Innovation increases sustainability and profits03 Dec 2013
Many businesses are now embracing sustainable practices - sourcing local raw materials, using networks that allow PCs to power-off at night and many other measures are now commonplace. All of these things have incremental positive impacts on energy consumption and carbon footprints but what about making a big impact? Writes Richard Spencer, Head of Sustainability at ICAEW.
Some organisations are leading the charge with innovative thinking on a strategic level which is bringing about a radical new approach to sustainable practices. One such organisation is South West Water and their innovative project: Upstream Thinking.
South West Water is the licensed water and sewerage service provider for over 1.65 million residents in Devon, Cornwall and parts of Dorset and Somerset. They introduced Upstream Thinking as a five-year approach to managing their water resources from the source. The project helped avoid capital investment, energy use and chemical costs.
Currently the water industry in general relies on expensive energy and chemicals to treat poor quality raw water. By improving land management it reduces run-off, which, in turn, reduces the amount of resources needed to intensively treat water. Fewer chemicals, energy and emissions have helped reduce the detrimental environmental impact, and the associated reduction in revenue costs.
South West Water launched their innovative environmental programme in 2009, and continue in partnership with charitable organisations and landowners to improve raw water quality at source.
With funding of £9million from Ofwat, they were the first water company to undertake a project of this scale. The environmental impact has been significant, including the reduction of pollutants, cutting down their capital expenditure on energy and intensive purification and disposal schemes.
The project aims to bring multiple benefits to the environment, from enhancing biodiversity amongst flora and fauna to reducing flooding. This innovative project represents a step change for South West Water and movement towards a more sustainable approach for the industry overall.
Innovation on this scale goes to show what is possible if business leaders apply innovative thinking and challenge accepted norms.