Embracing circular economy to support sustainable growth

Dr Denise Taylor, Managing Director of sustainability consultancy Wylde Connections discusses how keeping resources in the value chain is helping furniture manufacturer TDP gain a competitive edge.

At Wylde Connections, we help businesses excel by embedding a robust sustainability strategy throughout their operations. We support them at every stage of their journey, fostering long term relationships with people who share our vision and passion and want to put sustainability at the heart of their growth plan. One business that has reaped the rewards of that approach is Derbyshire manufacturer TDP. By partnering with Wylde, the award-winning manufacturer of sustainable outdoor furniture is pioneering an innovative business model that balances the needs of people, profit and planet.

TDP was already committed to sustainable growth when I met them in 2021. The family business has been manufacturing sustainable products for 30 years and has enjoyed significant growth on the back of its commitment to produce a range of outdoor furniture from 100% UK recycled plastic waste. The waste is redirected from landfill to support the circular economy. TDP recognises that one man’s waste is another’s resource and spotted an opportunity to keep resources in the value chain.

The manufacturer uses profiles made from plastic waste to manufacture a range of quality products, including seats, benches, furniture for children, planters, and memorial benches. As well as offering a more environmentally friendly alternative to wood, the recycled plastic furniture is more durable, doesn’t require regular maintenance and can be fully recycled at end of life.

To fully exploit the market opportunities presented by sustainable production, TDP started reaching out to industry experts. The business began working with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to improve production processes, joined the local Chamber of Commerce and engaged with local universities to explore options for more sustainable manufacturing methods. As part of that process, TDP also approached Wylde to help develop its Sustainability Strategy, Action Plan and Road Map.

Since then, TDP has taken huge strides in driving sustainable growth. Over the last 12 months, the business has diverted more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic waste and prevented more than 24 million kg of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. It has achieved this by creating a closed loop, ensuring that plastic waste is returned to the value chain, reducing ocean pollution and helping combat climate change.

With the support of our sustainability experts, the leadership team has launched an ambitious sustainability strategy aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and to further cement this has signed up to the UN Global Compact. The company has brought staff and suppliers on board and demonstrated to everyone how boosting sustainability credentials not only helps protect the planet but helps secure a competitive edge. Consumers are now far savvier about the impact the products they buy have on the world around them and TDP has spent time researching the carbon saving opportunities for each of its products. It has also updated its website to include a dedicated section on sustainability as part of its stakeholder engagement strategy. (Sustainability Strategy – TDP)

With our support, the business has made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040. With soaring energy costs, it is now far easier to make the business case for reducing your environmental footprint, but TDP needed no persuading to keep scrutinising its operations to drive efficiencies. Recent measures include installing a new boiler, changing to LED lighting and a free to use electric vehicle charger at its premises. The business has also invested in more energy efficient equipment, including an automatic cross-cut saw which has reduced plastic profile waste by 80%.

TDP has successfully demonstrated that embracing sustainability is not a costly inconvenience but can also boost profitability and future proof operations.  Between 2019 and 2021, turnover increased by almost a third and headcount rose from 9 to 16. It has become the manufacturer of choice for a growing list of major new clients in both the public and private sectors.

Yet what I really admire about the business is that it refuses to rest on its laurels. In February, Managing Director Rob Barlow and his wife Anna joined 25 international scientists on an expedition to Antarctica. As part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the team helped release weather balloons to study winds and temperature at high altitude. Their low-carbon vessel was the first to be designated a weather station and had specialist equipment on board to analyse sea water and measure how microplastics are impacting on our most precious environments.

The trip has made the TDP team even more determined to press on with their sustainability journey and share best practice. They are working with other businesses to help create closed loops and support the circular economy by keeping resources in the value chain. They take every opportunity to share their experience and are regularly asked to talk to other manufacturers about sustainable production.

TDP’s commitment recently won them the Insider Made in the Midlands Sustainable/Ethical Manufacturer Award and TDP was a runner up in two categories of the 2022 regional Make UK awards.

I am very lucky to work so closely with passionate business like TDP, pushing the boundaries of sustainable production and embracing the green revolution. With the right culture, attitude and  access to expertise, UK businesses can lead the way in securing a more sustainable future.

This is a guest blog and therefore does not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Directors.

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