified reporting regime. Of particular interest within this directive is the application of dual materiality which will require an organization to disclose how its entire value chain impacts on the environment, as well as how sustainability issues affect the organization. This effectively means that companies have to consider sustainability both internally and externally (hence the dual approach) and provide visible reports — and accounts — that enable them to be held accountable.
This broadens the context considerably — because it is not just about producing sustainable, energy saving appliances that will appeal to consumers. That is important, vital even, but it is also about how companies operate in every aspect of their organization and across all of its facilities in terms of the affect (footprint) it has.
Here I will look at just two core sustainability issues within this wider context, namely the drive to save energy and working towards a more circular economy.
- Energy Saving
The continued consumption of fossil fuels continues to have the biggest impact on the environment and climate change, while these resources continue to become scarcer and more costly. These facts are driving the dual approach of sourcing renewable energy while also reducing energy consumption. This is largely true across the home appliance sector too. In terms of renewable energy, more and more consumers are looking at individual small solar electric systems, small wind electric systems or hybrid systems. Reducing energy consumption leaves consumers reliant on the types and versions of appliances that they buy, but those manufacturers focusing on this issue — in terms of water usage and electrical consumption — are increasing market share. Moreover, the European Commission’s latest legislation for energy labelling and has been outlined to improve the energy efficiency of products across the EU with minimum standards that will ultimately eliminate the lowest performing products from the market.
- Circular economy
A circular economy is one that seeks sustainable consumption and production patterns while offering new, cleaner and economically viable growth models. This is achieved by adopting the principles of reuse, repair, refurbish, remanufacture and/or recycle to create a circular system that greatly reduces pollution, waste products and carbon emissions. A circular economy is the antithesis of a linear economy that utilizes a valuable natural resource to produce a specific product that at the end of its life will become landfill because of the way it is designed and made.
A number of OEMs within the home appliance sector are embracing these issues and developing medium- and long-term sustainable strategies to achieve compliance with sustainability regulations and net zero CO2 targets.