Earlier in August, TT Electronics appointed its first ever Sustainability Director, Emma Darke. We caught up with Darke to find out more about her ambitions and that of TT Electronics when it comes to sustainability and going “green”.
Q: What does “sustainability” mean to you? We hear that word a lot, but we want to understand how you define it.
A: Sustainability is not a new topic, and there is a mounting awareness that the destructive patterns that we’ve built have resulted in a crisis. Working towards a more inclusive and sustainable world requires us all to rethink how we live our lives and how we can co-create a liveable future. It may seem like a daunting challenge, but I see it as an exciting opportunity. We all have an opportunity to change and rebuild economies and societies that are much more sustainable, and it feels like the political will to support this change is growing.
Q: What are your ambitions for TT Electronics through this appointment?
A: I feel lucky to work for a company whose purpose is to solve technology challenges for a sustainable world. This purpose drives our business decisions. Sustainability is central to what we make for our customers – products that are cleaner, smarter and healthier. Sustainability is also central to the way we run our business. We aspire to deliver “zero harm” and minimise our impact on the environment to benefit our stakeholders, including customers and suppliers, employees, communities and shareholders.
We have a strong culture at TT to provide an inclusive and sustainable workplace, and we have clear targets around some initial environmental priorities, including reducing carbon emissions, waste to landfill and single-use plastic packaging.
Sustainability is a broad area, and we will continue to build our agenda, but, overall, we’re focused on doing the right thing, championing the expertise of our talented workforce, and achieving more by working together. That gives me great confidence in our ability to address the sustainability challenges that lie ahead.
Q: How is TT Electronics likely to implement these ideas into practice and how easy/difficult will that be?
A: Our purpose is to solve technology challenges for a sustainable world, so it really is at the heart of everything we do. TT engineers advanced electronics that benefit our planet and its people for future generations. We apply this same expertise and enthusiasm from our engaged and passionate workforce to how we operate as a business.
The way in which we do business, working with our customers to design and manufacture solutions that enable a cleaner, smarter and healthier world means contributing to a sustainable world is already part of our DNA. Last year we invested £11.2m in research and development, which was almost entirely focused on making new, lighter products that will make cleaner, smarter solutions and improve wellbeing.
Like every business, we need to challenge how we operate and implement changes to make our business more sustainable. We believe this is an ambition shared by our customers and suppliers. We’re building a clearly defined roadmap and looking to leverage expertise and technology innovation to help us succeed.
Q: Within what timeframe will these plans be integrated?
A: I anticipate that our sustainability ambitions will grow and grow. Because of this, I don’t think there will be a point in time when we can say our sustainability ambitions have been completed.
Q: When did TT introduce its Sustainability Council and what is its remit?
A: We have a longstanding Health, Safety and Environmental Council responsible for companywide best-practice sharing, monitoring and improvements and strategy setting. This year, we introduced a group-wide sustainability council to focus on developing and integrating our sustainability roadmap.
Q: Has TT Electronics allocated certain funds towards achieving its ‘green’ goals and to what value – please specify?
A: We recognise that the roadmap to net-zero emissions in our own operations will require investment. We assess the investment necessary based on return on investment and cost per CO2 reduction.
It’s worth noting that sustainability is also a driver of revenue and profit growth for TT. We see the demand for our products and services that enable a more sustainable world increasing over time as this continues to be a worldwide prerogative.
Q: What should “sustainability” mean to electronics as an industry?
A: The electronics industry is renowned for its innovative approach to technology development and operational excellence in its manufacturing. We need to apply these core competencies to the industry-wide approach to sustainability and the circular economy. Electronics can and should be an excellent enabler for sustainability, so it’s a big opportunity for the industry.
Q: How can an everyday engineer think of sustainability when dealing with daily projects – whether at the design or implementation stage of components/systems?
A: Our talented engineering community is one of the greatest assets we have to drive sustainability ambitions through the electronics supply chain. Be it at the new product introduction stage or through process engineering as that product is manufactured, there are opportunities for engineers to identify and develop more efficient and less resource-intensive solutions, which then permeate throughout the value chain. Education and awareness are key to making sustainability considerations part of everyday thinking for all of us to take responsibility for our part in driving the sustainability agenda.
Q: Does TT Electronics actively encourage its customers to be “sustainable” and how?
A: We work in strategic partnerships with our customers, and therefore the conversation works both ways. Our customers want to work with us to support their sustainability agendas, and we want to work with them to drive sustainability.
Q: Are TT Electronics’s customers asking for sustainable products?
A: Absolutely! But this is nothing new.
Our cleaner solutions improve energy efficiency, addressing climate change and resource scarcity. These solutions include power controls for aerospace and defence markets which contribute to lighter and more environmentally-friendly aircraft, reducing fuel consumption. For example, it has been estimated that a 1% reduction in the weight of an aircraft leads to a c.0.75% improvement in fuel consumption. Our products also contribute to increased aviation safety. As part of the ‘Clean Sky’ initiative and associated economic benefits from increased fuel efficiency, demand for our products in these areas has been growing.
Our smarter solutions ensure accuracy and drive automation, improving productivity and addressing resource scarcity. These solutions include multiple sensors that can be used to improve productivity, including the smarter home and factory. This sensor technology can improve efficiency and therefore reduces energy consumption, resulting in a lower carbon footprint.
We are expert specialists obsessed with solving our customers’ complex problems, so we’re always up for the challenge – working with our customers to help them with their sustainability quandaries.
Q: What else might we need as a society to see major changes in terms of sustainability and “green-ness”?
A: Education, education, education! This is fundamental to the growing recognition that we can’t continue on the path the world is currently. As individuals, from world leaders to business leaders, to other members of society, all of us need to take responsibility for our own influence and impact.
By Svetlana Josifovska, Editor