The company also always offers customers the option to take back the packaging – EPS, cardboard - used to protect products during shipping, for recycling. “We like to be in control of that packaging so we know where it ends up,” said Moverley.
Consumers do want sustainable products
Sustainability is important to customers, but price is still the number one factor. “And I think it will stay that way,” said Goldsmith. ”Sustainability is linked very much to the cost-of-living kind of issues that we're facing, but perhaps more on how we can communicate to our customers that buying products that use less energy and less water saves money and is a sustainable choice. But we find that at this junction customers are seeing the greater benefit from the impact on their pockets, and the fact that there's a sustainability benefit is a bonus for them as well.”
Lifetime cost versus initial purchase price is another aspect the company is seeking to educate customers about, by making sure that customers understand that ultimately, the more energy-efficient a machine is, the less expensive it is over its lifetime and the more sustainable.
Maintenance is another area that is often overlooked, said Moverley. “But to keep any product in good running order, it needs some care now and again. Nothing huge, keeping the filters clean, that sort of thing. That translates into a longer life and better energy efficiency as well. You know, in line with our aim for a circular economy, we want to keep that product in the home for as long as possible.”
The right to repair
Repairability is another focus for the appliance maker. Whirlpool has 1,150 engineers on the road every day, who function as the ‘frontline’ – they go into customers’ homes, talk to customers, fix their products, and advise on new products – all opportunities to discover what consumers are thinking or need. At the same time, it is something the company has been doing for decades already. And asked whether Whirlpool welcomed the upcoming right to repair legislation, that is precisely what Goldsmith pointed out – stressing that the company have seen customers benefiting.
“There may have been a time, perhaps several years back, when the attitude was more one of ‘throw it out and buy a new one.’ But we've seen that shift and change and are now at the forefront of it. We have the spare parts - 6.6 million of them in stock on site here in Peterborough - we have the engineers and we’ve a call centre that actually helps customers solve issues themselves. So, without needing to send an engineer. So far this year, we've saved 56,000 engineer visits, which saves customers from having to wait around, we're not putting 56,000 vans on the road, and we’ve just saved those emissions,” said Moverley.
Each year, the company refurbishes somewhere around 40 to 50,000 products, which, over ten years adds up to effectively half a million products which have been diverted from landfill and given a second life. “Around 100 are given to charitable groups or community groups, as a key part of our circular economy. We also sell directly to the public through our stores,” he added.
When it comes to sustainability goals, the main one is net zero emissions at all plants and operations by 2030. “We're well on the way to that,” said Moverley. “We reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, last year compared to 2021. All our manufacturing sites across the world are zero waste to landfill, either gold or platinum status.”
The waste is either recycled or reused. Old washing machines contain metal, plastic and rubber concrete, for example, The company will grind the concrete of the drum down into ballast , which is sold to house builders. The metal goes to recycling plants. “Not only is it zero waste to landfill, but it actually is a revenue generator for us as well. So, we're doing something good for the planet. We're doing something good for consumers, but we actually make some money from it too,” said Goldsmith.
Whirlpool is also the only large kitchen appliance manufacturer to hold Planet Mark business certification in the UK. Planet Mark is a sustainability certification and net zero provider for organisations and the built environment. Whirlpool has now earned this certification for the second year in a row. The company has also been awarded gold medal status by EcoVadis, meaning its score is in the top 5 percentile rank across all companies in all industries.
However, like everywhere, scope three emissions is the biggest challenge. It is part of why the company considers educating its customers about its products – and how to care for them - so important.
“Since 2005, we've reduced scope three by 60% and committed to a further 25% We are already shifting some of the sites to 100% renewable energy and the rest later on this year and early next year And there are other things, like removing single-use plastic from the operations that save has saved 400,000 cups going to landfill as well. Every colleague either has a water bottle or a hot drinks cup,” Moverley explained.
“Perhaps it’s the last really key thing to remember: we're on this journey as a company, but it's important that we bring our colleagues with us.”