Green Business Awards 2008: Best Industrial or Manufacturing Company - Winner HJ Berry & Sons

Furniture-maker HJ Berry is hardly in the manufacturing big league.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Yet it processes nearly 2,000 cubic metres of hardwoods annually and faces the same issues as larger industrial firms with materials, processes, waste and energy. The company has well-developed policies and systems to minimise its operational impact. It also works hard to improve the environmental profile of its products. HJ Berry believes its thoroughgoing commitment to green issues in all aspects is feeding through to increased awareness and customer interest - the acid test for a firm that wants to be sustainable economically, environmentally and socially.

HJ Berry can trace its roots directly back to the industrial revolution. The company, still based where it started in 1840, in Chipping, Lancashire, once drew power from a waterwheel once used by Richard Arkwright. It now uses more modern production methods, but strives to build sustainability into each of its processes.

The company's electricity is procured from renewable sources. It is looking at installing its own renewable electricity production capacity on site, and aims to be self-sufficient in green electricity. It already generates virtually all its own heating needs by burning off-cuts and shavings in a low-pollution boiler. This supplies space heating in the factory and process heat for kilns and drying tunnels.

The company has a long-term goal of eliminating all use of fossil fuels for heating. It is participating in a scheme to turn the whole village into a wood-energy heated area.

HJ Berry's primary raw material is wood, and the company has put in place controls to ensure that this comes from sustainable sources (see opposite, page 8). The goal is to source 100% of its timber from local, British-managed forests.

A variety of other materials are consumed, including chipboard, medium density fibreboard (MDF) and laminated wood, fabrics for upholstery and a range of woodstains, oils and waxes. Some of these materials are oil-based, but since 2001 all new product designs have been offered in a 100%-recyclable option. HJ Berry is introducing natural oil finishes in place of lacquers containing chemical solvents, and is working towards using natural waxes and organic fabrics and upholstery fillings.

Other materials and substances also come under HJ Berry's green spotlight. Under the banner 'clear-conscience consumables', it is introducing eco-friendly cleaning, lubricating, packaging and communication materials. Its long-term aim is for all the materials to be organically based, sustainable, compostable or reusable - and sourced as locally as possible. Factory and other wastes are separated into re-usable, re-cyclable, compostable and burnable.

The ultimate goal is to send nothing to landfill. 'We see green business activity as a long-term prospect, acting as a custodian of the environment and working hard to be a good neighbour,' the company says.

Though HJ Berry cannot compete at the cheaper end of the furniture market, signs are that its green credentials are bringing their own financial rewards. Trade customers increasingly cite the HJ Berry's sustainability record when buying furniture, the company claims. Hits on the sustainability part of its website have risen by a quarter in the past year.

Equally important to the company is helping to make a difference in the wider world. It must have been a great satisfaction to its owners when the Government's Manufacturing Advisory Service recently brought other manufacturers on a fact-finding tour to learn from HJ Berry's sustainable business example.

Shortlisted - Buxton Press p24; Dulux Trade p25; Paragon Print & Packaging p27; Tarkett p27

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