Jonathan Withey, The Planet Mark November/December 2020
INSIDE THIS ISSUE l Office Depot Retail revived l Amazon Business hones in on tail spend l US back in Paris Agreement? l
The changing face of field sales l E-waste troubles l Redefining packaging l The real (green) deal
CONTENTS GREEN THINKING
16 Big Interview Jonathan Withey's hopes for a sustainable future 23 Hot Topic Is the (proverbial) death of the salesman nigh? 27 Feature Sustainable packaging 30 Feature The problem with e-waste 32 Interview Making sustainable businesses successful 34 Advertorial Edding's green credentials 36 Opinion Officeworks' commitments
Big Interview: Jonathan Withey, The Planet Mark The fallout from COVID-19 has been devastating in just about every way imaginable. It has also highlighted our incredible impact on the environment. On the plus side, the topic of sustainability looks to finally be back around the boardroom table again. Certification schemes such as those offered by The Planet Mark are one way in which companies can commit to driving progress towards a better world. Sustainability expert and former OP executive Jonathan Withey elaborates on how to inspire change – and urges OPI readers not to lose momentum in this difficult COVID world. HOT TOPIC: THE CHANGING FACE OF OUTSIDE SALES
40 Category Update Safe and clean, but green? 44 Category Update The future of print 48 Advertorial Offering Armor's dyalog 50 Focus Europe's Green Deal 52 Advertorial The modern office according to ACCO Brands 54 Research The State of the OP Industry – all change 56 Research Green Thinking 2020 – OPI investigates
REGULARS 5 Comment 6 News 60 5 minutes with... Pete Klauck 62 Final Word Alex Tatham
The social call is very difficult to do online. There has to be an underlying reason that is business related. If, for example, I can explain how customers can make some cost savings, they will probably take the call. Therefore, in a 20-minute Zoom call, both parties get value and the rep is still building a relationship. Ironically, the situation we are now in has enabled outside reps, even though they are working from home, to use digital tools that make them more effective. While COVID is seen as a threat, it could actually be an opportunity.
38 How to... ... learn from Lyreco's Circular Economy pledge
COMMENT The OPI team EDITORIAL Editor Heike Dieckmann +44 (0)1462 422 143 firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Editor Michelle Sturman email@example.com News Editor Andy Braithwaite +33 4 32 62 71 07 firstname.lastname@example.org Freelance Contributor David Holes email@example.com
SALES & MARKETING Chief Commercial Officer Chris Exner +44 (0)7973 186801 firstname.lastname@example.org Head of Media Sales Chris Turness +44 (0)7872 684746 email@example.com Digital Marketing Manager Aurora Enghis firstname.lastname@example.org
EVENTS Events Manager Lisa Haywood email@example.com Event Programmer Sophie Carus firstname.lastname@example.org
PRODUCTION & FINANCE Studio Joel Mitchell email@example.com Finance & Operations Kelly Hilleard firstname.lastname@example.org
PUBLISHERS CEO Steve Hilleard +44 (0)7799 891000 email@example.com Director Janet Bell +44 (0)7771 658130 firstname.lastname@example.org
espite the ongoing battle with COVID-19 and many countries presently in a second lockdown, sustainability is firmly in the spotlight. It’s great to hear governments talk about a ‘green reset’ in response to the devastation the pandemic is causing. Tying economic recovery to sustainability should be on everyone’s agenda. This issue of OPI couldn’t be better timed. Throughout these pages, you’ll find the ‘Green Thinking’ sticker in features that provide a wealth of information on how to become involved and more environmentally conscious. Packaging is one example that needs to be addressed as a result of soaring online sales (page 27). Electronic waste, rising at an alarming rate, is another. However, it also offers dealers an opportunity to help clients manage the problem (page 30). Resellers Officeworks (page 36) and Lyreco (page 38) provide sage advice on how to support customers on their journey and on how to become more sustainable within their own businesses.
