Sustainability is perhaps the most important word affecting both business and humanity today.
With the climate crisis on almost everyone’s mind, businesses are making conscious efforts to reduce their impact on the environment - and to satisfy the increasing number of consumers looking for responsible companies.
Though our signs have often been a long-lasting solution, there is always more which can be done to improve their sustainability.
So, as one of the UK’s largest suppliers of point-of-sale advertising signs and displays, we’ve been exploring ways we can champion sustainability.
We thought we’d share some of the actions we’ve taken to make Signwaves’ signs even more sustainable.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is a word often used but not always understood.
A widely accepted definition is that sustainability is man-kind’s goal to survive on Earth for the long-term without exhausting resources or detrimentally impacting the environment for ourselves and other species.
In business terms, sustainability means delivering products or services which do not leave a lasting negative impact – such as depleting resources, creating waste or otherwise harming the environment.
For example, one of the biggest areas of concern is the use of energy from traditional sources and its impact on climate change through carbon emissions.
How is Signwaves acting sustainably?
Like many organisations, sustainability impacts Signwaves in two ways:
- How we function as a business
- The products which we produce and supply
Let’s take a look at some of the practical ways we’re addressing the right behaviours to improve our sustainability:
Sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. We believe we have an obligation to consider and increase our sustainability, which should be applied to every action - large or small.
So, in March 2020, we gained our ISO14001:2015 Environmental Management System accreditation. This international standard ensures we continually monitor and seek to reduce our environmental impact.
Rather than carrying on as before, we’re challenging ourselves – and others - to rethink everything possible to identify and reduce waste. “That’s the way it’s always been done” is never a valid excuse!
All the paper and envelopes we use throughout our organisation - both in our offices and our packaging – are from sustainable sources.
Challenging established or incorrect perceptions is one of the challenges of sustainability too.
For example, whilst single-use plastic products can result in harmful waste, products made of plastic can also provide a long life-cycle which is more sustainable than less hard-wearing materials. Through careful design and explanation, we can help our customers choose sign products which truly last longer for greater sustainability.
Reduction is at the heart of sustainability.
One of the primary areas in which we can improve our sustainability is by reducing our use of energy.
Our factory and warehouse have been converted to LED lighting which has reduced energy consumption by over 80%.
In 2019, we installed 360kW solar panels on the roof of our main factory. This delivers a significant proportion of our energy needs in a highly sustainable way. The remainder of our electricity is provided via a 100% renewable (green energy) supplier.
As a ‘zero landfill’ business, we ensure none of our waste ends up in landfill. Our waste management strategy ensures a high percentage is recycled and the remainder is used to create Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). We use a minimum of 80% recycled board material in all our packaging cartons.
Plus, we carefully design our products to require the minimum amount of transportation space to reduce the energy used and plan our logistics to ensure vehicles only leave our factory when they are full for better efficiency.
Single-use or short-lived products are a major detractor from sustainability, so anything we use or produce should be able to have a long life.
The greatest area in which we can encourage reuse is with our product design. Signs are at their most sustainable when they can have a long and extended life.
Many of our leading products make it easy to replace artwork – such as reprinting the panels or replacing the posters - whilst retaining the original stand, base or frame for many years of durable use.
The modular design of our signs also means that damaged or worn parts can be individually replaced to prolong the life of the product.
Our recyclable Sign Covers are ideal for popping over existing forecourt signs to advertise medium-term promotions and offer 38% more display area than the posters they cover.
Where possible, we use recycled or recyclable materials in our products. Sustainability is at the heart of every new product!
To date, we have used over 4,200 tonnes of recycled PVC to manufacture our sign bases. That’s the equivalent weight of 330 double-decker London buses!
Recycled aluminium has an important role to play in sustainability. It takes just 5% of the energy to recycle aluminium than it does to mine, refine and produce new aluminium.
In 2022, we recycled 7.04 tonnes of aluminium waste from our factory production processes. That’s enough to manufacture over ½ million soft drinks cans - or an entire Lear Jet!
Signwaves eco-design principles
As a developer of products, we employ eco-design principles throughout our design process.
According to the European Environment Agency…
“Eco-design considers environmental aspects at all stages of the product development process, striving for products which make the lowest possible environmental impact throughout the product life cycle”
When developing or designing any products, we aim to ensure, where possible, they feature:
- Low environmental impact materials
- Recycled materials
- Recyclable materials
- Efficient transport weight
- Compact packaging
Ecoflex - the sustainable eco-designed sign
An example of our eco-design is the Ecoflex - the UK’s top-selling individual pavement sign!
Its huge popularity brings additional responsibility to make the product as sustainable as possible. Using eco-design principles, we’ve developed it to offer a number of sustainability benefits:
- It’s more compact than its predecessor, meaning less packaging and more efficient transportation. Where only 20 of the previous design would fit on a standard 1.4m pallet, our revised eco-design allows for 34 - reducing transportation requirements, costs and emissions by up to 36%
- The Ecoflex range uses recycled PVC for the moulded base and all materials used in the sign are 100% recyclable
- The design features an easy ‘end of life breakdown’ which means it can be broken down in under 30 seconds into separate components for recycling
As the UK’s favourite pavement sign, this eco-design has had significant sustainability benefits for customers, especially those who buy Ecoflex in high volumes.
Our search for sustainability continues
At Signwaves, we believe that sustainability is a journey rather than a destination.
However sustainable we can make our products, operations and processes today - new technology, innovation or thinking will no doubt help us make further sustainability improvements tomorrow.
As such, we are continually seeking to embed more sustainable choices into everything we do – and everything we design, procure, manufacture and supply.
Though we are making important steps, we’re determined that Signwaves will continue to seek out and improve sustainability.
Click here to read the European Environment Agency quote.