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Tough Talks: Steve Fletcher speaks on IBISConnect USA sustainability panel

Some deep discussions need to be had across the automotive and automotive aftermarket industries if a path toward sustainability and sustainable repairs is to be achieved, according to a panel during the International Bodyshop Industry Symposium (IBIS) broadcast last week.

The International Bodyshop Industry Symposium’s IBISConnect USA event took place last Thursday and featured a near-three-and-a-half-hour broadcast with some big names in collision repair and relative aftermarket verticals. During the stream, Canada’s own Steve Fletcher, managing director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada, was featured as a panellist alongside Mario Dimovski, CEO of Plastifix and John Chalifoux, president and COO of MERA, where the trio discussed sustainability and the environment as it pertains to the collision repair industry.

Fletcher kicked off the conversation by answering IBIS CEO Jason Moseley’s question on where the industry currently stands on sustainability.

“The issue of sustainability is really a long-term view of the world,” he said. “Oftentimes people will look at it in terms of where their business will be in 100 years; it’s difficult to play that way, but it is important to start with building blocks and progress from there.

“Our industries are very day-to-day, almost minute-to-minute⁠, which begs the question of how you make a significant transition toward sustainability while dealing with the next car coming in, getting the parts for it and whatnot and keeping that long-term, sustainable view in mind. It’s a real balancing act between the short-term interest of the business and the long-term interest of the consumer, the sector and the world, quite frankly.”

Moseley then dug into the meat and potatoes of the argument, asking panellists if the dichotomy wherein OEMs dictate certain parts must be replaced hinders progress toward sustainable repairs.

“We need to work together with OEMs and industry in alliance to ensure that if something can be repaired, it will be repaired. In our industry, it’s acceptable to toss a plastic bumper cover in the bin over a minor impact but in society, we’re fighting to better recycling our 60g Coca-Cola bottles,” said Dimovski. “There needs to be that synergy so we can work together and understand from an OEM perspective: if something is repairable, it should be repaired.”

On the recycling side, Fletcher said there’s almost always “natural tension” as new technologies are developed, regardless of industry.

“It’s the people, the collaboration, the use of technology and training that overcome. Recycled parts are OEM parts⁠—there are places to use them, and there are places where they should not be used. We’re just having those conversations.”

Moseley asked if the conversation is being accepted by OEMs and collision repairers., to which Fletcher answered that electrification makes the question that much more complex.

“That is where the really productive discussions with OEMs are happening; on how you manage what is essentially the new engine of the modern vehicle. It’s a complex conversation⁠—multifaceted⁠—but the entire circular economy needs to be invoked.”

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