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Committed to a sustainable future: part one

Both COP26 and the global pandemic have increased environmental awareness, causing more people to pay more attention to climate change. It’s clear that if we are to limit the most damaging impacts of climate change, the direction of travel is firmly towards net zero

Here, some of the channel’s leading vendors discuss the need to cut GHG emissions and why strong environmental performance matters to both customers and employees alike

PrintIT Reseller: What are the main objectives and targets of your sustainability strategy, and what progress has been made in meeting your goals?

Andy Ratcliffe, Managing Director, Key Digital: “Our main objective is to be carbon negative across our entire business operations while continuing to place carbon negative programmes into our clients.

“We have made great progress over the last 18 months to reduce our road miles thanks to increased remote ticket fixes, more effective route planning and localised preventative maintenance for engineers – we have even begun trialling augmented reality hardware support. We made these changes in an active effort to reduce our carbon footprint unsure of the impact in service, but we actually found our levels of service improving as a result.”

Martin Roberts

Martin Roberts, Managing Director, Neuways: “It has always been our objective to be as sustainable as possible at all times as a business. That is primarily through minimising the use of our electricity. We are realistic, as an SME, about what we can actually do to improve our environmental footprint in a way that is both practical and sensible for us.

“One of these ways is not printing unless absolutely necessary. For example, all of our accounting is done electronically, we stopped printing and sending out invoices in 2016, as we digitised our account functions. We make the most of the functionality of our IT systems, which has a positive impact on our ability to be sustainable.

Environment

“When it comes to refreshing our internal technology, we value the environmental rating that the equipment has, as much as anything else. Of course, where we can, we will use cloud-based systems and services. While we are aware that data centres are huge users of electricity, primarily for the air conditioning and electricity used to power the large servers, but on balance it is a better use of the resource than us trying to do it ourselves. We also encourage our customers to use the cloud, not only for their business, but as it helps them with lower running costs in terms of electricity. The cloud is the most sustainable way to use computing power by using a shared environment.

“Additionally, we have taken the practical step of installing solar panels on the roof of our office. This helps to contribute towards our electricity usage.”

Graeme Savage

Graeme Savage, Commercial Director, SOS Systems: “Sustainability is an integral part of SOS Systems’ core business strategy. One of our key objectives for 2022 is to quantify our operational carbon footprint, identifying additional ways to align our business processes and corporate culture to an ever more environmentally sound position.

“SOS already achieves best practice in waste management, following the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ stratagem. Our existing environmental policy includes: moving the company vehicle fleet towards hybrid/electric, remanufacture of equipment and parts, facilitation of hybrid working, cycle to work scheme and providing an energy-efficient workspace.”

Mark Bailey

Mark Bailey, Managing Director, EBM Managed Services: “We as a company have a responsibility to trade and conduct business in an ethical and sustainable way. We strive to continually improve our social responsibility to reduce our impact on the environment.

“This started back in 2011 when EBM started embedding sustainability at the core of our company, beginning with a partnership with our key manufacturers to stop the disposal of their cartridges in landfill sites. This is done through a recycling scheme where we provide our customers with free cartridge recycling containers that are sent to our recycling partners.

“In 2015, we set ambitious goals to reach carbon neutrality for our operations by 2020. We achieved this ahead of time in 2018. We carried this out by investing heavily in our procurement process, carefully selecting suppliers ensuring they live up to our high ethics approach. Some examples are, using energy which only comes from renewable sources and ensuring any waste produced is disposed through a recycling waste company.

“We then wanted to go one step further by removing the elephant in the room and offsetting what our customers print, which is when we introduced EBM’s green print programme. In 2020, some 24.43 tonnes of CO2 was offset using the carbon footprint programme which supports community projects such as UK tree planting, solar for schools, biodiversity, and conservation. Whilst offsetting is not the long-term solution, it’s the best an SME can use, going forward we need to look to further investment such as electric vehicles.”

Ato Nimoh-Brema

Ato Nimoh-Brema, Head of Sustainability and Business Assurance, Apogee: “At its core, Apogee’s vision for the future is built on creating a net positive impact on the environment whilst providing leadership on sustainability for the managed workplace services industry.

“Apogee’s sustainability strategy is intentionally linked to the organisation’s core values and hinges on three pillars: planet, people, and productivity. The planet pillar is our commitment to environmental sustainability: greenhouse gas emissions throughout our value chain, waste and resource efficiency, water use reduction, and enhancement of biodiversity and preservation of heritage. The people pillar represents our commitment to our people and the communities we reside in: employee development and wellbeing, equality, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and charitable activities. Lastly, the productivity pillar represents our commitment to continually develop and grow our business by being innovative at adapting to internal and external factors locally and globally.

“Apogee has an ambitious target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero waste by 2030, and as a subsidiary of HP, we proudly align ourselves to HP’s drive for carbon neutrality by 2025/26. We’ve also set the target to plant at least one million trees in managed forests around the world by 2030.

