From an ISO 14000:2015 accreditation to a company-wide revolution: how Austin Hayes became a pioneer in sustainability

With the effects of global warming becoming more prevalent than ever, it’s paramount that each of us, from individuals to companies, make more of an effort to minimise our global footprint. That’s why Austin Hayes set out to achieve the ISO 14000:2015 – and we’re delighted to say it’s been the catalyst for change throughout the entire company.

So what is it, exactly?

For those not in the know, the ISO 14000:2015 is a certification that honours companies that manage their environmental impact and work towards the greener good in a powerful, meaningful way.

We knew that aspiring for this goal would change the way that our company functioned, but we had no idea how much it would influence the way our employees thought, or the innovations that it would inspire. And that in aiming for this certification, we would end up achieving something far bigger and more enduring than we could have ever dreamed – a complete change of attitude within our task force that would affect the way Austin Hayes worked forever.

From a programme to a passion project

We began by following ISO’s recommended framework to set up an effective environmental management system. It included small ways we could improve our eco-friendliness in the everyday, from placing dedicated recycling bins in the cafeteria, to holding regular talks with our team about the impact these changes would make.

The project quickly took on a life of its own. Our employees became invested in the subject, and before long, we found ourselves reevaluating our company practices as a whole. This resulted in a seismic shift in our approach to sustainability in general, encouraging us to challenge our previous notion of what waste actually is, and how it can be transformed into something truly useful with the right outlook.

We started seeing solutions to problems that were previously dealt with in an arbitrary, albeit cost-effective way. It became clear that the easiest route was not always the best. More thought was required to create new and exciting solutions that could not only effectively recycle the waste that had already been accumulated but prevent future waste from occurring.

Waste not, want not

We found ourselves asking, “How can we recycle seemingly unusable materials more effectively? Is some ‘waste’ unsalvageable, or can it be reverse engineered or refashioned to build something new? Is ‘waste’ even the right word to use?”

With these questions percolating in our minds, we began to research a variety of methods and techniques to ensure no materials would have to end up as landfill. This led us to explore partnerships with like-minded individuals across Europe and the UK who saw waste for what it really is: surplus.

Together, we came up with new ways to utilise the surplus we had at our company. Piles of foam that were previously unusable could be reverse engineered into the foundations for astroturf pitches that would be enjoyed by thousands of children. Extra wood could be refashioned into furniture to be used in homes and offices around the world, instead of being incinerated. Materials that were once so easily discarded suddenly became essential components for building something new – and we knew that we wanted to be part of that evolution, no matter how much extra effort would be required.

It’s not easy being green

These changes weren’t easy to action. We had no ISO framework to follow for figuring out how to use our surplus in the most effective way. We knew that it would take a lot of re-organising and planning, and that we would have to overhaul some of our existing systems in order for it to work. But, while Austin Hayes is a small company, it’s one with a big heart – and our entire team was determined to take our eco efforts as far as they could go.

It was all hands on deck. Somewhere along the road to achieving the ISO 14000:2015 certification, we learned that doing the right thing, no matter the cost or effort, was far better than doing the fastest, cheapest thing when it comes to sustainability. That being green was better for everyone – for our team, for the companies that we could share our materials with and, ultimately, for the planet itself.

We’re not cutting any corners

A number of high-profile companies have made sustainability a priority but have made glaring mistakes along the way. In a bid to ease increasing public pressure, fast-food giant McDonald’s replaced their plastic straws with paper ones. However, they recently admitted that their paper straws cannot be recycled, even though the plastic straws they replaced could. Worse still, more chains have been exposed for what has been dubbed as “fake environmentalism”.

At Austin Hayes, we’re determined to deliver excellence while doing our utmost to protect our environment. Since day one, we’ve been determined to do things the right way. We’ve taken all the necessary steps to make sure that our surplus materials go to the right destination – carefully separating plastic from foam and wood from metal – driven by our newfound passion to be as sustainable as possible.

Though we’re delighted to have achieved the ISO 14000:2015, this is just the first step. We’re committed to being pioneers in sustainability – redefining how the world sees waste, and to help communities and businesses through the power of recycling. In just a short amount of time we’ve seen the amazing effects of our environmental initiatives and feel more inspired than ever to continue on this rewarding journey.