Our environment

Reducing waste, responsible operations, lowering emissions

Our environment

Reducing waste

Minimising production waste, reuse/recycle, reducing amounts to landfill

As part of our investment to replace and upgrade the machinery in our factories, we've been able to reduce waste by improving the efficiency of the way we cut chipboard. We have invested in software that allows us to take the actual production demand for different-sized panels and to make sure that we get the most panels out of each sheet of chipboard. We've taken what we learnt from this and have worked with our chipboard supplier to look for additional benefits. The result of this is that our supplier now makes a new size of chipboard sheet for us. This allows us to reduce our waste as well as allowing our supplier to make more efficient use of their own machines. Our factories already operate at high levels of efficiency, but this change has allowed us to reduce waste from cutting patterns by a further 2%.

Nevertheless, we still generate a lot of sawdust waste. At both of our factories, we have highly efficient biomass boilers which burn this waste to generate energy to heat the factories. They allow us to reuse waste, they reduce our emissions and they save us the cost of the equivalent bought-in fuel. In 2016, we converted around 12,000 tonnes of sawdust into energy at our Howden and Runcorn sites. This is enough sawdust to fill 15 Olympic swimming pools. Burning it onsite means that it doesn't have to go to landfill and it doesn't have to be transported elsewhere to be reused. We generated approximately 42,000 MWh of energy from our biomass boilers, equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of over 10,000 households.

Nine years ago, we started repairing broken pallets rather than scrapping them. In 2016 we repaired over 165,000 pallets and put them back into use, reducing waste and saving money.

Responsible operations

Energy-efficient facilities, efficient transport

All our factories, warehouses and transport sites meet the ISO 14001 standard for Environmental Management. This assures us that we have good environmental management processes in place. It also encourages us to look for further improvements in areas such as sustainable energy, waste and material management.

We have invested in a number of energy-saving projects at our factories in 2016. The most significant of these involved replacing old lighting and compressor technology with modern energyefficient versions. These initiatives should give us a total energy saving of 2,500 MWh per year.

2016 saw us begin to use our new 650,000 sq ft warehouse at Raunds, near Northampton. Since we were involved in the design and construction of this warehouse from scratch, we were able to specify various energy-efficiency measures such as:

  • efficient door seals to reduce the use of heating and cooling systems
  • a solar thermal system which will reduce our need to use additional heating
  • LED lighting and skylights

We were very pleased that the site received a "Very Good" rating on the BREEAM sustainability scale, putting it in the top 25% of buildings of its type.


Our truck fleet drives over 14 million miles per year, so it's very important to us that it runs efficiently and safely. We upgraded our core truck fleet to meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standards in 2015, and this also helped us to improve our miles per gallon by 6%. In 2016 we have managed a further 1% improvement in mpg by concentrating on driver behaviour. We use advanced in-cab telemetry to measure and benchmark our drivers, and we reward those who perform to the highest efficiency and safety levels. We debrief our drivers regularly, and we work with any drivers who are not driving to the highest standards to help them improve.

We now use taller trailers to deliver the cabinets that we make in our Runcorn factory. Being able to get more cabinets in each delivery means that we've made an annual reduction in trailer loads equivalent to 800 standard trailers.

We try to avoid our trucks returning empty from the depots when we can, and so we contract to carry loads for other companies when this suits our schedule. This means that we contribute to a reduction in the total number of trucks on the road, as well as the associated emissions.

In 2016 we became one of the first companies to gain the Freight Transport Association's Truck Excellence accreditation. This involves an independent audit to test that we demonstrate consistently high operating and safety standards.

We have continued to reduce our carbon footprint on the majority of our inbound freight from Europe, moving it from road to rail. 93% of our European freight was transported by rail in 2016. This gave a saving of approximately 900 tonnes of CO2 for the year, as well as a significant cost saving.

Lowering emissions

Efficient operations lead to reduced emissions


  Total CO2 Emissions (Tonnes) 2016 Total CO2 Emissions (Tonnes) 2015
Scope 1 - Direct: Gas 3,338 2,544
Scope 1 - Direct: Diesel 26,065 25,427
Scope 1 - Direct: Other fuels 1,196 1,516
SCOPE 1 - DIRECT: TOTAL 30,599 29,487
Scope 2 - Indirect: Electricity 28,148 29,576
SCOPE 2 - INDIRECT: TOTAL 28,104 29,578
TOTAL (Scope 1 and 2) 58,747 59,065
Turnover (£m) 1,307.3 1,220.2
Turnover ratio (tCO2e per £m) 44.9 48.4
Inflation adjusted turnover ratio (tCO2e per £m) 47.1 50.4

We are pleased to report that our total emissions have reduced in 2016 despite an increase in turnover.

Turnover increased by 7% in 2016, and both the turnover ratio and the inflation adjusted turnover ratios decreased by 7%. We will continue to look for further improvements. Our record over the past five years is shown on the chart below.

Lowering Emissions


Find out more about Howdens corporate and social responsibility here

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