31st October 2023

A sustainable step in the right direction

Carol Howson, our Sustainability & Product Engineer, is excited about the challenges and opportunities she is facing in her new role.

Joining Ulster Carpets three months ago in what is a completely new role within the company, Carol has quickly undertaken a broad overview of where we stand when it comes to sustainability.

“There are already great foundations in place but, more importantly, there is a real drive and passion within Ulster Carpets to improve all aspects of our sustainability performance. The fact that a specific role has been created for sustainability speaks volumes, particularly when we believe we are the first in the industry to do this.”

Carol joins a dedicated sustainability team at Ulster Carpets which works with every department to make improvements.

“One thing that has been clear in my short time here is that we have a proven history of innovation. We have been industry pioneers in efficient productivity, meaning we were trying to reduce energy usage even before it was seen as an important way to protect the planet.

“I want to harness that expertise and philosophy to improve our carpets even further.”

Carol has experience in the flooring sector through her work as a Product Developer and in Quality Control at Interface and she also worked for a short time at renewable energy company, Octopus.

“What attracted me to Ulster Carpets was the transparency around sustainability. Our Sustainability Strategy clearly identifies current achievements but, more importantly, sets out specific targets and a clear timeline. Too many companies use aspirational language, but we have a clear plan that demonstrates our commitment to making a real difference.”

She added, “When it comes to sustainability, there isn’t just one magic solution. It must be a range of changes and improvements that collectively make a change. We have short, medium and long-term goals and we will take it step-by-step.

“We started in the most obvious place – our manufacturing processes. This has already been successful and we have reduced our water requirements by 46%, switched to 100% renewable electricity and diverted 100% of our post-production waste away from landfill.

“Our Sustainability Strategy sets out our next steps and when you look at major targets, you can see we are taking a holistic approach. By 2025 we aim to achieve further reductions of 50% in Carbon Emissions, 19% in our energy intensity and 20% in waste as well as 5% reductions in water consumption and packaging. It shows that we are serious about change.”

Next on Carol’s list is looking at improving the eco credentials of Ulster’s carpets.

“Again, we already have solid foundations in place. Wool is an amazing natural product. Rapidly renewable and with a host of natural benefits that make it durable and easy to maintain, it is the perfect material to make carpets from.

“Using a natural material also has added benefits when it comes to waste. Dust from our wool processing is used as a natural fertiliser on farms while waste wool is used in our Axfelt underlay, which is made from 100% recycled materials.

“We understand there are challenges around takeback and recycling of used carpet, but we are working to find industry-wide solutions as well as our own answers to this.

“However, it is important that customers consider all aspects of a carpet – from the energy used to produce it, the materials that are used to create it and the quality and longevity of the finished product. As I said previously, it is essential to look at the whole picture when it comes to sustainability and that includes your flooring choices.”

Carol concluded, “We didn’t just set our sustainability targets and think that was enough. We are well on our way to achieving these targets and already looking at our future goals. We will continue to develop products using natural materials and capitalise on the strong sustainability culture across the Ulster Carpets Group.”