“We have made progress in meeting our goals in several key areas. First, 100 per cent of waste generated in the business was diverted from landfills in FY21. We have also started capturing and reporting on waste reuse. In 2021, we reused 460 tonnes of items destined for waste. Most of the waste is machine parts harvested for reuse and endof-life devices which are refurbished and re-sold. We also reduced our fleet energy used in FY21 by five per cent compared with FY20, with a 49 per cent reduction compared with our 2019 baseline. We planted more than a thousand new trees in managed forests worldwide and engaged in various community programmes.”

Kelly Harris

Kelly Harris, UK Sustainability Lead, Ingram Micro: “The most material impacts from our business are in GHG emissions and waste generation. We aimed to reduce our absolute global GHG emissions 10 per cent from 2016 to 2020 and were able to reduce them 11 per cent, so slightly ahead of target.

“We are also looking to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume directly through contract, and from 2019 to 2020 we saw a 22 per cent increase in that area, so as of 2020, 12 per cent of our electricity comes directly from such sources.

“While in 2020 our overall waste generation increased due to increased business activity, we were able to increase our global diversion rate to 82 per cent. We are in the process of finalising a new set of aggressive goals for the period 2021 to 2030, the decade of Climate Action. Part of that set of goals will be a new science-based target for global GHG emissions reduction.”

Richard Hinds

Richard Hinds, Chief Operating Officer, Exertis UK: “Exertis forms part of the DCC Group, and together each DCC business is focused and dedicated to driving forwards the group sustainability strategy. The four sustainability pillars identified are climate change & energy transition, safety & environmental protection, people & social and governance & compliance.

“We have committed to reducing our carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, if not before, in line with the Paris Agreement, with an interim reduction of 20 per cent by 2025. Within Exertis UK we have already achieved a 65 per cent reduction when compared with 2019.

Electric

“Other recent initiatives include the installation of electric vehicle charging points at our Burnley and Basingstoke sites. By the end of this financial year, we are aiming to have switched our internal car fleet to all electric vehicles.”

PrintIT Reseller: To what extent do you think customers (and employees) want to align themselves with organisations who place sustainability high on the business agenda?

Andy Ratcliffe: “We are seeing this happen now more than ever before, people have finally woken up to the fact that every decision we make, no matter how small, has an impact on the planet. All other things being equal, if the option is given to be more sustainable, why say no? It would be crazy!”

Martin Roberts: “Working with environmentally conscious businesses should be an aspiration for everyone. But over the last two years, the truth is that the number one priority is cost. We are certainly mindful of our customers and the changing landscapes they have encountered. Keeping a cap on costs, including energy, is the most difficult choice to make. As a partner, we are mindful of sustainability, and we try and give our customers practical options that are sustainable in terms of costs as well as the environment. For example, we design, invest and deploy our systems in ways that remove the need for printing.

“IT recycling tackles a huge issue. It should be a high priority for many businesses. From a security standpoint, having redundant kit sitting around an office doing nothing isn’t good. We do encourage recycling so that technology can be reused again. For unsalvageable equipment, the precious metals inside can be removed, with the rest of the items safely recycled in a certifiably sustainable way.

“Another practical use is the use of equipment that no longer meets our power and usability requirements, but will suit what other people need. We have engaged with companies that will take unwanted IT equipment and send it to other parts of the world, where it can be used by somebody, often for different purposes, such as education.

“This extends the life of the equipment, while helping companies to safely and securely engage in more sustainable practices – rather than the alternative which is adding to landfill sites around the world.”

Graeme Savage: “As we move further into the 2020s, reducing our environmental impact on the planet is becoming ingrained deeply into all our lives. We believe that organisations that make the investment to move business processes and corporate culture towards a more sustainable direction benefit in attracting and retaining, both clients and employees.”

Mark Bailey: “We believe there has been a huge shift in recent years for most people to align themselves with a supplier or employer which sets out to do the right thing in life.

“We have seen it in conversations with customers who clearly state it as a key part of decision-making and also in staff, to the extent we have even been asked the question by an employment candidate.”

Ato Nimoh-Brema: “Economic, social and environmental sustainability is essential in today’s business climate due to shifting viewpoints throughout the world. In the public sector, a growing number of our customers now inspect bids and tenders and demand you identify your sustainability aims, practices and outputs.

“When it comes to attracting talent, being sustainable is critical. We’re in an era where employees come to me with ideas to implement and want to know what actions we take to be sustainable. I believe that failing to execute a sustainability plan may result in the loss of talented people. Being sustainable can also drive employees to work harder because they see the value in what the organisation is doing to make a difference.

“The very definition of sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That says to me that the very nature of sustainability is longevity, and any business looking to be successful would need to and would want to work with organisations that put sustainability high on their business agenda.”

