Steve Malkin is CEO of Planet First, which specialises in bringing sustainability to SMEs. He has partnered with the Eden Project to launch The Planet Mark Sustainability Certification for Business.
Understanding sustainability is often referred to as the brick wall stopping people, and businesses, from starting to tackle the issue. It is possible that this wall is blocking further progress in the print industry, which has long known of the importance in being able to produce with the environment in mind.
But it is important for printers, as with all businesses, to understand the benefits of bringing sustainability into their business as well as their products.
In many respects, the print industry has reacted faster to a change in demand for sustainable products than other sectors, and put its products ahead of its business operations when it comes to green thinking. Now the goal is to embed sustainability into the fabric of the business - its brand as well as its products.
The Eden Project enters the market
To help organisations make sense of sustainability a new partnership has been created. Planet First, a specialist in business sustainability, has launched a certification and sustainability programme with Britain’s best loved environmental brand, the Eden Project.
Together they provide The Planet Mark, a sustainability certification for organisations of all sizes. It helps demonstrate a commitment to measuring and reducing the carbon emissions, water and waste associated with business operations.
The Planet Mark should enable organisations to make annual savings of £50-150 per employee per annum. Ultimately, certification allows businesses to demonstrate with authority that they stand apart from the competition.
Here are some of the key actions that printers can take to make their business operations as sustainable as their products.
Escalating energy and resource prices
Our current thirst for energy, and the dependence we have on non-renewable sources, is unsustainable. The volatile energy market exposes businesses to significant risk. A report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reveals that gas prices have increased by 101% in the last ten years. Electricity prices have increased by 35% over the past five years. DECC predicts electricity and energy prices will rise by 17% - 52% by 2020.
Prices for other natural resources, such as water and raw materials, are also volatile and put pressure on competitiveness.
Businesses can manage these risks by curbing their consumption and seeking to reduce their dependence on certain resources. For most businesses energy and carbon management are central to their sustainability strategies.
Regulation and legislation
The need to meet the emission reduction targets set by the government grows more urgent.
As a result, climate change and environmental regulations are becoming progressively more stringent.
The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme targeted the bigger energy users. This year we see the launch of Mandatory Carbon Reporting (MCR) affecting all UK companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. This legislation makes it obligatory for organisations to report and disclose their entire carbon emissions.
As usual, it is the organisations that are behind the curve that are being rushed into processes and data collection to meet the MCR criteria. Those who have been managing and reporting their carbon are finding the new requirements much easier to meet.
We recommend that large and medium sized enterprises should have carbon reporting underway as legislation looks to in the offing.
Social and environmental credentials, as well as long-term business viability increasingly influence consumption, procurement and investments. In particular, suppliers are being challenged to meet increasing demands from clients. We know that all the big grocery chains have sustainability frameworks for suppliers because engaging the supply chain is the only way that they will meet their targets. While the suppliers get support, the grocers are able to report on positive action, reduce risk and reduce resource costs. Good news all round, as long as the suppliers perform. Otherwise there could be an implicit threat of de-listing. Integral to this is transparent and robust reporting and communication of sustainability initiatives, so now is the time to promote any voluntary actions on sustainability.
Sustainability makes sense
Businesses that alter their practices will soon see these pressures transform into opportunities. Several drivers exist. Sustainability can help to win new business, enhance brand reputation, generate cost savings, reduce exposure to risk and improve employee engagement – you know the arguments, but here’s a reminder.
McKinsey’s 2012 Global Sustainability report outlines the motivations in addressing sustainability. The greatest driver for involvement was cost reductions through improved efficiency measures.
Marks & Spencer is oft touted as an excellent example of how the implementation of sustainability and energy efficiency measures results in huge cost savings.
Through Plan A, M&S is making constant changes to reduce its environmental impact. In 2012, it reported £105m in annual net benefits from its sustainability strategy. The recent installation of LED lighting throughout stores and car parks reduces the company’s annual energy expenditure by 25-30%, whilst also reducing the cost of maintenance and lamp disposal as LEDs have a long service life.
If you think that sustainability is just the domain of the big brands, think again. Systems are far easier and faster to implement in a smaller organisation. We recommend you set up a ‘Green Team’ and give it the power to make change. We survey staff to help find ‘Positive Greens’ inside each organisation who are perfect to help take sustainability programmes forward.
There is also scope for improving employee engagement, health and wellbeing by allowing employees to participate in decision making. Every business will have employees with strong values concerning environmental and social responsibility (ie the Positive Greens). Usually, they make up 18% of a business.
Employees they are often best placed to spot inefficiencies and suggest improvements. Allowing them to take ownership of sustainability initiatives helps see projects through. It also increases knowledge of sustainability inside your organisation, reducing the need for external consultants.
The relationship a business has with its employees ultimately impacts overall performance. Employees favour organisations that are transparent and demonstrate responsibility. Wal-Mart sees the business case for engaging its employees in sustainability. The company suggest that happier and healthier employees are more productive, which means greater profits. It also means that they produce more innovative and sustainable business ideas.
Acting more sustainably is an effective means of developing a positive brand image and we know that consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for products and services provided by conscientious companies. We also know that clients are demanding more of their suppliers. However, this is now becoming true of investors. As Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has pointed out: “Investors are now looking hard at the green credentials of businesses, and the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions will give them vital information as they decide where to invest their money.”
If investors are progressively evaluating businesses based on their sustainability credentials this may well act as a big a driver for change as legislation.
Embedding sustainability will help satisfy compliance, help maintain clients relationships and increase efficiency. But it can offer much more. It can also help to secure partnerships with organisations that seek leadership from their suppliers. And it can build your brand.
Getting started with the Planet Mark
The Planet Mark certification helps organisations deliver their own sustainability programmes. It provides advice for setting up ‘Green Teams’, actions for them to take and transparent and credible evidence of the measures being taken to integrate sustainability within operations.
You can contact Steve Malkin at email: steve.malkin@ planetfirst.co.uk, www.linkedin.com/in/stevemalkin, tel: 020 7953 3170. www.planetfirst.co.uk