Johnstons of Elgin approached Interface to understand and reduce their energy and carbon emissions

Independently run since 1797, Johnstons of Elgin has been making beautiful knitwear, clothing and accessories from luxurious wools for over two centuries. At the mill on the banks of the River Lossie in Elgin they still produce all their woven accessories, home wares and much more.

With increasing pressure on companies to curb carbon emissions together with spiralling energy costs, Johnstons of Elgin was keen to analyse its energy usage across the main business units of dyes, weaving, logistics, finishing and yarns. At the time it was very difficult to differentiate across the company the exact costs associated with each of these utilities and energy costs.

An initial consultation with Interface and a site visit led to a project scope designed to investigate options to improve company performance whilst reducing costs through energy and carbon management.

James Dracup, Group Managing Director commented “We were looking for support in developing our new energy strategy to identify affordable, low-carbon energy options whilst ensuring the solutions were cost effective for the business and most importantly dependable. Interface helped us to define the initial project requirements, saving us a lot of time and effort. In particular they sought out relevant expertise across the universities helping to facilitate new connections”.

Project requirements

  • A review of current processes with respect to energy demand across water, steam, gas, air, heat and lighting in the business units  and develop a system which would provide more accurate reports
  • Work with the company’s energy champions  in determining areas for immediate cost savings
  • Identify future longer term areas of energy efficiency and new technologies that could be adopted by the company to support its energy strategy

Interface identified expertise in six universities and subsequently brokered a partnership between the company and The Energy Academy at Heriot Watt University.

Dr. Andy Liken, Business Development Executive for Heriot-Watt’s Energy Academy said; “Energy research is a core activity at Heriot-Watt University. Here at the Energy Academy we have specialist expertise in the areas of solar energy and energy-focused materials through to energy economics, use, policy and logistics. Our Urban Energy Research Group, comprising engineers, social scientists, economists and statisticians, places an emphasis on multi-disciplinary work within the field of energy use in buildings”.

Through a PhD studentship, a project was initiated to review strategies that would enable the company to reduce energy costs and market the carbon footprint in each area of the business as well as product.

The PhD student, Ali Agha, has recently commenced their studies and will evaluate the current work undertaken by Johnstons of Elgin and investigate ways of improving the methodology used to collate this data and implement these strategies. The new improved understanding of its energy usage and associated carbon emissions will enable the company to look at linking this with specific textile products they manufacture leading to the possibility of defining the embodied carbon content of specific products.

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Currently, Johnstons of Elgin employs 900 people at mills in Elgin and Hawick.

Nick Bannerman, Global Sales Director and Managing Director of knitwear, said: "In terms of our overall brand, we probably export 70 percent of what we do. We’ve now got offices in Tokyo, New York, Dusseldorf, Paris... and in London".