We believe that we are way ahead of other organisations in our efforts to be as sustainable as it is possible to be today, with a fast-paced plan of action to maintain our momentum into the future.

In this blog, Universal AV marketing manager, Shelley Townend expresses how deeply the company, and its employees feel their responsibilities.

Long before organisations were expected to formally address their environmental impact, our MD, Nick Fitzpatrick asked that we make a statement online about our sustainable approach.

Having worked at Universal AV for many years, and being rooted in its caring and mindful ethos, I hadn’t acknowledged that what we were doing was so very significant!

Push the clock forward and following many conversations with contacts at other organisations, I realise that we are way ahead of the curve, some might even say pioneers!

One such recent conversation was with my marketing counterparts at Sharp/NEC who were impressed by how far we had come with our sustainability targets. During our regular meetings we share news and update each other on activities. We align ourselves with likeminded vendors who genuinely value CSR; Sharp/NEC’s approach to optimising packaging sizes and Sony’s approach to ensuing displays are as energy efficient as possible mirrors our own efforts to handle packaging materials more sustainably.

Recycling – replacing skips for balers.

We have replaced our skips for balers! We have purchased two baling machines enabling us to better manage the recycling of all packing material including cardboard, polystyrene, and plastic.

This is not without its challenges. The baled material takes up a lot of warehouse space while we wait for it to be collected. In order to be carbon neutral, the collection company takes 24 bales at a time, usually twice a year. Over the two collections, 21,772 kilos of material is recycled.  None of this material reaches landfill – we are very proud of this achievement.

When our clients replace their AV equipment, we work with them to ensure it is disposed of sustainably. Where possible, we repurpose equipment, offering it to charitable organisations. We hold a WEEE carrier licence and dispose of products using a local WEEE registered company.

Renewable energy – self-sufficient operations.

At the beginning of lock down, in 2020, we moved into new premises. This presented us with an incredible opportunity, creating office and warehouse space fit for the future. Rather than furloughing employees, we were harnessing our inhouse expertise, designing and fitting out office space to run entirely on electricity. We installed LED light fittings throughout, alongside occupancy sensors triggering lights to power down when no one is present, minimising power usage.

The roof of our new premises is vast presenting the perfect opportunity to harness the power of the sun. In order to become self-sufficient, the renewable energy consultant calculated that we needed 280 solar panels. My OCD would calculate 6 more because the installation just doesn’t look complete as you can see from the picture!

Impressively, in just 2 weeks, we generated 9MWh of clean energy. Crucially, we also have battery storage capable of supplying all our power requirements, with any surplus sold back to the National Grid. We have saved over 1750kg of CO2 emissions, the equivalent to planting over 100 trees!

Living and working sustainably – our commitment to the community.

Since we generate our own fuel, of course we want to power our own fleet of company vehicles. We have installed a number of charging points and anticipate that we will operate a fleet entirely made up of electric vehicles by 2030. This also is not without challenges. EV vehicles, especially vans, do not currently have the desired range, although we hope that this will improve in the future.

That said, we are a local company, providing products and services to local clients. 76% of all employees live and work at clients’ sites in West Yorkshire, and 15% in Newcastle, our second site. We don’t seek clients in London, or anywhere else in the UK – we’re not wasting fuel and resource, nor causing pollution by bombing up and down the motorway.

We also help our clients to operate sustainably by hosting events locally, inviting manufacturers and suppliers to exhibit products at a local venue. In this way, we can help to reduce unnecessary travel.

We are proud to be a Yorkshire company, employing, supporting, and supplying our local community.

Preach what we practice – imparting sustainable advice.

Electronic products today typically offer many ECO features designed to minimise power consumption. Sharp/NEC for instance ships its products in an energy saving preset which also helps to increase product longevity. We work with our clients to help them make sustainable choices as they chose the best fit AV equipment, favouring long life quality solutions which defer replacement and therefore waste over a longer time period. By integrating control programs, we can help our clients to schedule power on/off times and use sensor technology to optimise energy usage.

Certification – making it official, striving for more.

We gained ISO14001 certification in 2015 – concrete proof of our commitment to operating sustainably. Since then, we have embraced even more ambitious environmental objectives.

We run a very successful AV business, but we continually strive to minimise our impact on the environment – its not always an easy balance. When the ISO contractor asked if we wanted to reduce the amount of packaging we handled, we replied no – we want to increase it! In our business, packaging is inevitable. More packaging means more business! What we do want to do is minimise waste, recycle materials and not contribute to landfill.

So, if anyone asks Universal AV if we are sustainable, we can very confidently reply, YES, WE ARE!

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