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The business of sustainability: Part II

Often defined as a megatrend, sustainability continues to become more important for all companies, across all industries. Following on from last issue, our panel shares their thoughts on corporate responsibility and sustainable procurement practices

PrintIT Reseller: How have you embedded CSR into your business operations and strategy?

Mark Bailey, Managing Director, EBM: “We divide CSR-type activities into three pillars: charitable giving, community support and environmental matters. We have a separate approach to each, all overseen by one manager for a unified approach. We seek to build upon staff involvement, established relationships and business opportunities.”

Mark Garius, Managing Director, ASL Group: “We all have a responsibility in our professional and personal lives to do what is right for the environment. As a business owner I have the opportunity to influence this strategy and it is important to me that we operate conscientiously.

“Our remote monitoring software solutions ensure that machines in the field are permanently evaluated for their efficiency and toners are dispatched on a ‘just in time’ basis, ensuring toner wastage is minimised. In addition, this software allows 25 per cent of machine malfunctions to be fixed remotely – reducing the number of engineer visits and minimising unnecessary journeys.

“ASL operates a 100 per cent cartridge recycling scheme, with nothing going to landfill, for our customers. The scheme is free and covers the complete recycling of all the toner cartridges within our customers’ operations – including non-ASL cartridges. We provide a recycling box, we collect the empty cartridges and replace them with new. Our customers receive a certificate of compliance reassuring them that the recycling process is effective.”

James Turner, Product Marketing Manager , Y Soft:
“Like all organisations, we want our business to grow, but we also want other businesses to expand and thrive as well. This is why we have recently launched a series of social responsibility programmes which focus on: legislation, watch dogs, civic society, digital transformation and egovernment. These programmes are embedded in our business operations and in our philosophy of aiming to think globally and act locally. All of our employees are openly encouraged to help support social and environmental issues both in and out the office.”

Andrew McKenzie, Head of CSR, Commercial Group:
“Our founder and MD Simone Hindmarch has introduced and spearheaded the CSR agenda within Commercial. In addition she launched our award-winning Change Champions Programme, through which over 100 employees have been empowered to drive CSR initiatives throughout the business.”

Ross Hooton, Media Manager,
Print Logic: “We’re firm believers in supporting local communities, and we regularly organise charity events across the business. We choose one local cause as our ‘Charity of the Year’ and support them with as many fundraisers and events as possible. As well as this we donate machines to those who are in need of them most in the community. We also invest our resources into the future with our apprenticeship program, which trains the next generation of industry experts under the supervision of our most senior technicians.”

PrintIT Reseller: Do you consider strong environmental performance to be a valuable source of competitive advantage?

Mark Bailey: “It certainly isn’t a disadvantage. We offer clients the opportunity to conduct their business printing on a carbon neutral basis – this has proved a valuable talking point at the very least, and resulted in some fantastic opportunities. In this sense, we do believe it to be an advantage.

“There’s also more to consider in terms of ‘advantage’. A strong CSR element within our business helps us attract the right staff, and helps our existing team members feel supported and encouraged, which we also think of as an important competitive advantage.”

Mark Garius
Mark Garius

Mark Garius: “It isn’t about beating your competitor, it is about doing the right thing and ensuring that we play our part in helping to protect our environment, and to best understand the needs and demands of customers. So far, we have never fallen short of their demands, no matter which industry they work in.”

James Turner: “There’s a view that taking steps to reduce the impact your business has on the environment can be expensive and time consuming, and these are problems nobody wants to encounter when running an organisation. But the truth is, going green doesn’t have to impact profit margins and it isn’t a waste of time.

“We encourage and help our customers optimise their print estate by decreasing the number of printers and servers required and implementing grayscale and duplex printing, which can reduce cost, but more importantly emissions. These are simple techniques any business can follow and in the process it will give them a competitive advantage by allowing them to spend more money on other areas.”

Andrew McKenzie: “Our environmental credentials mean that we are able to attract talent who are particularly motivated to be part of a successful, purpose-driven business. Our credentials also open doors to strong partnerships with our clients and suppliers. These strong relationships also easily support our ability to advise and work with clients on their own CSR strategies.”

Ross Hooton: “I think so, yes. The ultimate business advantage to the customer is that there is a clear value in this, and as more customers realise this, it factors into decisions a lot more.”

PrintIT Reseller: As expectations on corporate responsibility increase, to what extent are sustainable products and business practices driving buying preferences?

Mark Bailey: “The businesses we target are a real mixed bag. Some are very passionate about the environment, and some don’t see it as a priority. EBM does see it as a priority. In the last year, we have put in place a stricter environmental policy, offset 100 per cent of our CO2 emissions from 2018, provided local charities with our services free of charge, and implemented a more active CSR programme.”

Mark Garius: “There is always a need to offer the customer the environmental option. All the products ASL supply are now designed to reduce environmental impact. We are seeing an increase in demand for inkjet products, partly driven by the environmental efficiencies they offer.

“We are one of the largest UK suppliers of Papercut which actively encourages the responsible use of company resources, reduces paper waste and saves organisations money.”

James Turner
James Turner

James Turner: “Businesses, including Y Soft, have shifted their positions when it comes to sustainability. A few years ago, businesses would focus on one issue, investing in products that would help them expand and thrive. Now, businesses are more conscious of what products they are investing in. As a result, they are changing what products they are buying, with sustainability front of mind. We have reduced how much plastic we use on our packaging, which reduces our usage of plastic bags by 240,000 per year. We have also changed our business practice. When conducting audits, we also factor in working conditions. Suppliers who are unable to correct any negative findings are removed from our portfolio of authorised suppliers.”

Andrew McKenzie: “They are imperative; a key driver and almost a fundamental element of the decision making process. As more and more clients look to embed CSR within their organisations, they are making choices based on responsible sourcing, workers’ rights, product credentials, and much more. Clients are trying to make the right choices, and they are now making more informed and ethical decisions as a result of product transparency: they need the right information about product origin for example, and we as an organisation are providing it.”

Ross Hooton: “Typically the demand for this depends on the business we’re dealing with at the time. Smaller companies tend to focus mainly on cost, whereas for larger companies sustainable products and environmental impact can often factor into the buying process.”

PrintIT Reseller: Is working toward achieving environmental accreditations and standards a worthwhile cost?

Mark Bailey: “At the moment, they are a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. We have certainly investigated working towards various standards and accreditations, and looking at the criteria involved has helped us set our own standards. Officially obtaining the accreditations will be something we work towards as we continue to grow.”

Mark Garius: “As well as being accredited with ISO 14001, we only supply products that are sourced from ISO 14001 accredited manufacturers. That way, our customers can be sure that the products themselves are manufactured and recycled and/or disposed of correctly. The cost of achieving this is a necessary cost and is key to dealing with the types of customer ASL targets.”

James Turner: “I feel strongly that businesses do not have to make huge sacrifices to become more environmentally friendly. Small habits can be easily changed to minimise an organisations’ carbon footprint. For example, recycling old printer cartridges once they are finished and using recycled paper to print rather than normal printing paper can have a huge positive impact, without breaking the bank. If businesses slowly work towards creating strong environmental standards it could slowly change the way they operate over time.”

Andrew McKenzie: “Yes, certain accreditations are almost mandatory, with a minimum expectation of ISO 14001. That is invariably a prerequisite for tender. We go beyond that because there are real tangible benefits to being an award winner. Having third party verification that supports and backs up our claims gives credibility.”

Ross Hooton: “Yes, and it’s something that’s becoming more and more prevalent.”