COVID-19 and its interconnectivity with the environment is clearly swaying public opinion on the importance of sustainability Keeping workplaces clean and safe in the fight against coronavirus is imperative, but do green jan/san and PPE options exist as well? OPI’s Editor Heike Dieckmann has been finding out (page 40). COVID-19 and its interconnectivity with the environment is clearly swaying public opinion on the importance of sustainability. It is resonating more with many large corporates too, with calls to ‘reset’ the current model of capitalism. A formidable challenge, as Filippo Veglio of the World Business Council of Sustainable Development, highlights (page 32). There’s also plenty of good news. The EU Green Deal, for example, has delivered a strong signal that companies need to have their environmental credentials in order to conduct business these days (page 50). Additionally, if President-elect Joe Biden follows through on his climate change promises, the US will be back in the Paris Agreement early next year (page 8). Achieving the many objectives is no easy task. But it can be done, says The Planet Mark’s Jonathan Withey in the Big Interview (page 16). In all the current doom and gloom, it was great speaking to someone with an optimistic outlook on the future of our planet. MICHELLE STURMAN, Stay well and think green. DEPUTY EDITOR The carrier sheet is printed on Satimat Silk paper, which is produced on pulpmanufactured wood obtained from recognised responsible forests and at an FSC® certified mill. It is polywrapped in recyclable plastic that will biodegrade within six months.
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Sustainability – no longer just an option
fewer stores versus Q3 in 2019 and the slower back-to-school season this year. In addition, e-commerce sales at Depot – which were up 20% year on year – are booked under BSD, not retail. While Office Depot has stopped reporting comparable store sales, the underlying trend in Q3 was clearly positive. Driving this growth was a $145 million increase in revenue from COVID-related categories such as furniture, technology, cleaning and breakroom, and other work-from-home and learn-from-home items. There was also a strong uptick in BOPIS (buy online pick-up in store) transactions, which grew by 82% year on year.
Analysis: ODP: Retail to the rescue
A strong Q3 performance from Office Depot’s store network helped offset weak results from the BSD and CompuCom divisions
It was only a few months ago that we were questioning The ODP Corporation’s (Office Depot) commitment to the retail channel (see Analysis, OPI April 2020, page 6). This scepticism appeared to be justified when, in May, the company’s board approved a restructuring plan called Maximize B2B. It is an initiative aimed at realigning operational focus to support the Business Solutions Division (BSD) and CompuCom IT services units. This included “optimising” the store footprint and removing costs that directly support the Retail division, with the savings being reinvested into the B2B platform. Under Maximize B2B, approximately 70 stores will close before the end of 2020. These actions are in addition to those being made as part of the Business Acceleration Program introduced in May 2019 – year to date and at the time of going to press, that has resulted in the shuttering of almost 60 outlets. However, reports of the death of retail at Office Depot would seem to be greatly exaggerated. In the firm’s third quarter 2020 results, published in early November, Retail was the star performer. The division’s sales of $1.15 billion represented a year-on-year decline of 3% – compared with decreases at BSD and CompuCom of 11% and 22% respectively. It should also be noted that Retail’s results included the negative impacts of having 73
BALANCING ACT Speaking at an investor conference in September, new Office Depot CFO Anthony Scaglione provided some insight into the retail strategy, emphasising that this channel will continue to play “a key role” for serving the reseller’s B2B customers. The latest restructuring scheme would, in fact, appear to be more of a strategic financial play, enabling Office Depot to reduce its lease liability exposure. The company ended 2019 with about $1.4 billion in lease liabilities, has already shaved this to about $1.2 billion and plans to get the figure below $1 billion. The endgame is to achieve a variable, low-cost model that will lead to an investment valuation akin to a B2B company, not that of a retailer. During the Q3 earnings conference call, the focus was very much on Office Depot’s diverse routes to market. The word “balanced” was used 14 times, “ecosystem” 19 times, “supply chain” 17 times and “platform” 13 times. “We’re going to be a B2B platform, not just an office supplies company,” asserted CEO Gerry Smith. Retail will very much form part of this model.
