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The environment – a main pillar of sustainability – is under threat from climate change. The groundswell of increased urgency around this means it is vital for the refinish industry to achieve the right balance of economic growth, environmental care and social responsibility. Car owners are mindful of their choices, and increasingly shrewd about the green credentials of the businesses they use. “We are at a critical point where businesses must demonstrate environmental awareness in their practices if they want to stay profitable and attractive to today’s environmentally savvy customer,” said Joachim Hinz, Spies Hecker’s brand manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “For bodyshop owners, there are five concrete ways to implement green-thinking from a 360o perspective.”

1. Assessment

The first step towards environmental awareness involves a holistic assessment of existing business practises. Hinz said: “Body shop owners should take stock of the products and accessory materials they use as well as the processes they have in place for everything, from the refinish work to the disposal of hazardous waste. “Are employees following the most efficient processes and working with minimal materials and resources? Are they properly trained and supported in using the latest low energy systems? Are there newer and more environmentally responsible options available on the market? Are guidelines for hazardous waste being followed? Once they have a clear picture of where they stand, they can identify where there is room for improvement.”

2. Low-energy products

A commitment to improved environmental sustainability can be achieved by opting for products that allow repairs to be carried out with speed and efficiency. Product ranges such as Spies Hecker’s Speed-TEC makes repairs faster and more energy efficient while providing the same quality results. “Once an assessment has been carried out, the next step in a green-thinking approach that can be as simple as choosing the right products,” Hinz said. The Spies Hecker Speed-TEC range allows process times to be cut in half and eliminates extra energy use during drying without compromising on quality. Refinishers can dry at temperatures as low as 20oC, which correlates to a 70% energy saving for the body shop. “This low temperature option makes the impact on the environment so much smaller than if the temperatures had to be kept above 65oC and it obviously keeps the energy bills down at the same time,” he added.

3. Training

Environmental awareness is something that should be shared  across the body shop. Choosing easy-to-use and energy efficient paint systems is key, but it is equally important to make sure that refinishers are trained in using the products and have the know how to use accessory materials.“The third step is all about minimising waste,” Hinz said. “The less material waste a body shop generates, the better it is for the environment and the better it is for the bottom line. When refinishers are fully trained and well informed about a product, application is easier and throughput is increased. Conversely, when they are not confident about the application process, they might make mistakes resulting in unnecessary waste.” Spies Hecker offers expert tuition and training courses at modern facilities at 53 locations around Europe – including the Axalta Refinish Training Academy in Welwyn Garden City. Refinishers can learn how to use Spies Hecker products and system solutions correctly in order to help make bodyshop work easier and more efficient.

4. Waste reduction

The fourth aspect of environmental sustainability that should underpin the refinish industry involves disposal of any hazardous waste that is generated. Body shops must adhere to local laws and EU regulations on the disposal of the products that they use, not only for the health and safety of their employees but also for the benefit and protection of the environment. Hinz explained: “Anything that has been exposed to paint is considered hazardous, whether it’s a cleaning wipe or rubber gloves. Improperly emptied containers, for example, are considered hazardous waste, and fully drained containers are classified as controlled waste. It’s crucial to make sure that both are kept away from drains and watercourses and disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations.”

5. Pick the right partner

The fifth and final step in a body shop’s journey towards environmental sustainability looks outward at partners, suppliers and other vendors.

Hinz concluded that by urging body shops to align with like- minded organisations they can meet their goals. “As the saying goes,you are only as good as the company you keep, so it is key for body shops to affiliate with organisations that will encourage, support and further their efforts to go green. Today, no business is too large or too small to take stock of its environmental impact.” Ultimately, by choosing the right products, the right people and the right processes, the refinish industry can do its part to protect the environment.