Kelly Harris: “From what we have observed, it’s a significant extent and increasing each month. Many of our customers have well-developed sustainability programs and are rightly pushing their suppliers to provide key sustainability data and align with the customers’ values and programs. These days it’s a necessity to demonstrate your commitments and performance, it’s also a differentiator for companies that can show stronger progress on sustainability.

“The same trend carries over to employee recruitment and retention. Employees want to work for organisations that share their values and where they feel their individual efforts, interests and values are recognised and that they can make a difference.”

Richard Hinds: “It is becoming increasingly important for organisations, no matter which industry, to have sustainability high on their agenda. Now more than ever, employees are placing real importance on a sustainable workplace and want to ensure that their values align with those of the company they work for.

“Customers are also considering sustainability as it becomes a core part of the buying process, with consumers considering aspects such as carbon footprint and recycled packaging.”

PrintIT Reseller: Does strong environmental performance provide a valuable source of competitive advantage? What, if any, business value have you seen from your sustainability efforts?

Andy Ratcliffe: “If an organisation is truly committed to improving environmental performance then this cannot be addressed by just looking inwardly. Their true green credentials will have to be reflected across the supply chain.

“We are now able to see beyond ‘greenwashing’ and the pressure is on businesses to deliver actual results. This creates opportunity for those who stay beyond the curve and are committed to making an actual difference as their credentials will stand up to scrutiny.

“From our research, sustainability goals are driven from the top of an organisation down, and this is where we target to drive business optimisation for clients – and the two go hand in hand. That’s where we are able to realise true business value ahead of our competitors.”

Graeme Savage: The investment SOS is making towards a cleaner, greener business has been positively received by clients, strengthening our relationship as their trusted and valued business partner.”

Mark Bailey: “As we have seen a great uptake in our green print programme. We know that having strong environmental credentials gives our business an advantage. Whilst some customers may not always understand this, which is where we try to educate them, and they can then show a sustainability offering to their employees, so they feel like they work for a company that’s making a difference.

“On the whole, however, whilst in the business environment a competitive advantage is excellent, it’s genuinely great to feel that we are doing the right thing as a responsible company.”

Ato Nimoh-Brema: “Our approach to sustainability has evolved. We’ve gotten to the point where clients ask us if we can share best practices; after all, we’re a managed services provider, and one of our capabilities is cloud printing. The cloud is changing the way IT infrastructure consumes electricity. If done correctly, it has the ability to reduce carbon emissions. As a result, the issue becomes: how can we assist our customers in achieving their own sustainability goals through our products and services?

“There are also plans to track customer wins from these engagements, meaning that we will be able to measure how important a factor sustainability is in revenue terms and report back on this. I hope that Apogee can be a case study on sustainability as a profit centre.”

Kelly Harris: “We think improving environmental performance is the right thing to do, irrespective of the impacts on the business. Every company and each one of us have this responsibility. Beyond that, there’s a business value as environmental performance is increasingly a quantitative and qualitative factor in awarding business, so it can make the difference between securing a new deal and not. There’s also upside in having a strong ESG program as this can make it easier to secure capital and can increase the value of the company’s stock. We have found that the resellers we have worked with to date have seen great value in the guidance and support we have given whilst on their journeys. We have seen the same appreciation with the vendors we have assisted when drawing out, focusing on and communicating their sustainability messaging to our reseller base.”

Richard Hinds: “I believe that a strong environmental performance provides a valuable source of competitive advantage. Increasingly, vendors and customers are understandably asking more questions when making business partnerships and completing purchases, to find out about companies’ environmental and sustainability positioning.

“Through MTR, our repair and refurbishment mobile phone business, we have developed a number of services and solutions to extend the lifecycle of mobiles, wearables and tablet devices. MTR offers a complete repair and refurbishment process through to environmentally friendly disposal. Aznu is another of our brands with a strong environmental ethos, where mobile phones are repaired to an ‘as new’ standard rather than customers being encouraged to buy new handsets; creating a sustainable technology lifecycle. We also work with The Woodland Trust in the planting of trees – something which we fund when we sell products.”

PrintIT Reseller: How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?

Andy Ratcliffe: “Sustainability and green goals are knitted throughout everything we do, even during the recruitment process! Our employees have really taken our sustainability goals above and beyond my expectations when I set out our carbon neutral targets.

“All of the sustainability programmes we have in place now are employee-led, from our running group to the upcoming community kitchen garden, even promoting Veganuary and Meat Free Mondays. They even managed to turn me plant-based two years ago!”

Graeme Savage: “Our amazing SOS family are in-step with the leadership team’s sustainability strategy. We incentivise, encourage and reward staff via our green ideas forum. Organising monthly inter-team ‘green’ challenges that target the reduction of commuter miles, water saving, waste recycling and energy reduction.”