We’re going to be a B2B platform, not just an office supplies company It certainly sounded as if Smith and his team have something up their sleeves. The CEO said the company’s strategy had accelerated during the pandemic and that the “next evolution” of Office Depot would be revealed at an investor day in early 2021. Will that mean its own marketplace solution, a rekindling of the partnership with Alibaba, M&A activity, or something else? We’ll find out in the new year.
ODP RETAIL: Q3 2020 VS Q3 2019 Sales: $1.15 billion (-3%) Operating profit: $119 million (+42%) Operating margin: +320 basis points Buy online pick-up in store revenue: +82% COVID-related product sales: +$145 million Services: -22% Number of stores: 1,244 (-73)
Martin Wilde Associates and OPI have recently published a prospect guide – Where to Now? – that will help office products vendors capitalise on growth opportunities in the UK marketplace. Many OP vendors serving the UK market are finding that not only is demand for their ‘traditional’ products in decline, but the channels they have historically relied upon to get these products to market are also shrinking. Not only that, but some vendors are reporting that, when attempting to diversify into different product areas, these channels are often unable – or unwilling – to accommodate new ranges. As a result, many suppliers are now looking for new sales avenues for their historic and emerging portfolios. Featuring more than 40 detailed profiles of key players in several emerging reseller channels, Where To Now? is an indispensable prospect guide for manufacturers and wholesalers looking to broaden their customer base beyond their traditional routes to market. For more details, see www.opi.net/research/where-to-now
TOP 100 – NEW ENTRY Heinz Kneubuehl, CEO, EOSA
Earlier this year, Heinz Kneubuehl was appointed to take over as CEO of European purchasing organisation EOSA. This came about after the bankruptcy in May 2020 of Hedera, the Netherlands-based dealer run by former EOSA CEO Philip Becker. Switzerland-based Kneubuehl is no stranger to EOSA – he has acted as its Administrator since 2013. His tenure as CEO has also got off to a positive start. EOSA recently appointed its first member in the UK since office2office left the group 11 years ago. OT Group, the new entity that emerged out of the demise of the SPOT Group earlier this year, joined on 1 October. The company – owned by the Paragon Group – trades as OT Wholesale and OfficeTeam. Its addition takes EOSA’s membership to 12, representing annual end-user sales of approximately €750 million ($890 million). Kneubuehl is expected to make an announcement shortly regarding the membership situation in the Benelux market following the demise of Hedera.
Kimball acquires Poppin Poppin was founded in 2009 as a design-led disruptor in the stationery category, branching out into office furniture a few years later. It has combined its digitally native platform with a 17-person sales force and network of five showrooms, primarily serving small-to-medium corporations and the direct-to-consumer market. Between 2014 and 2019, Poppin achieved a 40% annual compound growth rate in revenue. However, the impact of COVID-19 has caused the top line to decline in 2020 after the temporary closure of its showrooms and a depressed B2B market (which accounts for around 75% of its business). For the first nine months of 2020, it had sales of $44 million and achieved a gross margin of 36%. Investments in channel
development resulted in negative EBITDA of $5 million for the period. “What we are paying for is a significant growth engine that aligns with our Connect 2.0 strategy and with our long-term vision to create an omnichannel commercial furnishing design powerhouse supported by a robust manufacturing and sourcing infrastructure,” said Kimball International CEO Kristie Juster. Immediate priorities include expanding Poppin’s marketing playbook into secondary markets, developing work-from-home and corporate partnerships between Poppin and Kimball’s Etc. brand and creating a Poppin Pro dealer programme. Kimball also plans to launch Poppin’s new privacy pods – which can be adapted for use in the health and hospitality markets – across its own dealer network.
