Sustainability in focus at Somerset design conference


Design professionals, business consultants and the public sector will meet in Somerset next month to discuss the competitive advantages of increasing sustainable practice and to advise designers on how best to market sustainability to their clients.

The conference, Sustainable Business by Design, will also look for new design solutions to evolving sustainability problems.

Run in association with the Creative Industries iNet innovation network, the event is funded by partners including the Somerset Design Enterprise Network, the South West Design Forum and the Design Council.

Speaker Mark Shayler, director of consultancy Tickety Boo, says he will use the conference to raise sustainability issues he feels aren’t sufficiently prioritised at present.

One is the growth of disposable packaging, which, Shayler says ’we’re not ready for’. In the case of biodegradable polylactic acid packaging, he notes that council operatives reject it when collected and that it can only be home composted. In view of the threat of impending food shortages, he believes we should be using land to grow food, rather than raw materials which form biodegradable packaging such as PLA.

Improving products, rather than their packaging, he adds, can in some cases improve sustainability by cutting costs and increasing the products’ longevity.

Andrew Knutt, chairman of the Somerset Design Enterprise Network, says organisations can improve their ’brands, products, processes and services’ by adopting sustainable practices to make a difference to ’bottom-line business’.

This is a topic on which another speaker, John Luff, director of Sustainable Marketing, offers consultancy. Luff believes that sustainable branding and marketing is ultimately necessary to adhere to international and professional sustainability standards, which are becoming more prescriptive in law.

Besides, Luff says, sustainable branding can add value by ’driving up revenue and driving down costs’. By reflecting sustainable values in branding and marketing materials, companies will be perceived as better people to do business with, says Luff. Addressing economic and societal, as well as environmental, sustainability, companies need to communicate their long-term sustainability achievements without feeling that ’it looks cheap’, he adds.

Speaker Lynne Elvins, design consultant and adviser for the South West Design Programme, will run a workshop at the conference outlining a Sustainability Matrix Tool, a developmental structure which small businesses can adopt to implement sustainable practices.

’[The Sustainability Matrix Tool] takes a life cycle approach and runs through a number of issues – not just environmental, but also social,’ says Elvins.

The platform

  • Sustainable Business by Design takes place on 22 March at Somerset College of Arts and Technology in Taunton, Somerset, and is hosted by the Somerset Design Enterprise Network
  • Speakers include David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council; design adviser and eco designer Mark Shayler, director of Tickety Boo; Lynne Elvins, design consultant and adviser to the South West Design Programme; and John Boult, associate professor of design strategy at Brunel University. All speakers will voice their personal views, rather than those of the organisations they represent

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