After being purchased by the Etex Group early in 2021, it’s been a busy and eventful year for Siniat (formerly Knauf Australia). We asked Siniat’s National Work Health & Safety and Sustainability Manager, Kathryn Walker, about what the name change means for the company and their sustainability focus.

The company has been a sponsor of the Women in Sustainability category since this category was introduced in 2019. Kathryn is also a panelist of the Women in Built Environment Sustainability Leadership at the Sustainability Summit.

Your role combines WHS and sustainability. Is it as varied as it sounds?

Yes! I really enjoy the variety of the role and no two days are the same. I could be working in the plant, out visiting a major customer in the city or working on projects with different teams in the business. Since the purchase of the business we’ve been reviewing our WHS strategies as well as our sustainability offering, so it’s been a busy and exciting time.

The Etex Group places a very high premium on safety, and the integration of our business with the Group meant that we had to have a new look at our existing systems. Our business has always regarded safety as the number one priority, but it’s been a good opportunity to review plans and systems and make improvements.

The same is true for our sustainability efforts, and with the backing of the Etex Group, we’re actively looking for opportunities to improve our sustainability offering.

What can you tell us more about the recent changes at your company?

The company was purchased by the Etex Group earlier this year, so our business has officially been renamed to Etex Australia Pty Ltd. All products and services have changed to Siniat branding. Siniat is one of the Etex Group’s flagship commercial brands and one of the leading global manufacturers of interior and exterior materials for drywall construction.

Customers would also have noted new signage at distributors of Siniat products and all company sites and we have a new website. But apart from these visible signs of rebranding, nothing else has changed. We are still the same team, we are still making the same products and our focus on sustainability has not changed.

I was going to ask you about that. What is the sustainability vision of the Etex Group?

The global sustainability focus of the Etex Group aligns perfectly with the journey our company has been on over the past decade.

The Etex Group unveiled its first ever Sustainability report in October, and it’s a strong sustainability commitment from the business. It formalises the Group’s sustainability ambitions, initiatives and processes. As a company whose business depends on the use of raw materials, energy, water and other resources, Etex is extremely conscious of its responsibility and has identified four main areas to work on for sustainability: carbon neutrality; health, safety and wellbeing; waste management and circularity; and diversity and inclusion.

Before we rebranded to Siniat, we were the first plasterboard manufacturer in Australia to offer carbon neutral certified board to the market. We have also taken the necessary steps to improve energy efficiency and will continue to do so by significant upgrades to plant and equipment, consideration of alternative energy sources as well as by changing work practices and the education of employees.

The fact that our sustainability vision is shared by our parent company is a strong boost for the work we have been doing, and we are looking forward to improving the Siniat sustainability offering even further in the future. 

Your business is sponsoring of Women in Sustainability category again this year, now under the Siniat brand. Why this category?

Diversity has always been important for our business, and it’s also one of the strengths of the Etex Group. Etex operates in 42 countries and employs more than 11,000 teammates. It’s a remarkably diverse workforce with many cultures, different age groups and obviously gender is a part of that.

In Australia we have a lot of women in our business – from production teams to technical specialists, architectural specification managers and operational teams. It has been demonstrated clearly that diversity brings the best business outcomes so, for us, sponsoring this category is about recognising that and supporting greater diversity in the industry.

Do you think sustainability is becoming a key focus of the construction industry?

I think sustainability awareness is gaining momentum again in the construction industry, and in general. The industry can continue to be an agent of positive change by building practical, flexible spaces that have a lower impact on the environment, and by increasingly considering the influence the built environment can have on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of those who use the buildings.

The Etex Group has adopted the purpose statement “Inspiring Ways of Living” with the vision to build living spaces that are more safe, sustainable, smart and beautiful while improving living conditions for all - around the globe. I think the growing awareness of sustainability will drive the change that will make this vision a reality in future, not only for our business but for the construction industry as a whole.

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