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Embracing Sustainability and Committing to a Greener Future

by Bathroom Manufacturers Association

Tom Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, details some of the priorities and challenges in embracing sustainable actions within the bathroom space

Sustainability is a guiding priority for the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA), evident in our operations, member activities, our annual Sustainability Awards and regular Sustainability Forums.

Our recent Sustainability Forum took place at the BMA Bathroom Zone as part of the InstallerSHOW 2023. It provided the backdrop to shine a light on our members’ sustainability activities and our sector’s challenges in communicating the innovations for greener choices.

The entire day’s programming revolved around informing installers about making better choices for their customers regarding sustainability and how manufacturers can help. This provided a platform for industry experts to discuss various aspects of sustainable practices in the bathroom industry.

The BMA and our members recognise that the global demand for sustainable living spaces is more pressing than ever, driven by the urgency to protect the environment and our innate desire for comfortable yet functional homes. Leading bathroom manufacturers have risen to the challenge by developing innovative products that combine beautiful design, functionality, and eco-consciousness, with a particular focus on materials, water and energy efficiency. Our members not only invest in new product designs, such as water-efficient taps, showers, and toilets but also embrace circular economy principles and broader environmental responsibilities.

While it’s impossible to detail all manufacturers’ efforts to reduce environmental impacts in this feature, I thought it important to provide some of the highlights from our forum.

Ethically sourced materials

More and more people are opting for bathroom furniture to maximise storage in smaller spaces. As the trend to declutter our bathrooms gains traction, bespoke cabinetry made from natural materials like wood is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners.

Therefore, the need to address how we ensure material sustainability is a priority. Rosie Teasdale, the Executive Director of FSC UK (Forest Stewardship Council® UK), joined our Sustainability Forum to explore the popularity of bathroom furniture and wall coverings and the importance of opting for FSC-certified goods and products. Their chain of custody certification ensures these products are manufactured and distributed with sustainable and ethically sourced materials, and many members proudly display this certification.

In South America and Southeast Asia, where logging practices have been extensively documented, poor practices have wreaked havoc on communities, biodiversity and accelerated climate change. The widespread consequences of unchecked deforestation, such as soil erosion, highlight the urgent need for ethical and sustainable forestry practices, so we urge everyone to seek FSC-approved materials.

Sustainable behaviours

The main forum panel discussion involved Rachel Gray from WRAP, Kathryn Rathouse, Director at KR Social Research, and Ashley Shires, UK Managing Director for Siamp. The panel focused on understanding how manufacturers, designers, and installers can facilitate consumers’ adoption of sustainable behaviours.

Rachel Gray emphasised that while we are all used to recycling in the kitchen, adopting similar behaviour for bathrooms was less common. Again, bathroom furniture was highlighted, and the space to include a bin for recycling items like shampoo bottles would make the task much more manageable.

Some of our most unsustainable behaviours, such as long showers, were discussed with Kathryn Rathouse. In her research, she has found that various environmental cues can help. For instance, white light can make a room feel cooler, and a noisier showerhead gives the impression of a more forceful showering experience – helping reduce water usage. Of course, innovative technology within the bathroom also helps, such as shower timers.

Ashley Shires had several points to make, including simple product maintenance to avoid toilet leaks and the vital role of training and skills. The industry is well aware of the skills shortage, but in addition, once an installer is trained and passes through college and apprenticeships, how much further training do they engage in? As manufacturers work to incorporate new technologies to reduce water and energy usage in their products, if installers don’t know about or adopt this knowledge, how can the message be delivered to customers?

Ashley suggests that a Government scheme for a mandatory plumbers license or a modern approach to increase awareness, education and re-training could be an effective way to ensure installers are updated with new innovations and environmental concerns.

Importance of education and communication

The Sustainability Forum underscored the enormous challenge of educating consumers and communicating the imperatives behind sustainable actions. The BMA recognises that water scarcity is a significant problem in the UK, and everyone must contribute to reducing their water consumption. Water-efficient products are readily available, but all stakeholders within the industry need to continue striving to convey the message that these products are waiting to be adopted and should be used.

However, sustainability in the bathroom is about more than reducing water consumption. It involves the materials we use to manufacture products; it’s how, as manufacturers, we look at circularity and recycling, how to reduce operational emissions and a commitment to overall Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles.

Through education, communication, and collaboration with policymakers, manufacturers, designers, installers, and consumers, we can work together to protect our planet and create a greener future.

About the author

Bathroom Manufacturers Association

Bathroom Manufacturers Association

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