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Embrace Sustainability, and Be a Smarter Manufacturer

Embrace Sustainability, and Be a Smarter Manufacturer

As a global community we recognize that we must grapple with the pressing challenges of deteriorating environmental quality and energy scarcity. This is not just a moral issue anymore. For example, the private sector increasingly realizes that taking on environmental stewardship and energy efficiency also increases their market competitiveness in the long term. One multinational company that has decided to take a leadership role to integrate sustainability into their business is H&M.

In August of 2010, H&M launched an energy efficiency initiative among six of its supply chain factories in South China, and enlisted the help of the Lingnan College-ISC Environment, Health and Safety Academy to provide skills and system management training. Over the one year initiative, the EHS Academy in Guangdong and H&M guided the factories step by step to institutionalize energy efficiency, starting with pilot projects: auditing their energy performance, and going through planning, project implementation, and evaluation. These pilot projects made real to the factories the amount of opportunity to reduce their energy consumption - the pilot projects reduced their energy use by 15%. Critically, the initiative then assisted the factories in setting up energy management systems and trained them on effective project management. This component was critical to transforming the pursuit of energy efficiency from an occasional afterthought, into an everyday component of their operations.

Winnie Wei, a Senior Lecturer of the Lingnan College-ISC Environment, Health and Safety Academy, has worked with many brands over the years and has worked on the H&M energy efficiency initiative since its inception. She confirms, "H&M is one of the global brands that is truly making an effort to achieve sustainability in their own business." She explains that H&M made a tremendous effort to work closely with her Academy to ensure that the initiative would deliver both its immediate, project-level energy saving objective, and its long term institutional objective, and ensuring factory engagement.

Zhu Limin, Assistant Manager for Administration Department for a knitwear company in Zhuhai, is one of the champions created by the initiative. In the first place, participating in the pilot projects helped him grow his practical skills in working with his team to achieve energy saving targets. "My understanding and skills improved as our energy projects advanced, and I and my team were very proud of our achievements," Zhu said. After the pilot projects, Zhu joined another EHS program offered by the EHS Academy. This helped him lead his team to tackle several more resource efficiency projects in his factory, saving RMB 1,000,000 through heat and water recycling, and around 14% in electricity use, just in the last year.

However, Zhu and his team didn't stop with these project-level achievements. They realized that by making energy efficiency part of their factory's everyday objectives, they could create continual a pipeline of improvements and keep finding more savings. "We will continue to make efforts to lower our energy consumption and improve awareness among our staff, and at the same time, we will strengthen our energy and EHS management," said Zhu. "Our top priority next year is to set up a computerized monitoring system next year so we have data to help us do this job better."

The energy management training Zhu received from the EHS Academy transformed how he approached his work. "The guidance and knowledge from the course brought me to a wider horizon. I realized that there are many things we can do. Establishing an internal management system is bringing us great benefits," Zhu explains.

As a factory representative, Zhu thinks enterprises should take social responsibility as a must, and that this will help enterprises to remain competitive in the market. He feels that H&M is doing this well. "H&M is very supportive of our energy efficiency activities. Though we had been working to improve save energy in our factory before, H&M supports us to do it even better."

Zhu said he also personally learned a lot from participating in the project. "I didn't understand the true meaning of protecting our environment, but now, my knowledge has increased along with my skills. Improving energy efficiency is actually good for all of us-the government, our factory and our consumers will all benefit. What we need to do is to plant environmental protection into our minds, and make it a habit in our work and daily life." Zhu said.

Mr. Fischer Tobias, former Regional CSR Manager for H&M, agrees. In launching the energy efficiency initiative, he said "We need to do [everything] smarter. It doesn't matter if you are Swedish, Indian, Chinese or American. We are all sitting in the same boat."

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