In an industry that is now very much sustainability-forward, Stormtech is decades ahead of the game. They’ve been ‘sustainable by necessity’ since they started in the 90s - first, due to financial constraints, and then as an ongoing means of mitigating the climate crisis. Now, in 2023, despite significant business growth, that principle still underpins everything they do.
“In our early years, cash was very very tight and anything we could do ourselves we did,” says Stormtech CEO, Troy Creighton. “Where we had suppliers providing items they were generally packed in bulk. We routinely recovered all the packaging, and many people recognised a Stormtech delivery, as the packaging was obviously re-used. Repair and maintenance were also in-house, and often repaired using components scavenged from similar broken items or cheap second-hand items. Even today the desk I use was sourced second hand.”
The approach driven by the fiscal realities of starting a small business eventually just became the way things were done at Stormtech. “Despite being a different scale of business today, the re-use, re-purposing and finally recycling of items we use is ongoing as it is now the culture rather than the necessity. For example, our stainless-steel scrap yield has improved by almost 20% at a time we are growing in scale and volume.”
Stormtech’s sustainability culture has expanded to include everything they do, right across the supply chain. “Greenwashing is a problem we were not aware of and have had to become more discerning when investigating potential suppliers or equipment,” says Troy. He notes that sustainable supply is one of the most important - and difficult to control - factors in becoming truly sustainable. “For example, the supply of stainless steel requires large energy inputs at the mill. By investigating our stainless supply we’ve discovered a more renewable source from Europe where the electricity used at the mill is primarily sourced from hydro, not coal or gas. Freight distance by truck is another factor. Besides supporting local business, similarly to ‘food miles’, industrial supply can be convoluted and wasteful due to multiple ‘middlemen’ not only adding margin but requiring materials to be unnecessarily shipped to different locations before final delivery. Green statements are not as reliable as they could be due to green washing, so more investigation is required.”
One of the other essential factors in the Stormtech sustainability journey is the sourcing and utilisation of renewable energy. As grid power becomes less reliable and more expensive, Stormtech is increasingly switching to innovative, high tech manufacturing methods and equipment modernisation, with less energy consumption and water used per metre or drain manufactured. “In the next 12 months we hope to be generating 100% of our own electrical supply, and about 80% of our water use,” says Troy. “Currently we are offsetting our electricity from the grid with the usual ‘green energy’ option, meaning the extra cash paid for ‘green energy’ is used to build more renewable/sustainable electrical generation. I feel this is better than nothing but is pretty opaque when trying to see how much of the money is actually used as opposed to eaten up in ‘administration’ costs.”
Big picture, though, all of these actions will come together to help Stormtech achieve its main sustainability goal. “We aim to become carbon negative in the next seven years,” says Troy. “For us, carbon negative is really the only goal we should aim for as this is the only way to secure our future.” And with sustainability embedded within the business as a distinguishing cultural driver (and not just a checkbox exercise), Stormtech will undoubtedly continue as an innovator in this space for decades to come.