Ideal Standard: Meeting efficiency and sustainability commitments

Jocelynne Rowan caught up with Alex Hooley, Head of Trade for Ideal Standard UK to discuss current industry market trends and the company’s commitment to sustainability and decarbonisation.

Alex Hooley
Head of Trade
Ideal Standard UK

Alex has been with Ideal Standard for 12 years, joining as a regional business development manager. Since then, Alex has held several roles, initially being promoted to the national account manager for Saint Gobain, looking after Jewson, Graham, Gibbs and Dandy and Neville Lumb. In the summer of 2021, Alex continued to rise through the business, becoming the Head of Trade and managing all the national accounts and most recently resuming responsibility for both national and independent trade accounts.

Can you provide an overview of the current market situation for your business? What trends and changes have you observed recently?
As a sector, we’ve definitely seen some more challenging times recently and that’s particularly showing around the new build environment – both across housebuilders and installers working in the sector.
The challenges are in part driven by wider troubles facing the construction sector, particularly with firms struggling to meet the demands of ambitious government targets, as well as mitigating increasing urban populations. This is understandably piling on the pressure when it comes to housebuilding, particularly when it comes to building them well!
So, at Ideal Standard, we’re looking to provide as much support as possible and a helping hand to our trade partners, including installers. We’re doing this by ensuring we have the right products in the right place to offer solutions that allow quick and simple installations. That means whether it’s your first time working with Ideal Standard, or you’ve been a customer for years, we will be on hand to help when needed. With a comprehensive Trade and Retail network across the UK, it’s simple for installers to get what they need, when they need it, no matter the stage of the project.

What opportunities do you see for your business in the current market landscape? Are there specific niches or emerging technologies that you’re considering?
As an industry we are looking towards sustainability as an important part of the future – and for us that means moving our EcoLogic development forwards.
EcoLogic is our holistic approach to environmental progress, focusing on elevated hygiene, water and energy efficiency, and getting more from durable materials and sustainable value chains. And by the end of 2023, over 90% of our products met at least one of those criteria.However, it’s way more than just making sustainable products, we want to give developers and tradespeople complete clarity when they come to us, and give them as many options as possible. With this in mind, we’ve published Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for over 5,000 of our products over the past year, and that’s just the start.
One of the great things about EcoLogic for installers is that it also supports our Singular proposition which means installers can mix and match products from across different ranges – whether it’s for complete bathroom specifications, or just last-minute replacements or swaps in other projects.
With EcoLogic and Singular working hand in hand, installers can quickly see what solutions work for their projects, and how they work together. It offers a comprehensive approach to a traditionally tricky process.

Can you share some of the key challenges your business faces in the context of decarbonisation and sustainability? What strategies are you implementing to overcome these challenges?
We are obviously looking towards carbon neutrality as our end goal and we’ve already started addressing our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, taking immediate steps to reduce our carbon emissions. This includes removing 37t of plastic bags from our packaging over the year and creating products that are inherently recyclable, like our new Alu+ showering range which is made from 84% recycled aluminium.
These changes also make life easier for installers and developers who can rest assured that sustainable credentials can be easily achieved.
It’s not just these immediate changes Ideal Standard is making either – we are working with the UK government to explore the possibility of 100% hydrogen firing for kilns – so sustainability is truly top of the agenda.

How do you measure and track the environmental impact and carbon footprint of your company’s operations and services? What sustainability metrics are you monitoring and improving upon?
When it comes to measuring our environmental impact, we know that independent verification for our actions is vital, which is why we turned to EcoVadis, the world’s largest provider of sustainability ratings.
In terms of how EcoVadis works, it assesses four key categories: environmental impact, labour and human rights standards, ethics, and sustainable procurement practices. It’s a globally recognised platform, and the silver medal award we received in 2023 put us in the top 25% of more than 85,000 companies evaluated globally, as well as the top 15% in our industry. The great thing about EcoVadis is that it also helps us identify areas in need of attention – meaning we get some brilliant learnings as a business too.

In what ways are you communicating your commitment to sustainability and decarbonisation to your customers and stakeholders? How does this impact your brand and reputation?
In February, we launched our 2023 ESG report which was shared with customers, stakeholders and the public. The new report builds on our 2022 report, laying out the focuses and strategies that we have at Ideal Standard to decarbonise the business, as well as how we are making the business more inclusive for all.
The aim of these reports is to provide a comprehensive and clear picture around our processes. Transparency, which you may have noticed is a bit of a running theme here, is really important. Having that honest communication is not just to report back to key stakeholders, but so we can also highlight some of the great work we have done over the last few years.
This transparency is equally important for things like new projects too, with the more information we can now give installers and developers, the better they can evaluate our products for their projects. This is where aspects like EPDs are invaluable.

What is the long-term vision for your business in the context of decarbonisation and sustainability? How do you plan to stay ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving industry?
From day one, our approach to decarbonisation has been about identifying what needs to change, and how it can be changed properly, and then setting the best timelines for that. So, when we first launched our sustainability project, our decarbonisation team set us the task of reducing Scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. However, we want to now push further and are committed to transitioning to using renewably sourced electricity in our manufacturing by 2030.
Outside the factory, we are focusing on supply chain and IntegrityNext, a supply chain monitoring platform, is helping us work with partners who have like-minded environmental goals. In 2024, we’re expanding that work with IntegrityNext to include indirect suppliers which means that, no matter where installers are get their product, they can be sure it’s sourced sustainably.

Find out more at www.idealstandard.co.uk or visit the Ideal Standard stand at InstallerSHOW.
Register for your free ticket here.

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