As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the change in our behaviours under lockdown has already reduced our CO2 emissions, waste production and unnecessary consumption. But an engineer says the time is right for engineering to do even more on cleaner transportation, renewable energy, water use and, importantly, a circular economy that has room for all.
Alan Lusty, CEO and Founder of the multidisciplinary engineering firm, adi Group, has seen how well people are pulling together and believes now is the perfect opportunity for businesses to not only redouble their environmental efforts but to sharpen their focus on the sustainability of our local communities and skills development.
He explained that the engineering sector, along with all parts of the economy, should work to continue the sense of unity through and long after the current crisis, aiming to find solutions to some of society’s other pressing issues.
“We have seen a quite remarkable change in such a short space of time,” Lusty said. “I have been in business for 30 years and, although we have had our challenges, we have never encountered anything on this scale before.
“But I’m really encouraged by what we’ve seen in terms of crisis mitigation from our suppliers, our customers and our teams. The way people have responded has been fantastic. Everyone is pulling together to overcome problems nobody would have factored in last Christmas.
“We will get past the crisis. There will be bumps in the road but we will make it to the other side. The key then will be to harness this newfound spirit for the long term and use it to help us solve other problems.
“Chief among those is, of course, the environment. If we can keep going in this vein, we can galvanise British ingenuity to find new ways of doing things that help minimise, or even reverse, the negative impact of climate change. But our ambitions shouldn’t stop there.”
adi Group was recently awarded a Platinum accreditation by EcoVadis, a provider of sustainability rankings. Rating 81 out of 100 across 21 different indicators, the Group went one better than the Gold ranking it has held since 2015 to cement a spot in the top one percent of thousands of sustainable businesses in more than 110 countries worldwide.
For Lusty, the Platinum rating was rooted in adi Group’s broadening of its conception of what ‘sustainability’ is and he believes other businesses will benefit by following suit.
“As an industry and as individual companies, we have to understand our responsibilities in a new way. Sustainability isn’t just about the climate and pollution. It involves us developing a deeper appreciation of the duty we have to our partners and the debt we owe to the communities in which we operate.
“This crisis has given us an urgency that we can take forward into the new reality that emerges. We should use it to address the skills gap, for example, that threatens UK engineering. We should look to open up new employment for people in our local areas, particularly for those who have lost out due to the pandemic and for a younger generation struggling for the same opportunities mine enjoyed.
“It’s circular. If they prosper, so shall we and vice versa. The same logic applies, when you scale things up to the national and global levels, and there is no reason why we can’t do just that. It will take time and a lot of ambition and hard work but there are huge gains to be made and to be shared by us all.
“I saw a jellyfish on the news this morning, clearly visible in the once murky waters of Venice’s Grand Canal. It was a beautiful, graceful creature and it showed us how things can change for the better in such a short period, even in the worst of circumstances.
“We were always going to have to play our own individual roles in building a sustainable future. And the chances are governments will compel us further in that direction after the crisis is dealt with, so we should act now.
“All the evidence I have seen in recent weeks tells me that, when we pull together in pursuit of the common good, we can really make things happen. I believe now is the time that together we sustain our collective efforts in that spirit, so everyone one of us can enjoy a sustainable future.”
Lusty, who founded adi Group back in 1990, has put the firm’s 30th birthday celebration plans on ice in light of the crisis, so he and his teams can focus on fulfilling the needs of customers that include Princes Foods, Cadbury, Nestlé and Weetabix in a food production sector under pressure to meet shifts in demand.