Kimball International is to acquire workplace furniture and office products supplier Poppin in a deal that could be worth $180 million. Kimball will pay an initial $110 million for the New York-based start-up, with up to $70 million in further contingency payments to be made over the next three years or so dependent on Poppin’s financial performance. Kimball is funding the transaction via a combination of cash on hand and its credit facility, which has been increased to a borrowing capacity of $125 million. The deal is scheduled to close before the end of the year. Following that, Poppin will operate as a separate business unit within Kimball and continue to be led by co-founder Randy Nicolau and his current leadership team.
OPI guide points to growth opportunities
resilient, sustainable economy”, along with detailed plans to “tackle the climate emergency” and chase a “clean energy future”. He says he “will lead the world to address the climate emergency [...] through the power of example”. Paying for this won’t be cheap. Biden has committed to $1.7 trillion in federal funding over the next ten years, with additional private sector, state and local investments to a total of $5 trillion. Details of the Biden plan include:
Analysis: Now for the good news
The future of the planet is looking a little brighter as US President-elect Joe Biden says he will deliver on climate change promises
The US presidential election is always followed with keen anticipation for a multitude of reasons. This year’s race promised to be a humdinger between incumbent President Donald Trump and his primary opponent Joe Biden. And it delivered in spades. Keeping us on the edge of our seats for four days while votes were being counted, Mother Earth heaved a deep sigh of relief when on 7 November, Democrat Joe Biden was named as President-elect. Whatever side of the political fence you are on, Trump’s administration has undoubtedly weakened environmental protection in many areas, while concurrently reducing or eliminating regulations in favour of the fossil fuels industry.
SIGN OF THE (TRUMP) TIMES The most significant sign of Trump’s attitude towards climate change and global warming was the order on 1 June 2017 – just a few months after he took office – to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. United Nations rules dictated a delay of three years applied to any exit from the time of ratification (4 November 2016), plus a 12-month notice period, meaning the US officially left on 4 November. Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency. In his campaign information, the President-elect states he will “create a more
• Ensuring the US achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050. As such, he will demand Congress enacts legislation in his first year that establishes an enforcement mechanism which comprises: milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025; historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation; and incentives for the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by the climate emergency. Biden’s ambition is to generate clean electricity and achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. • Building a stronger, more resilient nation. Investments are going to be made in smart infrastructure – smart roads, water systems, municipal transit networks, schools, airports, rail, ferries, ports, and universal broadband access. The plan also includes providing cities with a population of over 100,000 with zero-emission public transportation options, ranging from light rail networks to improving existing transit/bus lines, and installing better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. • Rallying the rest of the world. Biden not only recommits the US to the Paris Agreement, he will head an effort to get all major countries to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets. Climate change will be fully integrated into foreign policy and security strategies, as well as its approach to trade.
The readmittance of the US into the Paris Agreement is a game changer in terms of the world achieving net zero by 2050 As this issue of OPI went to press, it appeared as if the Republicans would hold onto the Senate, with the Democrats retaining control of the House. The outcome of this race is not expected until January. But if that was the case, it would make passing the required legislation to usher in a new era of environmentalism substantially more difficult. Still, as the world’s biggest economy, the readmittance of the US into the Paris Agreement is a game changer in terms of the world achieving net zero by 2050.
Analysis: Amazon tightens grip on tail spend Amazon Business continues to make inroads in off-contract purchasing in both the private and public sectors
It’s no secret that Amazon has been one of the main beneficiaries of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s third quarter results again showed an astonishing rate of growth: product sales in the three months to the end of September were up almost 40% year on year, with third-party (3P) marketplace sellers outpacing the e-commerce giant’s own first-party (1P) performance. While the e-tailer doesn’t break out the results of Amazon Business, the ABX 2020 virtual conference in October gave some useful insight into the progress made at the European operations of its B2B arm over the past 12 months. This second ABX event in Europe attracted more than 1,500 procurement professionals and was introduced by Todd Heimes, formerly the Director of Amazon Business Europe and now heading Amazon Business internationally. Heimes provided details of the accomplishments made since 2019’s ABX. These include: adding over 75 million new products eligible for VAT invoices and introducing a small-business credit card in partnership with American Express in the UK; expanding pay-by-invoice and Business Prime into Italy and Spain; and integrating with French public sector purchasing system, Chorus Pro.
