Sustainability a cornerstone of the economy

PLANNERS see sustainable technology, particularly in the environmental field, as a cornerstone of Huntingdonshire s expanding economy. So the judges for the Sustainable Development Award for 2007 will be focusing keenly on companies that contribute to the

PLANNERS see sustainable technology, particularly in the environmental field, as a cornerstone of Huntingdonshire's expanding economy.

So the judges for the Sustainable Development Award for 2007 will be focusing keenly on companies that contribute to the environment, community and society. In particular, they will be looking at what effects the management practice has had on the community, the contribution the project has given to the environment or community, how your company measures its strategy plans against their achievements, and commitment to the future, including involvement with schools and colleges on environmental or community issues

The award is sponsored by St Neots-based packaging manufacturer Sealed Air, whose products, including "bubble-wrap" are household names, and whose corporate commitment to sustainability is a by-word in good practice.

The three finalists in this category are the former nationalised utility company, part of Huntingdonshire's biggest plc, Anglian Water Services Limited, St Neots paper honeycomb manufacturer Dufaylite - which even makes bio-degradable coffins - and last year's Hunts Post Huntingdonshire overall Business of the Year, property specialists movewithus, based in St Ives.

Anglian Water, literally a household name in Huntingdonshire, takes water to 4.2million customers and removes less wholesome things from 5.6million.

AWS takes its corporate responsibility extremely seriously and says it is embedded in an overwhelmingly community and environment-based portfolio of company activities. For example, it aims to pass on more than 95 per cent of dried "bio-solids" to agriculture, and looks carefully at energy costs and chemicals when costing capital projects.

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The company puts not only its mouth but its money into community projects. It is also heavily involved in fund-raising and delivering projects for the international charity WaterAid.

"AWS is committed to corporate responsibility because it is the right thing to do and it makes good business sense," said a spokesman.

"It's all about the way we work to ensure we have a sound business that provides vital services far into the future.

"We understand climate change and what it means to East Anglia, and we contribute to reducing its impacts on our environment. We aim to reduce harmful impacts on our environment and our dependency on fossil fuel and to achieve better energy and fuel efficiency. We want to be recognised as a company that contributes to the communities we serve."

Dufaylite specialises in the manufacture of paper and card honeycombs for door factories, caravans, packaging, construction products and display equipment.

Not only are most of its products made wholly from recycled materials, but most can be re-used at the end of their life. For printing the company uses solvent-free water-based inks.

Its eco-coffins, made from card honeycomb boards, have lower emissions and consume less energy to incinerate at crematoria than more common chipboard coffins.

Dufaylite is finding that its commitment to recyclable materials is attracting increasing interest among potential customers, said the company's Nigel West.

"Other developments are already under way, including paper pallets, to provide the company with a diverse range of target sectors to service."

In St Ives, property specialists movewithus have 200 employees in brand new offices and expect to expand to 300 before many months have passed. Winning last year's award has been a real bonus for attracting good quality job applicants, managers say.

But it is the combination of the company's own initiatives and employees embracing moves to protect the environment that prompted the judges to take a closer look for this award.

Four out of five employees immediately signed up to a car-sharing scheme when it was suggested, reducing the car park population by 67 vehicles a day.

"Our staff should be very proud that they are one of the 11 per cent of businesses that are willing to reduce their vehicle emissions and really rally round to do their all in reducing pollution," said director Caroline Hart.

The company has also subsidised food in the firm café to encourage employees not to drive off-site at lunchtimes, and has introduced a system of separating different types of waste for recycling.

"Such a simple format really does go a long way," Ms Hart added. "Saving petrol money, cutting traffic congestion and, more importantly, reducing carbon emissions are huge benefits.

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