Why buying British is good for the environment

We all know that buying British rather than looking overseas can boost the economy, safeguard jobs and generate growth in employment. Of course, there’s also the issue of patriotism – it’s good to feel pride in this country and the products it creates.

But a greater advantage – and one you may not even have considered – is that choosing a British-manufactured product over one from a foreign country can be of major benefit to the environment.

When goods are shipped from the Far East, for instance, their environmental impact is much more serious than if the same items were produced in the UK, due to the amount of CO2 used to transport them.

Given that the UK government has pledged to reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050, it’s important that we all play a part and try to be that little bit more ‘green’ – and buying British is one way you can do just that.

Choose British-made products for better quality

When you buy British-made goods over foreign alternatives, you’re not just helping the environment – you’re also likely to benefit from higher quality workmanship.

Manufacturers in the West – particularly those from Britain – have a very strict approach to quality, stemming from their heritage and generational skill base. British firms can draw on a resource of people who have very good eyes for detail and can finish products to a higher standard than would be seen from the Far East, so the customer can expect to receive a superior product.

When buying British isn’t REALLY buying British

The idea of purchasing from a British business rather than looking abroad seems simple – but as J Rotherham’s Commercial Director Matt Rotherham explains, things aren’t always as they seem.

In the masonry sector – an area that J Rotherham knows a thing or two about, having been founded back in 1927 – it’s common practice for many British companies to take advantage of cheap foreign labour costs by shipping blocks of stone to China, where they’re manufactured into any number of products, from statues to fireplaces. Once the product is finished, it gets placed back on a ship and sent all the way back to the UK, giving it a huge carbon footprint.

Whereas the average distance between the J Rotherham factory and its quarries is 180 miles, a Turkish limestone fireplace made in China and transported to the UK typically travels a staggering 18,420 miles.

“Unfortunately, for us, there’s a lot of companies – the vast majority of our competitors in our industry – [for which] that is the standard operation for how they source their products,” explains Matt.

“There aren’t that many actual manufacturers in our industry, there are a lot that are essentially wholesalers or distributors, who bring products in from abroad and put their name to it and their marketing, and then sell it on to the retailer and the customer, who often isn’t educated as to where it has come from. So they might believe they’re buying British, they’re buying from a British company, but the reality is [the product has] come from China.”

That’s a direction that J Rotherham has steadfastly chosen not to pursue. The company decided to use only indigenous British limestone across its standard range of fireplaces, so customers can be shown exactly what sort of stone is being used and the quarry it came from.

Matt explains: “That’s kind of a big flag – but that isn’t to say people don’t source these materials and have them sent abroad to get manufactured and brought back, like I’ve said. So it can be difficult for consumers to fully understand.”

How can manufacturers demonstrate that they really ARE British?

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken by businesses that genuinely do source and manufacture their products in the UK to promote themselves and their British credentials.

One thing Matt wants to see clarified or improved is the ‘Made in Britain’ stamps that can be used to highlight all-British goods and services. “There are more ‘Made in Britain’ stamps that you can use with marketing, and a clear standard on that would be appreciated. I think there are certain things coming to light now that we want to be a part of.”

Being British is a source of pride for J Rotherham

For J Rotherham, the all-British tag is a major differentiator, and one that helps in the marketing of its products – the company has actually earned the Made in Britain mark, and displays it proudly at the front of its brochures.

The company is clearly proud of its heritage – despite often having to battle very tough economic conditions, it has succeeded in retaining all of its manufacturing operations in the UK, even though this ultimately led to it quitting some markets in the face of cut-throat competition.

For instance, J Rotherham didn’t sell stone fireplaces to the trade for the best part of 30 years because the Chinese import market was simply too strong, so competing was no longer financially viable.

“We had to go into more niche areas, or areas that absolutely required British production simply from a lead time and quality perspective,” he says.

“We were missing out on some big markets, so it’s good now that we are able to bring back a lot of manufacturing, and it’s basically taking it away from those companies who source from the Far East.”