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Sun, Nov

Sustainable POS in retailing

Sustainable POS in retailing

What can the ‘green’ initiatives instigated major retailers say about the way you’re going to have to operate to continue to win their print business? By Steve Lister, business development director, Robert Horne.
Most major retailers have now taken action in the environmental arena as they drive their businesses to become greener. And where they lead the others will follow, so it’s imperative to learn lessons from what these initiatives indicate about the direction of POS print and how printers are going to have to operate to continue to win business from the retail sector.

Following the financial downturn retailers are seeking to further develop and implement long term and robust, sustainable strategies. In addition, legal drivers, such as landfill directives, are causing retailers to look at their waste products. For example, you may think that the sign, display or POS waste is insignificant in comparison to the amount of waste generated by back of store packaging, but you’d be wrong. The difficulty retailers face is that most store employees do not know what to do with display waste; usually there are no recycling marks on the products, so where do they put them, what waste bin, is it cardboard, is it plastic, etc? The single most confusing factor is that most displays are made up of multiple materials, e.g. laminated foam boards with vinyl labels. This is further compounded by all the fixtures and fittings needed to hang the displays, eyelets for banners, Velcro or self-adhesive strips for ease of installation, plastics clips, etc. It’s a huge issue, and one that will impact your business.

An example: one of the most high profile initiatives in retail is that of Marks and Spencer’s Plan A. Launched in 2007, it has the ultimate goal of making M&S the world's most sustainable major retailer. Through Plan A the company is working with customers and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically, and help customers to lead healthier lifestyles. So, how will that effect a display company, sign maker or print provider? Well, if you are going to trade with Marks and Spencer you’ll need to understand the materials you are using and adhere to its strict guidelines when it comes to sustainablility.

Don’t forget, every major retailer has highly visible sustainable initiatives now -Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Boots to name just a few. There are also huge commercial drivers behind this movement, such as the cost of landfilling waste, which has now risen past the point of cost effective recycling. Meaning, that for the first time ever in the UK, it is now more expensive to landfill than recycle.This situation, alone, will change the way we create and dispose of our products.

Think of it from a retailers’ point of view - if you are creating products which have no option but to be landfilled, there will be increasing financial pressure to change that product in the future. If the retailers you work with are not already insisting on knowing your products’ sustainable credentials, they are about to. If you don’t know them – and you may not yet even have considered this - then start looking into it now and changing your working practices accordingly. Recognise that there are some extremely good companies out there which already really understand this and they will win business based on their sustainable product knowledge and production methods.

Taking things even further, be aware that all the major retailers are now building new ‘sustainable concept’ stores in the UK, creating a template for future builds. Tesco’s store in Wick was one of the first UK’s first timber framed superstores and the entire build was completed using recycled materials delivered at the local harbour. The store has wind turbines, solar power, rainwater harvesting and energy efficient refrigeration units. There is no PVC in the building so all internal signage is fibre based for ease of recycling.

Sainsbury’s opened an eco store in Gloucester Quays which clearly sets out their future plans for store design. Large glass frontage to maximise the light into store, reducing the use of lighting requirements and reducing CO2 emmissions, again a timber frame with wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, water heating panels and wood and paper products from sustaianble sources.

There are eco stores from the likes of Asda and B&Q but you get the picture – the point is there’s increasing pressure from retailers for print businesses meet the sustainability agenda.

You may now be sitting there reading this and thinking, well how is this going to effect what I do or my current contract with these retailers? With big glass windows and maximum light being allowed in there will be a reduction in window diplays, less hanging signs, simpler more effective signage and products which consider the total life cycle from design through to recycling to maximise the product effectiveness, and to reduce the impact on the environment. Whether we like this, agree with it, or even actually believe in it, is somewhat irrelevant, as it is the new business model and we have to embrace it.

As a demonstration of this new approach, Robert Horne has been working extremely closely with customers and major retailers to create best practices for sustainable product design and print. This has lead to the company developing and implementing policies for duty of care, carbon management, corporate social responsibility, responsible paper purchasing and an overarching environmental policy. These are key statements that all the major retailers are now requesting from suppliers as part of their tender process, and it is being further extended into sustainable product credentials, waste and recycling iniatives, plus your sustainble design capabilities. If your company does not have something similar, then soon retailers won’t want to trade with you.


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