In recent years, sustainability has become a buzzword. As our impact on the environment becomes increasingly apparent, brands across every industry have been quick to promote their green credentials (commonly known as ‘greenwashing’). For many corporations, sustainability is simply the latest consumer trend; but, for a select few, it’s a core value that influences every single aspect of their business.
When John Creighton designed what is now called the Stormtech 65ARG40 Slimline linear drain, in 1995, he created a product that was of the highest quality, durable and, as a result, sustainable. John’s son, Troy Creighton, now leads the business as Stormtech’s CEO; as he explains, what started out as being ‘sustainable through necessity’ has now become an intrinsic part of the company culture. “Our goal was to design excellent products that were built to last. We use marine-grade stainless steel which has a penetration rate of 1mm per 1000 years, so we know our drains are going to last as long as the building, at the very least. Reusing packaging and limiting waste simply makes sense, so our sustainable culture stemmed from there”.
The Road to Sustainability
Stormtech’s focus on excellence – both in terms of its products and processes – are at the heart of its impressive achievements in sustainable business practices, which have been recognised with a Level A Gold certification from Global GreenTag. For Creighton, the most sustainable options are invariably also the best for the business and its people. “Time after time, we’ve found that when we adopt a more sustainable method, regardless of what it is, the cost takes care of itself in the long-run. Businesses will often take whichever option has the lowest-cost barrier to entry – but, while the set-up costs may be higher, sustainable is almost always cheaper overall. Renewable energy is the only sustainable option that costs us more than the alternative – but that’s a price we’re more than happy to pay”.
The ‘set-up costs’, to which Creighton refers, include Stormtech’s on-going investments in research and design – the secret to its innovative product range and fabrication processes. “We’re committed to continuous improvement and have more than 200 years of combined industry experience across our factory floor”, enthuses Creighton. “As well as industrial designers and tooling engineers, we also source external knowledge from a range of industries – from aerospace to defence”.
Behind the Scenes Sustainability
One of the predominant materials used in Stormtech’s award-winning drains is marine-grade stainless steel. Not only are Stormtech’s steel grates and channels 100% recyclable, but they do not decay and are serviceable and reusable for thousands of years, with the company recycling and reusing all its off-cuts to achieve zero-waste. This is an admirable achievement in itself – but, for Creighton and his team, sustainability is an end-to-end process.
The shiny yet hardwearing finish which makes stainless steel so desirable is created through a two-step process called pickling and passivation – both of which involve extremely strong chemicals. “Pickling requires hydrofluoric acid, which is extremely harmful to both humans and the environment – so harmful, that it’s difficult to dispose of safely and is becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of”, warns Creighton. “Passivation uses a milder nitric acid, which is where the chromium oxide coating is created, giving it its shiny finish. We’ve developed a completely different method which uses no strong acids – the strongest acid we use is a citrus-based, food-grade acid which can be re-used. You could fill your pool with the stuff!”.
Despite Creighton’s light-hearted tone, the reality is that Stormtech is making real advancements in sustainability that are truly innovative and could have far-reaching implications for the vast number of industries that utilise stainless steel. Stormtech’s entirely unique process has been tested by Bureau Veritas and shown to have extremely high corrosion resistance – making it perhaps one of the most effective, cost-efficient and, importantly, sustainable methods for fabricating stainless steel.
Best for the Planet, Not PR
While, for now, Stormtech is understandably keeping its intellectual property to itself, the stainless steel fabrication is just one example of ‘behind the scenes’ sustainability that the business is choosing in order to simply ‘do better’ – as Creighton puts it – rather than for PR purposes.
Understandably, greenwashing is a contentious topic for Creighton and his team, who are justifiably proud of the steps they’ve taken towards becoming a zero-footprint organisation. “I’m seeing so many companies who have picked out a single product in their range that just happens to be sustainable and then building an entire campaign around it”, Creighton explains. “It’s a cynical marketing move and these businesses are missing the opportunity to make a real difference for future generations. There are so few genuine sustainability stories within our industry that, at Stormtech, we’re running our own race. We no longer look for inspiration from others, we’re focused on how we can keep improving what we’re already doing”.
A Greener Future
So, what’s Creighton’s advice to businesses looking to become more sustainable? “Just start somewhere”, he quips. “Seemingly small changes can make a big difference at a business level. All our products are sustainable, but we also look at all corners of the business, from selecting suppliers to managing our packaging – which is now almost entirely re-used or recycled. Even making the decision not to replace machines that are still fit for purpose; it’s a simple, sensible choice, but many businesses will think nothing of throwing out perfectly serviceable machines simply because they want modern workshops”.
While not all CEOs are as environmentally minded as Creighton, he makes a compelling case for prioritising sustainability. “In most instances, the sustainable option costs less, provides a better outcome and is simply the right thing to do”, he concludes. “I, as well as many of my team, have young children and it’s hard to ignore the importance of legacy. By making these choices, we’re building a business that’s simultaneously successful and makes us proud. We’re not paying lip-service; we’re showing that profit and sustainability aren’t mutually exclusive… and our journey is just getting better and better”.
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