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Innovation and Sustainability

With Charlotte Gregory, Sustainability Engineer

Blog
Tuesday 25th September 2018

Charlotte Gregory became our Kohler Mira Sustainability Engineer back in 2016. We caught up with her to find out more about her day-to-day role and how she is supporting our Design for the Environment (DfE) programme, which looks at innovation alongside sustainability within our products.

So, Charlotte, why is sustainability so important to you?

If you’d told me 5 years ago that my job would be Sustainability Engineer for Kohler Mira I’d have said no way! I’ve surprised myself with my determination to make this my career. I’ve always been very passionate about sustainability. I saw the need for someone within New Product Development to support the project teams to ensure that sustainability measures are in place at each decision point of our product development programme. I spoke to my manager and was supported as part of my development to start taking on more responsibility for this before moving into the newly created role.

I genuinely do believe that what I do allows me to make a real change both in terms of helping other Associates to understand the importance of sustainability and how they can get involved, and in playing my part to meet our business goal to reach Net Zero or carbon neutral by 2035.

 

What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge has been moving into the field of sustainability from engineering. I’ve had to put a lot of time and effort into building up my knowledge level, it’s taken quite a bit of formal training including taking on a diploma in Sustainable Business Practise. And I had to do a lot of this training whilst I was still in my previous role working within the New Product Development team. It’s been a significant journey in self-knowledge and I’ve gained a new belief in my current and future abilities.

And, that probably leads me onto my proudest moment so far which was to win an Environmental Leader Award at Environmental Leader Magazine’s 2018 Awards held in Denver, Colorado. It was amazing to be recognised publicly outside of our business for my efforts!

 

Can you tell us more about Design for the Environment?

Sure, Design for the Environment, or DfE, is a big part of my role. I facilitate meetings, workshops for ideas generation and cross function team conversations about how we integrate sustainability into new products right back at the concept stage. This can cover looking at what aspects of sustainability are important to our customers – the end user. It could be how a product might use less water or looking at the materials we are using to minimize waste by-products or to use more recycled material. This even extends to packaging where we’ve made a conscious move to use less cardboard and packing materials.

There are a number of ‘Innovation Strategies’ that exist within DfE including looking at transport – can we reduce the packaging weight, can we fit more product into a given shipping space. From a production point of view, can we identify more opportunities to use air testing instead of water, can we continue to invest in more carbon-neutral or renewable energy sources for example.

We have recently started a new contract with our energy supplier British Gas to supply our sites only with renewable energy; this means that all the electricity we use on our sites will be generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind turbines. From this alone, we should see a significant reduction in Greenhouse Gas.

We’re also looking at End of Life - so how does a product get recycled; how can we make that process easier – there is so much we could do.

Ultimately, what we’re really looking at is how we provide our customers with a more sustainable choice when choosing a product.

There is a quote which always inspires me from the American poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” It’s what we’re trying to do really – take small steps to constantly strive to innovate and improve and I’m excited by that!

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