Articles & Case Studies

Benefits of sustainable water initiatives on business

Posted: Friday 31st October 2008

B&Q takes the issue of environmental responsibility seriously. It has been building its sustainable foundations since 1991, when it first developed a progressive timber policy. Since that date, it has been striving to improve sustainability across its business by sourcing timber from certified, well-managed sources, by introducing a VOC (chemical and solvent content) labelling system on paints and by developing a policy to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of peat. Of equal importance to B&Q is its use of water and B&Q works hard to incorporate water conservation into the development and operation of its stores.

The UK has less available water per person than almost every other European country so it is vital both business and individuals recognise the impact that their water consumption has on the environment. Proactively monitoring and reducing use is not only a sustainable practice but it incurs real cost benefits.

In January 2008, B&Q became a partner in BioRegional's global 'One Planet Living' (OPL) initiative which aims to reduce the impact on the world’s resources.

Expert in sustainability, BioRegional is working with B&Q to develop two sustainable action plans - one for its own operations to drive improvements which can be measured against the ten principles of One Planet Living and one to help it support its customers to understand which products and good habits will meet the One Planet Living criteria.

B&Q has made creating a “One Planet” business a long-term goal and water saving is key to meeting this aspiration. Several initiatives are now in place or being developed to help it achieve this:

B&Q Water Saving Initiatives

1 – B&Q has been actively monitoring its water consumption since 1992. It has also set itself a target to reduce mains use in the total store estate by 10% by the end of 2008.

2 – Storage tanks to harvest rainwater from the roofs of stores in Stevenage, Norwich SouthTorquay and Halifax have been put into place. Future specifications for the design of all new stores incorporate at least 25,000 litre tanks for medium format and 30,000 litre tanks for large format stores. B&Q anticipates these will provide half of the water required for toilet flushing and irrigating garden centres.

3 – In 28 Scottish stores, B&Q has installed “smart water metering,” which allows it to dial up information at any time and profile its consumption at individual store level. Real time profiling enables B&Q to identify and prevent excessive water usage. This has resulted in water savings of 13.6 million litres pa and a reduction in B&Q’s water bill of £25,800.

4 – B&Q is also changing the way it washes its fleet – 169 vehicles out of a fleet of 240 are washed using water recycled from washing machines at centres in Preston Brook, Redhouse, Worksop Branston, Radlett and Coventry. All 750 trailers are washed with recycled water.

5 – For several years B&Q has been fitting sensor flows on urinals - so that they only flow when they are being used - percussion taps are also in place, reducing the amount of flow time.

6 – B&Q’s toilets currently use a six litre flush capacity cistern. It is trialling a new bowl and a reduced flush capacity (4litre/2litre dual flush cistern) in the new store in Halifax.

7 – It is also trialling an irrigation system in 17 stores to water the garden centres more efficiently and is looking at the potential of combining this with a water harvesting system.

8 – Regular advice is issued to stores about how to reduce water usage, including reminding staff to check taps and pipes for leakages and to ensure vigilance in reporting faults to the maintenance manager. During drought periods B&Q also runs awareness campaigns specifically for its staff and stores.

To ensure these measures are successful B&Q constantly reviews its activity and tracks water usage across stores. In February this year it appointed a group of environment champions, one for every store, to report back on progress and to suggest further improvements to reduce energy and water consumption.

These initiatives are not only seen as sustainable actions but are cost effective and play a part in the future success and growth of B&Q’s business. The retailer has also noticed an increased willingness on the part of all staff to get behind its initiatives and do their bit for the environment.

B&Q would urge other businesses to look into how they can save money through sustainable water initiatives and other programmes under the One Planet Living umbrella.

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