a.s.r. is committed to the principle of sustainable repairs. For example, getting a table-top with a burn mark sanded down and revarnished or a section of laminate repaired rather than replacing the entire floor. Esther Egeter, sustainability manager at a.s.r. Schade, and Jeroen Gerritsen, owner of repair company Nomot, are seeing sustainable repairs becoming increasingly common. ‘Consumers are now far more aware of the negative environmental impact of buying completely new products’.
Sustainable solutions that benefit people, the environment and society are one of the spearheads of a.s.r.’s policy. This is done by having damage repaired sustainably wherever possible rather than completely replacing the damaged product. Esther cites water stain on a parquet floor. Often all that’s needed is to replace the damaged area rather than the entire floor. ‘This is less environmentally damaging. For one thing, it wastes less timber. Laying a new floor also generates more emissions than a partial repair.
Jeroen, owner of repair company Nomot, says customers come to him with damage to buildings or their contents. ‘First of all we assess whether a repair is possible. If it is, we’ll either do the work at the client’s home or take a damaged piece of furniture back to our workshop. Mostly it’s things like cigarette burns in sofas or dents and scratches in tables, worktops or laminate floors. It’s very easy for us to replace a section of fabric or a piece of leather in a sofa. Sanding and revarnishing or oiling a table is also often a viable option. We frequently repair damage to worktops and floors using putty. Milling out the damage, filling the gap and drawing the surface pattern back in means you no longer see where the damaged area was’.
Jeroen observes that the willingness to repair rather than replace has grown over the years. ‘Consumers are now far more aware of the negative environmental impact of buying completely new products. The message is constantly hammered home in the media, and environmental organisations and the business sector are also insisting that things have to change. For instance, that production cycles need to become more sustainable. We, in partnership with insurers, are taking up our responsibility by making customers aware of the benefits of repair over replacement.’ Nomot’s warehouse is now full of items such as sofas and tables, rugs and kitchen cupboard doors. Jeroen: ‘The end of one year and the beginning of the next is generally always very busy. We get a lot of damage from, say, candles in the winter months. People tend to spend more time inside, so the risk of damage increases’.
If a product can no longer be repaired and has to be replaced, a.s.r. will still look for the sustainable option. At the end of last year, for example, it launched a pilot project based on ‘pre-owned’ items. Esther explains. ‘Mobile phones and tablets that can’t be repaired can be exchanged for a similar pre-owned replacement. We’re thus still contributing to the circular economy’. The pilot project runs to 1 April this year, and if it’s a success it will become part of a.s.r.’s ongoing policy.
a.s.r. has applied various targets to sustainable repairs. In 2022, for example, 30% of damage to property and 65% of vehicle bodywork damage had to be sustainably repaired. The target for bodywork repairs has been comfortably met, with damage to property not far behind. Esther: ‘Bodywork damage is usually repaired unless the car is a total write-off. Hardly anyone goes out and buys a new car just because of a dent of course, but it’s still gratifying that we’ve met the target we set ourselves’. The storms at the beginning of 2022 negatively affected the property insurance sector, which is why the results there are slightly lower. ‘Because so many repair requests came in simultaneously, pressure of time and lack of capacity meant the repair companies in our network weren’t always able to repair everything sustainably. Some damage to buildings and/or their contents had to be sorted out urgently, as a result of which more often the choice made to replace instead of to repair. Since then we’ve got back on track and are even increasing the target for property insurance to 35% in 2023’.
Esther adds that the repair companies will be asked to work more sustainably within their own business processes as well. ‘Our Contract management department is talking to the firms in our network to find out how sustainably they are working and what they might be able to improve.’ Examples include using recyclable or second-hand products in repairs, eco-friendly vehicles to get to customers and sustainable manpower deployment. ‘This is all still in its infancy but it’s yet another area where we want to apply targets. It’s the next step in our mission to be part of a sustainable repair chain’.