Our Environmental and Sustainability Commitment
Maxwell International Australia, like parent company DayMen worldwide, is committed to corporate responsibility for conserving the environment.
A commitment to carbon emission reductions
Many people share a desire for reduced carbon emissions in businesses, homes and public institutions. While politicians debate, enlightened individuals and companies are simply just getting on with it. You can too.
Maxwell in Australia is a distribution company. We import manufactured products. Our Lowepro bags are made almost exclusively from a non-renewable resource, oil-based fabrics. We warehouse and distribute them to retailers. Consumers use our bags and other photo accessories for a number of years. Lowepro makes their bags as tough as they can so they last a lifetime. When they have finally come to end of life, simply through wear and tear, typically they go to landfill as consumers clean out their homes.
We believe such practices afford many opportunities for change.
- We are adopting new legislative principles with our retail partners in the consumer electronics sector to comply with precious metals recovery in industry recycling schemes where relevant.
- Maxwell takes considerable steps to minimise trade waste and is seeking new ways to employ recycled materials in its products without causing detriment to their performance.
- Our Tamron and Lensbaby lenses now meet the ROSH standards and are free of lead and other toxins previously part of the manufacturing process.
- We have all but eliminated polystyrene from packaging.
- Printed materials all now use water-based inks.
- We have largely eliminated printed catalogues, encouraging customers to view high-resolution PDF catalogues on their computers without printing them at all.
Since the start of 2008 we at Maxwell International Australia have committed to:
- Reduce our carbon footprint through more economical, efficient transport, storage and packaging
- Assess transport methodologies and vehicles for emissions reductions
- Review how we communicate, through reduced air travel and increased use of electronic communication without the need for paper
- Reduce unsustainable losses of raw materials going to landfill that could otherwise be conserved and re-used in the manufacture of goods after recovery and re-processing.
This is a long and complex journey. Like many others, we are only at a very early stage in improved practice.
We represent two companies that have already achieved the coveted ISO 14001 environmental certificate, for production and environmental best practice: Velbon Tripod Company (China) - Obtained ISO 14001 certification in 2006, and Tamron Co. Ltd, Japan, has had accreditation for several of its Japanese and China factories for a decade or more. Other factories from whom we purchase are working towards these standards. At present we have no means to measure these companies' emissions during the manufacture of the products we import. In future years we expect to add this to our inventory of outputs and start to measure the reductions achieved there too.
The journey to reduced emissions
Maxwell set goals for reducing its own carbon footprint by 25% by the end of 2011. The program started in January 2008. This program will ultimately save money, not only carbon emissions and energy use.
A very simple first step was to reduce lighting over-use in our Sydney office. We reduced lighting load (and 40 fluorescent tubes out of 90 in the office) for an estimated 38% emissions reduction in this area. Not next year – already achieved.
In 2012 we moved offices to a space twice the volume and size. By reducing total lighting fixtures, making wide use of glass partitions near the windows, a number of offices now use no lighting for most of the day. The result is that over twice the office area our lighting consumption has not changed. That is an immediate reduction of 1.6kW electricity consumption per hour or about 12kWh a working day, a 12% overall consumption reduction achieved! With electricity in Sydney now over 30c per kWh, those are considerable cash savings over a full year.
Employees using their cars to visit customers have, in the main, reduced their vehicle sizes progressively over the past 5 years. On average the consumption averages for our fleet of cars has gone from 15.5 l/100km to around 11. We expect this will make a further improvement in the next five years to under 8l/100 km. This is not as low as the micro cars achieve, but transporting lots of large camera bags is just not something you can do in very small cars over long distances. However, within a decade we will have nearly doubled efficiency in our personal fleet transport.
A bicycle has now appeared in head office and is likely to be used for commuting some of the time by at least one staff member.
Because retailing is also changing, more and more of our journeys are avoided altogether through the use of Skype and phone conferences.
Overall we have made an estimated 35% improvement in carbon emissions in the first five years of effort. We are not a large company capable of detailed reportable measures. But we have all had a go and are quietly trying to do the right thing.
One thing is already clear. The first stages of emission reductions have saved money. So, cleaning up the environment is also good news for investors; and it's good news for customers because we will be better placed to continue to offer affordable products for you, our customer, to enjoy.
What sorts of things have been achieved?
As in most projects, there is always low-hanging fruit.
- Several Maxwell employees had already achieved a carbon-neutral footprint through the purchase of carbon credits for those emissions caused by personal transport, air travel, electricity consumption etc.
- The company is now selecting renewable energy options for the company's electricity services.
- All monitors are now 5-star energy-efficient types.
- Most desktop PCs have been replaced by laptops, typically reducing power consumption per machine from 200 watts to less than 85 watts.
But against that, our business is growing, we have more communication and reductions are hard to maintain. So whole new thinking is needed.
Reducing paper use
The company employs recycled paper in almost all in-office use wherever practical.
A major switch to email in place of routine mailed business communication has reduced paper consumption by 30% below long-established patterns in the early part of the decade. There is a consequential reduction in transport, energy use and other resources employed.
The default settings in Microsoft Word set margins left and right on a Letter-sized page at 3.15cm. We have reset our computers to the correct A4 paper size used in Australia. We reduced margins to 2.54cm (one inch) on the left and 1.9cm on the right, with a 0.2cm reduction in top and bottom margins. That, in combination with a reduced default point size to 11-point from the default 12-point produces a 25% increase in available space or written material per page. We calculated this would reduce overall paper by 15% alone. Adding a "duplex-print" default to our office printers further reduces paper consumption by 1/3.
Over the first year year we reduced paper consumption by 70 reams or 35,000 printed pages. Our forecast was that we'd achieve 80-ream reduction. Failure to update defaults in new laptops was the primary cause of not quite making the planned saving. It's still almost 7 whole trees. It also saved toner and the energy used by the copiers and printers.
Lesson: Look holistically at your total information flow and see where the savings can be made. They add up.
Meetings, meetings, meetings: The new way
Time was when the management group got together four times a year. Eight people flew internationally thousands of kilometres, occupied hotels, sat in slowly warming meeting rooms all day and then ate and drank a bit too much for a couple of nights. Larger numbers met for product planning meetings.
Now each week we do our meetings on WebEx, and two of our quarterly meetings have been cancelled entirely. While our managing director has to get up at 2.00am for the 9.00am Californian start time (6.00pm in Europe), we've saved tens of thousands of dollars in airfares, accommodation and meals; concentrated many meetings into just one hour; maintained key information flow and discussion time and been able to get back to business within minutes. Our own carbon footprint was reduced by nearly a hundred tonnes each time we could prevent the need for a physical international meeting.
A new 1080p LifeSize teleconference system is now enhancing communication and cutting travel further.
While there's no substitute for face-to-face ideas exchanges, such actions will be used progressively to help our company and many others make do with less, while being more productive and cost-efficient.
Aim to be a part of the solution
Carbon reduction does not have to cost more; taxation may add some cost back, but good practice itself usually costs less and uses resources more wisely. Maxwell continues its efforts to be part of the solution and not the problem. Good luck with your own positive environmental journey.
John Swainston – Managing Director, March 2013
Read a list of useful environmental links and explanatory documents