Gateshead-based contact centre and eCommerce fulfilment specialist, Spark Response, has saved over £50,000 through a sustained energy reduction drive.

Following the launch of Project Focus, the company’s environmental programme, Spark saved £26,000 in 2009 and savings for 2010 are currently totalling £25,000. Spark is predicting a total saving of £54,000 by the end of the programme’s second year. *

In addition to the significant financial savings, the company’s carbon footprint has also reduced with carbon emissions being cut by 12 tonnes per month on average. During 2010, 71 tonnes of CO2 have been saved compared to the same period last year (January to June), equating to an 18 per cent reduction year-on-year.

Pre-empting the Government’s introduction of the carbon reduction commitment, Spark’s Quality Manager, Lindsey Pearson, was tasked with implementing the company’s Environmental Management System in compliance with ISO 14001, which is one of a series of international standards for environmental management.

The company’s energy consumption was the first area of this business to be analysed and methods to minimise usage were evaluated. Notices and stickers were put up near all light switches and machinery to prevent appliances being left on unnecessarily, and motion-sensors were installed in staff toilets. This activity, coupled with an investment from Spark into more environmentally friendly appliances and accessories, contributed towards the £26,000 saving. During 2009, the company achieved an energy saving of 15 per cent when compared to 2008, despite heavily increased business volumes.

In addition to its energy efficiency drive, Spark has also embarked upon a large scale recycling campaign. The company’s material wastage was assessed and ways to reduce it were identified. One of the first measures introduced was a recycling scheme that saw most of the general waste bins removed from Spark’s offices and fulfilment centres. In their place, recycling bins for cans, plastic and paper were introduced and communal recycling areas were set up for other materials such as glass and printer toners. The scheme proved to be so successful that Spark cancelled a quarter of all general waste collections in 2009 as waste levels had dropped so dramatically. On average, 75 per cent of Spark’s waste is now recycled.

Furthermore, Spark has worked closely with packaging partner, Kite Packaging, to develop an environmentally-friendly packaging range for clients and all products used are now either recycled or recyclable, or both.

Speaking of the achievements, Lindsey says: “The success of Project Focus and, more specifically, the energy efficiency drive has relied heavily upon the cooperation of our staff. It is encouraging to see the results that have been achieved in a relatively short period of time. So far, everyone has embraced and complied with the new system and this has enabled us to make a significant financial saving, as well as considerably reducing our waste output, which is vitally important for our local and wider environment.

“By the end of the year, we are expecting to have reduced our carbon emissions by 108 tonnes, which will represent a 15% year-on-year saving and a total of almost 180 tonnes of CO2 saved in the first two full years of Project Focus. I’m always looking for new ways to reduce the carbon footprint at Spark and am thrilled that the project is having such a positive impact across all levels of the business.”

As part of Project Focus, Spark has offered staff incentives such as the cycle to work scheme in association with whereby employees can borrow up to £1,000 from their employer to purchase a bike and accessories tax-free. Staff are also encouraged to bring in their old mobile phones for recycling in exchange for Spark reward and recognition points, which increase their chances of winning a cash prize at the end of the year.

Lindsey hopes to build on the success Spark has experienced so far and has ambitious plans for water drainage, which she hopes to implement next year.

Spark’s top tips for implementing an energy-efficiency and eco-awareness programme:

1. Get started: assess everything. Look at all areas of your business and determine where , how and when energy efficiencies can be put into place. Ask yourself: do these lights need to be on all day? Is anyone switching off this printer at night? Is there a cheaper alternative to this fan heater? Look into having your scheme accredited. An official ISO assessor/consultant or the Carbon Trust can advise you on this.

2. Make recycling as easy as possible. Use a colour-coded system for disposing of all major recyclables like paper and plastics, install communal areas for less common materials like glass, introduce secure waste bins for confidential documents and leave a minimal amount of general waste bins for things like sweet wrappers, crisp packets and other non-recyclables.

3. Communication is key. It can be a challenge getting your staff to buy-in to energy saving and recycling. Frequent and consistent messages are a good way of helping staff to understand what it is you’re trying to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and why you are doing it. Most importantly, provide your staff with regular updates as to whether or not you are achieving what you set out to.

4. Make sure your communications mean something. The Carbon Trust issues tangible energy saving quotes like “Office lights left on overnight use enough energy in a year to heat a home for almost 5 months”. Use these quotes around your business where they will have the most impact and give your scheme real purpose. Ideally, brand these messages using your own corporate style or that of your eco-scheme.

5. Incentivise green ideas and efforts. Offer spot prizes such as branded promotional freebies and free entries into cash prize-draws to those who show recycling and energy saving initiative or make suggestions that could enhance your scheme.