Wallpaper maker switches to renewable energy

Iconic wallpaper manufacturer to switch to renewable energy in a bid to slash their carbon footprint. 

Chief executive of Graham & Brown Andrew Graham MBE said switching their electricity to a renewable supplier by 2022 would cut the company’s carbon footprint by up to 30% inside two years.

Graham & Brown, which is 75 years old in 2021, has reviewed its entire energy policy after Nelson-based Businesswise Solutions became their new energy broker.

The £80m turnover manufacturer, which is based in Blackburn and employs 500 people worldwide, now uses real-time data to monitor energy consumption across all their sites.

Mr Graham said the company’s annual energy bill is about £2m but by deploying Businesswise Solutions’ precise technology they’ll be able to work out how much energy is required to manufacture a single roll of wallpaper.

He said: “Even for a big manufacturer like us we were unable to truly understand our energy cost until we joined forces with Businesswise Solutions.

“When it came to buying paper, ink and machinery we were all over it but buying energy was a bit of a dark art.

“What Businesswise Solutions has done is open up the market and make it transparent and educate the customer. Everything is data-driven. 

“By April 2022 all the electricity that we buy into Graham & Brown will be from a renewable source. It’s a massive win for our carbon footprint.

“We now use technology to monitor the energy usage on all our machines and we can work out which of our production lines are the most efficient.

“We’ll be able to itemise it down to how much energy it takes to make each roll of wallpaper and we’ll use that data to become more efficient and drive down our carbon footprint further.”

From April 2022 the company will be switching its electricity from a ‘brown’ energy source to renewable wind power.

Mr Graham said the latest measure builds on the company’s track record of protecting the environment.

He said: “Sustainability is very important to us. We put in a heat exchange system 20 years ago which was ground-breaking.

“We were one of the first manufacturers to go to water-based inks. We’ve been working with our paper suppliers for over 30 years. As part of managed forest scheme for every tree that is cut down for our supply chain the suppliers farmers in Germany or Finland plant three trees in its place

“All of our paper is FSC accredited. We led that environmental push and as we look forward we want to lead another step change and do even more.”

He said manufacturers are traditionally high energy users and Graham & Brown was no exception.

“Our core business is making wallpaper,” he said. “You get the big rolls of paper at one end of the machine. You apply the ink through different print stations. You then heat the ink and dry the whole thing in a big oven and then wrap and pack it.

“The two big sources of energy we use are gas for the oven and electricity for some of the print stations and the robotics involved in the packing.

“Businesswise Solutions talk you through the whole energy market. Not only are they our energy broker but they act as our energy consultant and advise us on understanding our carbon footprint.

“By 2022 Businesswise Solutions will have helped us reduce our carbon footprint by between 20-30%.” 

Mr Graham, who has worked for Graham & Brown for 28 years, said data has transformed the manufacturing industry.

“28 years ago it was all about gut instinct,” he said. “Now our management team operate on data and I think most good businesses do the same. That data revolution has really accelerated in the last 10 years.

“Big manufacturing is so data-driven these days. Our ops team are looking at their performance on a daily basis. It’s enlightening. It will save us money.”

Dean Cockett, co-founder and director of Businesswise Solutions, said: “We’re delighted to have partnered with Graham & Brown.

“We’ve put in a series of controls to simplify the way they buy and use their energy.

“Currently they purchase energy from a brown source. That could be a coal-fired power station for example. From 2022 we’re purchasing 100% renewable energy. All the electricity they use on site will be wind-powered and that will significantly reduce their carbon footprint.”

Harold Graham and Henry Brown founded Graham & Brown in 1946 and they now have divisions across Europe and in North America.