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DESIGN TO LAST

Our increasing focus on product circularity is changing the way we think about design and how we operate and resource our teams. We aim to ‘design out’ waste by using components that are longer-lasting and more recycled/reclaimed materials that can be reused and/or recycled at the end of life. Of our approximately 50,000 products, around 80% are designed either in-house at Dunelm or exclusively for us by external designers, allowing us to co-ordinate the development of more sustainable ranges effectively. We have 12 in-house designers, and we are looking to attract talented textile artists and crafting experts who can plan in product longevity at the product concept stage. We also have a team of over 20 specialist product technologists, who ensure products meet quality and performance standards as well as all relevant legal and safety requirements.

In September 2020, we launched our flagship range of sustainable products under ‘The Edited Life’ brand. Initially launched across six major categories (curtains, bedding, cook n’ dine, lighting, home accessories and furniture) we aim to expand this range into as many categories as possible to provide more affordable options for customers choosing a more sustainable lifestyle. Each product in the range has its own sustainability credential and is designed to last longer. Our urban tableware, for example, has been manufactured and tested to hospitality standards, and designed to withstand wear-and-tear. We use simple, pared back designs with neutral, nature-inspired colours that will not go out of fashion and can be easily mixed and matched.

The Edited Life‘ sofa range

In September 2021, we launched our new ‘The Edited Life’ made-to-order sofa range. The seats use fibre made from recycled plastic bottles and fabrics from post-consumer waste and the frames have a 25-year guarantee.

The packaging also uses recycled and recyclable content – 30% post-consumer waste for the bags and FSC-certified cardboard.

PRIORITISE LOWER IMPACT MATERIALS

Plastics and packaging

In May 2021 we published our first Plastics and Packaging Policy and now have six related metrics and targets. In June 2021 we issued our second Sustainable Packaging Manual to our supply base. This includes our requirements to bring our packaging standards in line with legislation changes affecting plastic packaging in April 2022.

We cannot eliminate all packaging but are committed to reducing its environmental impact by using less packaging (for example, by reducing bag sizes and film thickness), better packaging (introducing recyclable materials and a higher percentage of recycled or certified content), and aiming for a fully closed packaging loop. We are focusing initially where we can make the most impact: opportunities in high-volume customer-facing packaging (for example, bedding and blinds) and transit packaging (for example, bags, sheeting and air cushions). We have removed around 110 tonnes of virgin plastic packaging from our supply chain and have identified many more opportunities to increase the ‘recyclability’ of existing packaging and the percentage of recycled content to remove virgin plastic. For example, we have already removed 14 tonnes of virgin plastics from our pillow and duvet packaging and in September 2021 we launched our new mailing bags that are made with over 95% recycled plastic, are 100% recyclable and save 70% in solvent ink.

Lower-impact materials

We are also proactively working with suppliers to introduce more recycled and responsibly sourced materials into our product ranges, for example in our ‘The Edited Life’ range. We aim to report on progress against our new target next year.

KEEP PRODUCTS IN USE AND PROMOTE RESPONSIBLE RECYCLING

We will help our customers engage in the circular economy by offering and promoting services which prolong product use and sustainable living.

Recycling and collection services

In FY21, following research into customer attitudes towards recycling, collection and second-hand products, we introduced services with a range of partners. British Heart Foundation and Clearabee, for example, take back bulky items (such as mattresses, beds, bedroom furniture and living room furniture) either free or at discounted rates, and we are actively promoting the WEEE take-back electrical scheme. In July 2021 we announced our Group charity partnership with Mind and are exploring how we can best work with Mind to encourage customers to donate unwanted homewares products for resale in Mind charity shops.

We encourage the local selling of old or unwanted products via our community Facebook groups and Facebook marketplace (see Community section ) and aim to extend these initiatives in FY22. In Autumn 2021 we trialled our first quilts and pillows take-back scheme in 18 stores, allowing us to recycle feathers and hollow fibres. We aim to refine and roll this out based on our trial results.

Promoting WEEE

The WEEE electricals recycling scheme in partnership with ‘Recycle Your Electricals’ was relaunched in January 2021. Since April 2021, when our stores re-opened, we have actively promoted this service on dunelm.com, via our Facebook community groups and on posters in-store.

Care and repair

Our online and in-store tips for everyday care and repair can improve product life, save money, and reduce waste and environmental impacts by, for example, using lower washing temperatures and dosing detergent correctly. For dry clean only products, we partner with Green Earth, a sustainable dry-cleaning company that discounts prices for Dunelm products.

Product and packaging recycling

We continued to roll out On Pack Recycling Labelling to make it easier for customers to understand the best disposal or recycling options for packaging. As part of our ‘circular economy’ ethos, we aim, in time to provide instructions on how on how to disassemble products for easier recycling.

‘GIVE BACK’

Biodiversity, water and land-use

We are increasing our focus on minimising other environmental impacts, such as water usage and the degradation of biodiversity.

We are not high water users; nonetheless we save water by using rainwater for flushing toilets in some of our distribution centres, installing waterless urinals across our store estate and upgrading to low-spray and sensor water taps during store refurbishments. In FY21, we established that 12 UK sites are adjacent to estuaries, which are considered key biodiversity areas. While none are in or near sites of special scientific interest, 31 UK sites are in high water-stressed areas.

In our supply chain, we have had a timber policy in place for many years that seeks to avoid deforestation, and we have increased the use of organic cotton that reduces water and chemical usage. In FY22, we will evaluate our biodiversity risks and opportunities to focus on activities where we can make the most impact.

MOVING FORWARD: CIRCULAR ECONOMY

  • Build awareness of circular design and manufacturing requirements across product teams and our supply base.
  • Develop scalable take-back schemes for textiles and non-textile product categories (now a FY24 LTIP metric).
  • Reduce plastic and track recyclable and recycled content for FY22 disclosure.
  • Evaluate biodiversity impacts and developing initiatives across the business and supply chain.