It’s been more than a year since the Siniat brand entered the Australian plasterboard market. Siniat is one of the flagship commercial brands of the Belgium based Etex Group, which purchased the Knauf Australia business early in 2021.
Rebranding activities aside, it has been an eventful time for the business, also in terms of their sustainability activities. We spoke to Siniat’s National Work Health & Safety and Sustainability Manager, Kathryn Walker, to find out more.
It’s been more than a year since the rebrand of the business to Siniat. Are you happy with what’s been achieved?
Yes! A lot of work has been completed in a relatively short time and it’s good to see the Siniat brand now firmly established as a leading supplier of lightweight construction system in Australia. Having said that, there is still a lot of confusion in the market, especially with USG Boral recently rebranding to Knauf. We are continuing our efforts in growing brand awareness, improving the customer experience and promoting our sustainability offering.
How does your sustainability offering give Siniat a unique position in the market?
We are still the only manufacturer of plasterboard and metal products to offer a Climate Active certified carbon neutral opt-in program to the construction market, which positions us well with architects and builders who are chasing sustainability targets. The awareness of sustainable building products and practices is definitely growing, and we are well positioned to work together with our customers to achieve the most sustainable outcomes.
We recently provided in-depth sustainability training to all teammates working in marketing, sales and customer service. Sustainability is a complex topic that requires deep understanding of many different issues and it is important that all key departments understand them and become sustainability advocates.
I think it is important to mention that Siniat doesn’t regard carbon neutrality as the only priority. Sustainability is a holistic concept that also involves the social aspect. Social sustainability is about considering the effects of our actions on the wider community, and embracing social change to allow people to provide for their social wellbeing. For Etex this means amongst our sustainability ambitions target areas include health, safety & wellbeing, and diversity, equity & inclusion.
However, it is imperative to continue improving on our emission reduction strategies. Investing in offset projects to achieve carbon neutrality is one thing, but it has to be backed by a continuous improvement in reducing emissions generated by the business. Climate Active strongly emphasises this in their certification process and the Etex Group has also identified decarbonisation as a priority area in their global sustainability journey.
Lastly, it is important to stress that it is no longer enough to only supply so-called “green” products to the market. There is a need for radical collaboration between suppliers and the customers throughout the entire procurement process. At Siniat we believe in positioning ourselves as the right partner that helps customers to deliver sustainability across all key pillars, and not just one.
Can you elaborate on your strategies that help achieve social sustainability?
A good example is a very strong emphasis on safety and wellbeing. The Etex Group regards safety as the very foundation of the business. I am often asked why my role combines Safety and Sustainability, but to me it makes perfect sense because safety is such a key element of social sustainability.
It is up to me and my team to cultivate safety awareness in all areas of the business. At Etex Australia, the manufacturer of Siniat products, every teammate is responsible for safety, not only those directly involved in the manufacturing process.
This year we rolled out the safety awareness program SafeStart. SafeStart addresses unintentional human error and critical safety habits, thereby reducing risk and the potential for injury. It is about fostering safety behaviour, and it is everyone’s responsibility to execute their daily tasks and activities in the safest possible way – not only at work, but everywhere else.
Etex Australia also complies with Government regulations and publishes an annual Modern Slavery report, and we focus on selecting offset projects that have a strong social responsibility aspect, such as improvements for communities and individuals. We are very proud to have completed our second Modern Slavery report in 2022, where we have assessed our risks across our supply chain.
We also look to continue with further development of our assessments, such as with EcoVadis, a leading sustainability ratings tool. The Etex Group have partnered with EcoVadis in the development of a supplier rating program.
You also mentioned emissions. Can you elaborate on what you are currently doing to reduce emissions?
We have been making continual improvements to reduce emissions at all sites across Australia for more than ten years, and we regard it as an ongoing project without an end date. Some of our past successes include the completion of the state-of-the-art plasterboard facility in Bundaberg where we invested in the latest energy efficient equipment. We also introduced heat exchangers in dryers, waste heat recycling in our plastermills, changed lighting to natural light or LED and work to optimise water usage at all plants.
More recently we improved the energy efficiency of our gypsum storage and handling facility in Matraville, and we have made excellent progress with introducing renewable electricity into our plants, with a solar project installation commencing this year in our Altona facility.
Siniat is part of the Etex Group. Does the Group have any similar global sustainability strategies?
Yes, their sustainability focus aligns very well with what we have been doing in Australia for many years. The Etex Group published its first Sustainability Report in October last year, and this year’s is expected to be finalised soon.
In 2020, Etex became a signatory of the United Nations’ Global Compact (UNGC) for sustainable and responsible business practices and the company is also committed to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Following an internal assessment,10 SDGs were selected as the ones most relevant for Etex.
The Etex Group has very clear sustainability ambitions for areas such as health & wellbeing, diversity & inclusion, decarbonisation and circularity.
Siniat is sponsoring the Public Building category this year. Why this category?
There are two reasons, the first one simply being that we supply many public building projects. It is a good opportunity to introduce our sustainability offering to architects and builders specialising in this space.
The other reason is that these buildings are visible and used by many. They are always prominent projects that become landmarks in the community. By celebrating the sustainability triumphs achieved in these spaces we can help to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable design.
We believe that a sustainable public building can help everyone who enters the building to think differently about design and hopefully it can inspire them to take climate action in their daily lives. Public buildings can indeed be the catalyst for change.