Where does the drive to become more sustainable come from? The answer is different for every business. For some it’s just a numbers game while, for others, it’s about keeping employees and customers safe – or simply the desire to do good.
For Autex, a family business that has been manufacturing polyester products since 1967, sustainability is a principle that has been passed down through three generations. “Sustainability has been a core value throughout most of Autex’s history”, explains Global Technical and Sustainability Manager, Aidan Hill. “Every decision – from how our products are made to how our design and manufacturing teams communicate – is made with sustainability in mind. A lot of our sustainable initiatives have been in place since the business started, so it’s in the business DNA”.
The heart of sustainability
As a family business, Hill points to the idea of legacy as playing a role in the company’s principles. “It makes sense that, if you’re building a business that will be passed onto future generations, it should be sustainable. A lot of the values from our founders have filtered through into how we approach things today, so creating healthy, safe products and reducing waste have always been our priorities”.
Putting sustainability into practice
Reducing waste is a goal that Autex takes very seriously. All Autex products are made from highly-compressed polyester with the highest recycled content possible, without compromising on performance. In fact, the company currently diverts an impressive 1,000 tonnes of plastic waste into their products – the equivalent of 36 million plastic bottles a year. “We’re constantly looking for opportunities to lower the environmental impact of our products while not compromising product performance” reveals Hill. “We had recent success in a dematerialisation initiative where we actually created better performing products using 20% fewer resources”.
The company operates a zero-waste production line for a product range and operates a rigorous screening process of all suppliers to ensure that the end-to-end supply chain is sustainable. As part of Autex’s commitment to creating healthy, environmentally friendly products, its polyester uses advanced fibre technology, instead of adhesives, resulting in low to zero Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In fact, all Autex products meet the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) standard for testing VOC emissions, as well as Health Product Declaration certification and is Declare Red List Free.
Changing attitudes towards sustainability
For a company that has always taken sustainability seriously, throughout its 50-year history, it has been heartening to see a growing interest in sustainable products from its customer base, in recent years. “I majored in environmental science at university and have been in sustainability for more than 20 years – but it’s the last 2-3 years where I’ve really seen customers starting to really scrutinise the sustainability credentials of products”, reveals Hill. It is this growing scrutiny that has made certification more crucial than ever before, as the difference between real and implied sustainability has become harder for customers to distinguish. “Designers and specifiers simply don’t have the time to extensively research each product used in a building, so there is often a lot of trust placed in choosing green materials. Autex has addressed this issue by using well regarded certifications and having our environmental claims independently verified under ISO 14021 so our customers can have confidence that our claims are true.”, explains Hill.
Sustainability now and then
Looking back at how Autex’s approach to sustainability has changed throughout the years, it seems that while the methods may have become more sophisticated and far-reaching, the core principles remain unchanged. “I think it has always boiled down to constantly asking the question: how can we reduce waste? The reasons for doing so are the same today as they were back in 1967 – because it makes good business sense and it’s better for the environment”, explains Hill. “For Autex, we’ll keep on asking that question to reframe waste as a resource – whether it’s ‘how can we include more recycled content in our products?’ to ‘how can we ensure our suppliers are reducing their energy, water, and material waste?’. It’s a journey we’ve been on for more than 50 years and will continue for many years to come”.
For more information visit Autex here.