Nikwax Philosophy and Principles
Combining Emotion and Science
Most people will admit to an emotional relationship with the environment. We appreciate natural beauty, we go out looking for it, and when we find it we feel happy. But when we don't find it, and we find pollution and destruction instead, then we inevitably feel sad. An emotional radar is a vital part of being human, and it is the greatest motivator for action on environmental issues.
However, emotions alone do not always give us a detailed enough understanding. At Nikwax, like all people, we are motivated by our emotions. But we also put an extremely high value on rational analysis. Without science we wouldn't know what was causing climate change, we wouldn't understand poisonous chemicals, and we would barely be aware of the number of species at risk of extinction. Similarly, without measurement and experimentation, there's no way to know if the solutions we design are effective.
At Nikwax we make an effort to stay informed of the relevant science, ensuring a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges. Just as importantly, whenever we implement a policy aimed at tackling one of these issues, we make sure we have a way to measure its performance. By taking a rational approach we make sure that our actions have not only an emotional payback, but also a genuine environmental benefit.
What does green really mean?
Being green is the new big thing, but people have different understandings of what being 'green' is really about. We at Nikwax want our customers to be clear about what we mean by 'green', and judge our actions accordingly. Here are what we think are the most important issues.
Protecting consumers and the environment from dangerous chemicals
Any company which uses chemicals should be trying to make them as safe as possible. It is especially important for aftercare products like ours which are intended for use in the home.
Chemical safety should broadly address four main issues:
• Is it safe for me now? - Will this poison me, blind me, burn me? In Europe and developed world markets consumer legislation and labelling legislation provides fairly good protection.
• Is it safe for me in the long term? - Will this give me cancer? Will this give me chronic health problems? Will this build up in my body – bio-accumulate? Will this affect my fertility? Will this stop me from being able to fight off diseases? Consumer legislation is often weaker in this area.
• Is it safe for the environment now? - Will this kill fish, poison my dog, or stop plants from growing? In developed countries environmental legislation should protect with warnings and laws against pollution.
• Is it safe for the environment in the long term? - Will this cause global warming and climate change? Will it degrade to chemicals that are persistent in the environment, and bio-accumulate? Will this cause extinction? Reduce biodiversity? Legislation does not always help very much here. It takes an age for legislation to become effective, and it is hard to police.
Click here to see our Restricted Substances list
Working to reduce our contribution to climate change
Climate change is real, it is principally caused by human beings, and it’s a big problem for both people and ecosystems. Out of all human beings on the planet, we in the western world carry the greatest responsibility for the problem, both historically and in the present day. Perversely, the wealth that we’ve accumulated by burning fossil fuels makes us feel safe from the effects of climate change, dampening our motivation to act. The sad truth is that the global poor are the least responsible, least powerful and yet most vulnerable to climate change. In our estimation that is seriously wrong.
At Nikwax we believe that to be green you should be trying to do whatever you can to slow down climate change. Measuring your greenhouse gas output is a start, but then you must take some kind of action. Investing in more efficient technology, changing wasteful behaviour, choosing renewable energy and protecting carbon sinks through conservation, are just a few examples of positive action. Campaigning, debating, educating, voting and protesting can also help move things in the right direction. Click here to see a graph of our CO2 emissions and energy use
Supporting conservation of natural habitat
In this most recent chapter of human history, many human beings have been behaving as if the natural world was an optional extra; a nice thing to have, but fundamentally less important than money and material possessions.
However, this attitude fails to recognise that intact ecosystems still provide us with our most basic needs; water regulation, clean air, food, climate regulation and protection from natural disasters. If we had to build and pay for machines and infrastructure to perform all these ecosystem services, we would find ourselves very poor indeed.
But humanity gets more from the natural world than just these tangible services, we also get something which is more difficult to define. That feeling we get when we encounter the power, diversity and sheer beauty of life on this planet, and realise that nothing we can build or design will ever compare. The realisation that this wonderful process of evolution is the cause of our own creation and consciousness. The natural world is our history, our present, and our future. It does more than just sustain our bodies, it feeds our minds and it feeds our souls. We really, really, need to keep it. Click here to find out what we do about conservation
Responsible approach to waste
Waste is ugly and it can be dangerous. Plastic waste, is a particular problem because of its resistance to biodegradation. A lot of products and packaging end up in landfill sites, requiring significant amounts of land to be gouged up and filled with rubbish. Furthermore, the energy and carbon cost of transporting waste for disposal and even for recycling is significant.
At Nikwax we believe that to be green a business must be trying to do two things. Firstly, reduce the total amount of packaging which goes into its products; and secondly, increase the use of recycled and recyclable materials in its products, packaging and office supplies. Click here to see data on our packaging efficiency
Campaigning for a change in wider society
Nikwax’s environmental conscience comes from its founder and owner Nick Brown. His personal convictions are reflected in the company that he has built. Most other businesses have to answer to shareholders whose primary reason for investing in the company is profit. As a result, we don’t believe that industries can be trusted to regulate themselves on environmental issues. What is really needed is for voters to choose governments that are willing to make tough decisions, tax the big polluters and incentivise efficiency and innovation in green technology.
In order to move environmental responsibility higher on the political agenda, society at large has to be more aware and better informed. At Nikwax we feel that encouraging open debate, greater exposure of environmental issues and better public understanding are all vital parts of being green. Click here to go to our Campaigning and Education page.