Mark Bailey: “As a nation we have got to the stage where we cannot ignore the issue. Sustainability is a topic that everyone is responsible for and it’s fantastic to see our team members getting on board with that. Every time we have introduced new procedures or a process to take another step forward it could not have been done without the engagement of our team around us. From the launch of the green print programme to simple steps like recycling around the office, not making unnecessary journeys, turning screens off when not in use, reuse and reduce packaging – each and every step of the way our team has been with us.”

Ato Nimoh-Brema: “When engaging employees in Apogee’s sustainability vision, giving employees a voice is one of our best practices. Whether it be from having people share ideas during employee meetings or sending out an employee survey. This year Apogee has acted on and supported several employee initiatives. For example, in September, we partnered with the Marine Conversation Society to arrange two regional beach clean ups in support of the Great British Beach Clean. In total 33 employees collected over 40kg worth of litter across a 200-metre stretch of beach in Whitstable, Kent and Paull on the Humber.”

Kelly Harris: “We engage our employees in our sustainability efforts in several different ways. A good example of that is through our LEAN Program, which is designed to encourage our employees to identify opportunities in order to improve efficiency and reduce waste. Through this program our employees have come up with great suggestions for reducing unnecessary movement of goods, maximising the utilisation of our buildings, optimising shipments (reducing our CO2 footprint) and reducing packaging and associated waste.

“Their ideas are captured through the Kaizen process, where employees have been trained to spot opportunities as well as on how to actively take ownership for improving it in a structured and sustainable way, leading to the desired result. Each month a ‘Kaizen of the month’ is selected which is put in the spotlight by the management team, and also comes with a token of appreciation for the employee.

“We also hold sustainability forums where our employees have the opportunity to have open discussions relating to what is important to them and for us to update them on our initiatives.”

Richard Hinds: One of our four sustainability pillars revolves around people, and so we consider aspects such as diversity and inclusivity and mental health as part of this. We’re also seeing great engagement with our employees when rolling out new and improved sustainability initiatives. We’ve seen a good uptake in colleagues converting to electric vehicles and we’re pleased to be able to facilitate this by implementing EV charging points at two of our biggest sites in the UK.

“On a more light-hearted note, we also engaged employees with an internal competition to celebrate Global Recycling Day, where our people were encouraged to make their best robot from recycled packaging. Many of the entrants included their children in creating their efforts, further supporting the sustainability message.”

PrintIT Reseller: With which groups are you partnering with regarding key sustainability initiatives?

Andy Ratcliffe: “Last year we introduced our Print It, Plant It programme with the National Trust, which gives our customers the opportunity to offset a portion of their carbon footprint with local tree planting to create mixed species woodland throughout the UK.”

Graeme Savage: “We engage with Crawley district council, Manor Royal business improvement group, Evans Cycles, Carbon Neutral UK, Canon UK, and Smith recycling amongst others.”

Mark Bailey: “One of our main partners since 2018 is Epson. We quickly realised with the launch of their Replaceable Ink Pack System that business inkjet will be the way forward. The consumable and maintenance parts are drastically reduced, which fits well with our waste hierarchy of prevention first over recycling waste that didn’t need to be used.

“Through the recent ‘Turn Down the Heat’ campaign we have seen great traction with businesses seeking this type of technology over the traditional heat-based laser methods. Customers are genuinely interested when presenting alternative solutions which address the wider sustainability issues we all need to address.”

Ato Nimoh-Brema: “Apogee works with PrintReleaf to help drive our reforestation program to reach our target of planting at least one million trees in managed forests around the world by 2030.

“Looking forward, we are in the process of onboarding with Ecovadis to help improve sustainability within our supply chain. We are looking to further partner with PrintReleaf to plant a tree for every 8,333 prints made and considering making this service a default offering for our managed print services customers from 2022/23. We have also responded to the Climate Disclosure Project as suppliers of the NHS and HP and will apply to use the CDP framework to drive our sustainability agenda. To drive our people and social pillars, we will sign up to the BCorp movement. Lastly, we have been invited to join Terra Carta as part of the Prince of Wales initiative on sustainability.”

Kelly Harris: “We are a Techies Go Green Signatory in the UK and we are a key partner with Consenna and their Carbon Platform.”

Richard Hinds: “In 2020, we began working with Macfarlane Packaging in order to reduce our stretch wrap and pallet top sheets material by 24 per cent – a total of 18 tonnes of plastic material at our three logistic centres in the UK. This equates to 45 tonnes of CO2 emission reduction in the plastic material process, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from 112,838 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle. Further stages of the work we are undertaking with Macfarlane will see the process implemented across other Exertis facilities in Europe.

“We are also partnering with ERP regarding the impending plastic tax initiative, and are working with New Motion to install EV charging points across major Exertis sites.”

We’ll continue with this topic next issue.