Sustainability is such an intimidatingly broad concept - in our industry it encompasses everything from fuel efficiency to landfill impact of complex components - that it can make it difficult for the industry to agree upon shared goals.
But we can’t allow complacency and inertia - yes, taking action around sustainability isn’t easy, and it does take initial investment, but it’s crucial for not just the good of society and the planet, but for our reputation and as such, our business fortunes now and in the future.
I want to be able to be proud of my industry, and I want it to do better on sustainability. So I’m throwing out a challenge to three influential parts of our industry.
Manufacturers must allow for greater sustainability and to encourage sustainable procedures among their market. For instance:
Lubricant manufacturers: can they bring more sustainable versions of their products to market?
Lifting sling manufacturers: the cheapest slings on the market can be bought for less than £2, meaning that when the time comes for twice-yearly inspections, users can simply throw away and repurchase cheaply. Manufacturers need to do more to ensure that these slings are more likely to be recycled or reused.
Pallet truck manufacturers: these remain very hard to recycle because the truck needs to be stripped apart, and all of the unrecyclable components removed, which can only be done with considerable difficulty. Can the process of stripping down be made easier? Could OEMs be building more sustainable parts?
Spare parts need to be much more readily available, so that customers can actually buy them, rather than finding it easier to replace goods. Those parts - indeed, all products - shouldn’t be wrapped up so heavily in single-use plastics; there has to be a better alternative.
We could all encourage customers to make simple changes and consider sustainable choice. That can create a virtuous cycle - the more customers enquire about the sustainability in the supply chain of equipment, the more that manufacturers will consider ways to demonstrate their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint.
They also ought to be adopting green practices in their warehouses and tracking their sustainability efforts. By establishing metrics to benchmark and improve upon, customers will gain a greater understanding of the best and most efficient means to improve their sustainability - which could also bring down energy bills and lead to other operational improvements.
Customers should be considering the impact on their surroundings when selecting equipment to rent or purchase. Electric-powered trucks or alternative fuel trucks using propane or compressed natural gas can reduce pollution. Simple changes like these play a big role in being environmentally responsible.
Finally, customers need to be more considered about shipping options for the equipment that they’re ordering. Is express shipping really necessary? The Amazon mindset of instant gratification is far often less sustainable than other means of delivery.
Finally, I would also like to see our industry leaders do more. We have some fantastic trade bodies that have achieved much. But I think they can have an even greater role in driving environmental sustainability into our culture, such as launching training courses and other professional development to encourage sustainable working methods in working life.
It would also be good to see more research from our guiding institutions into sustainable lifting equipment, which will lead to more recommendations and guidance for customers into which products to choose.
And finally, trade bodies have huge lobbying powers with governments around the world. They can help to push through more exacting regulations, and tax breaks to push us all in the right direction.
That doesn’t mean that we should only change as an industry when legislation demands it - we must stay ahead of the curve, going beyond mandatory minimums in order to achieve the best impact for our businesses and reputations, and the least impact on the environment and communities.
Together, our industry can work together to change throw-away mentalities, and build towards a more sustainable future.