Thursday, 28 October 2010
Chisholm Electorate: Sustainable Living Fabrics
I rise today to speak about a fantastic company within my electorate, Sustainable Living Fabrics, which is based in Oakleigh. Sustainable Living Fabrics manufactures furnishing fabrics for commercial interiors. It markets its fabrics to architects and interior designers who will specify SFL products when they present a design to their clients. What is unique and so different about this company is that it decided many years ago that its competitive advantage, its strength and its point of difference would be its environmental credentials. It has not just gone around saying it has environmental credentials; it has absolutely demonstrated them 100 per cent.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Kay and Bill Jones, who bought an ailing company and have created and run a fantastic company, and I can speak most highly about their terrific business model and success. In 2004 the pair decided to undertake a complete overhaul of the products of their company, and they saw that the environment was the big issue. They decided that to survive and grow as a business they needed to differentiate, and they have done so in an environmentally friendly manner. It has taken a lot of work and a lot of money, but the decision has paid off, and now business is booming and growing to great lengths.
A Sydney Morning Herald article recently was extolling the virtues of Bill and Kay Jones, and I quote from the article:
‘‘We decided we would become an environmental company—that would be our strength and our point of difference,’’ … They hired an environmental science graduate to spend six months calculating the carbon footprint of their 10-person business and its supply chain—from the initial processing of raw materials to their disposal in landfill or at a recycling plant. The assessment cost $60,000.
Incentives were introduced to encourage staff to choose cleaner forms of travel to the company’s Oakleigh warehouse, such as allowing public transport fares to be paid for through salary sacrifice and boosting the car allowance for sales staff if they opted for a fuel-efficient hybrid car.
Staff were also encouraged to cut their personal water and electricity bills through $2000 in annual prizes for those who made the biggest savings.
Sustainable Living Fabrics also encouraged its suppliers to clean up their act. James Nelson, a Tasmanian textile weaving business, was asked to run on emissions-free hydro power rather than coal-fired electricity imported from Victoria. In return, it won a larger chunk of the Joneses’ business.
Taken together, these steps added up to a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
The other half of the company’s emissions are offset through buying international carbon credits at a cost, this year, of $33,000.
This is a company that is putting its money where its mouth is on where it thinks the environment should be going, and I think we need to applaud these businesses and look at what they are doing.
Part of the big problem of going down this environmental route was choosing the right accreditation; that was one of the largest steps. They wanted to know that the products they were using in the supply chain were green. A lot of greenwash goes on, but they wanted to know that they could verify, tick off and say to their clients and the broader community that what they were doing was genuinely green. They have made many, many starts on looking at where to go and what to do, and they found that the European Union provided the best eco-labelling standard. They have introduced that across the board, and their entire supply chain is now part of this. They looked at logos and verifications, but standards were very difficult to find, so in the end they determined that they would develop their own accreditation. They have gone with the Good Environmental Choice Australia system, which is a terrific program that more people should know about. Now everything within their supply chain has the GEC stamp of approval. The result has been that SLF has become the first business to qualify as carbon neutral under the Australian government’s new Australian Carbon Trust.
The National Carbon Offset Standard Carbon Neutral program replaced the Greenhouse Friendly program. Bill Jones was passionate about the Greenhouse Friendly program and was quite distressed when it looked as if it was going to shut down with no replacement, because the company had spent a large amount of money so that they could get the Greenhouse Friendly stamp on all their processses. So I am really pleased that we have introduced this model and that this company has been assessed with it.
The company has won numerous awards for what they are doing. More importantly, they are running a successful business, they are employing people and they are asking themselves and their staff to put their money where their mouth is. It has a commercial value and businesses are seeing it as a great product. We have 100 per cent credibility because we have third-party endorsement. It is not just them saying that they are a carbon-free company; it is the department of sustainability providing the logo and accreditation.
Many of you will have sat on their fabrics. They are recognised as the preferred supplier for the Department of Defence, with Virgin Airlines and with many other councils, local governments and state governments. They are a terrific company and I regard them highly.