Companies need to conduct their business in an environmental, economical and socially responsible way to ensure they remain relevant for their customers and suppliers.
That was the message from Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) following the latest in a series of events that form part of the NI Chamber & SONI Energy Forum which shares best practice on energy efficiency and informs businesses of significant changes ahead.
Around 40 businesses attended the Forum which took place at Coca-Cola HBC’s Knockmore Hill Plant in Lisburn where the company’s Technical Product Support Manager, Gary Stewart, provided an insight into how the soft drinks manufacturer has become recognised as a global leader in sustainability.
Following the event, Christopher Morrow, Head of Policy & Communications at NI Chamber, said: “Many companies still view sustainability as the traditional approach such as putting solar panels on the roof or cutting down on the amount of paper that they use. However, it goes beyond just environmental issues; it’s also about financial and social commitments and opportunities.
“Business leaders must rise to the challenge of making sustainability a key part of their business strategy. It is no different to any other business practice – you need to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve, with buy-in from throughout the organisation where everyone can contribute.
“Unless companies conduct their business in a manner which is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, they risk alienating their customers and suppliers. Our members are finding that a sustainable approach to business can also improve a firm’s reputation. Many individual consumers prefer to buy from responsible businesses, whilst businesses may choose to buy from sustainable suppliers as part of their own commitment to sustainable development.”
Speaking at the event, Gary Stewart, Technical Product Support Manager, Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland said: “We were delighted to host the NI Chamber Energy forum today, engaging with local businesses to share best practices and learn from others. An important part of our sustainability agenda is our commitment to minimise our impact on the environment. In 2010 we set ambitious 2020 targets in the areas of water, waste and energy, and we are proud to report that some of these have already been achieved, with the rest on track to be delivered ahead of schedule. These results have been achieved through the prioritisation of environmental leadership across the business, from senior management to factory floor.
“This work continues, and a focus for us into 2018 and beyond is to do more to both reduce the amount of packaging that we use, and to integrate more sustainable packaging materials, such as recycled PET, into our supply chain.”
Also speaking at the event was David McDonald, Network Connections Design Manager at NIE Networks. He commented: “Sustainability also has to be a priority for infrastructure. We plan the electricity networks to last for several decades to come. Every day we make decisions which will impact on future generations such as the recent connection of enough renewable energy to the grid to provide 35% of electricity consumed in Northern Ireland. This event was a great opportunity to show business what the electricity networks are delivering for them today and to be able to share our vision for a more flexible, energy prosumer future”.
Natasha Sayee, Senior Lead Public Affairs Specialist at SONI, concluded: “At SONI our priority is delivering a reliable and secure electricity supply to consumers throughout Northern Ireland as efficiently as possible.
“We make sure businesses and employers have the power they need, when they need it. Increasingly, this involves utilising renewable energy from across the region.
“Our partnership with the NI Chamber allows us to engage directly with industry and businesses about the importance of innovation in the energy sector – something that SONI is very proud to lead the way on. These insights are invaluable for NI Chamber members, and we look forward to supporting further Energy Forum events in the months ahead.”
Andrew Robinson, Managing Director of Lisburn’s Boomer Industries, one of the most respected names in the specialist plastics extrusion industry, also spoke at the event and shared how the company has reduced energy costs across the business.
The event concluded with a tour of Coca-Cola HBC’s 45 acre facility which continues to set new standards in sustainable manufacturing.