PUBLIC SECTOR OPPORTUNITY The public sector is certainly a priority for Amazon Business. Heimes called this channel “a big opportunity” as the company looks to develop solutions not too dissimilar to the marketplace initiative being developed in the US with the General Services Administration. The e-tailer currently has access to UK government business via the contract it signed last year with purchasing specialist YPO. By all accounts, that agreement is gaining traction, but there may be a bigger fish to fry still: a few months ago, the Crown Commercial
Service (CCS) – the largest public procurement organisation in the UK – published its own prior information notice (PIN) for an electronic marketplace that could be worth about £100 million ($130 million). According to the PIN: “CCS is seeking a [...] solution to facilitate and manage ad-hoc, low-volume, low-spend goods requirements across the public sector. The marketplace aims to provide end users access to a broad, pre-qualified and dynamic supplier base, capable of offering a wide range of goods available for purchase and delivery through a digital marketplace.” Speaking to OPI, Head of Amazon Business UK, Dave Brittain, revealed that discussions were taking place around what the PIN could mean, although he added that he didn’t know where it might lead to at this stage. In an ABX interview, Paul Ashby, Strategic Procurement Manager at Oxfordshire County Council in the UK, noted that more than 400 council staff are now purchasing off-contract items through Amazon Business’s YPO agreement. He said that Amazon “came into its own” during the first national lockdown in April thanks to its ability to deliver to home addresses. He also told OPI that he would like local suppliers to sell to his organisation on the Amazon marketplace.
More than 400 [Oxfordshire County Council] staff are now purchasing off-contract items through Amazon Business’s YPO agreement ABX wasn’t just about the public sector, however. During a panel discussion, Joseph Sullivan, Global Procurement Manager for British American Tobacco, described how he had built a business case to justify the deployment of Amazon Business. He said his team “doesn’t want to touch [tail spend] at all”, preferring to focus on relationships with strategic suppliers. Alice Valsecchi, People Operations Lead at Italian mobile app developer Bending Spoons, meanwhile, revealed that 80% of the start-up’s office supplies spend is now made through Amazon Business. While Amazon is not yet bidding on category-specific contracts, this may be something it looks at in the future. Another concern for incumbent suppliers is that non-strategic items such as office supplies may no longer be contracted out: “That’s a big question that we will be asking ourselves in the future potentially,” Ashby told OPI.
SMART SHELF NOW AVAILABLE Amazon has confirmed the availability of its Dash Smart Shelf for Amazon Business customers in the US. The weight-sensing, wifi-enabled auto-replenishment scale is designed to streamline restocking workplace supplies and other business essentials. It comes in three sizes, each of which can be bought for $19.99. Currently, about 440 items in the Office and IT Supplies category and 715 in the Cleaning Supplies segment on Amazon.com are compatible with smart shelf purchasing. Participating brands include HP Inc, International Paper and 3M.
Show dates postponed
Messe Frankfurt has confirmed that Paperworld, traditionally held over the last weekend in January, will now take place from 17-20 April 2021. Its Paperworld Middle East event in Dubai has also been put back a couple of months and is now planned from 24-26 May 2021. Meanwhile, as COVID-19 infections rise in the US, leading commercial interiors show NeoCon will now be held from 4-6 October 2021 in Chicago. Another event to be delayed is the UK’s London Stationery Show, which has been rescheduled for 18-19 May at the Business Design Centre.
Double swoop for French dealer €100 million ($118 million) French independent dealer Lacoste-Dactyl Buro Office (DBO) has strengthened its senior management team with two noteworthy appointments. In October, Jean-Pierre Maternowski joined the reseller as Purchasing and Marketing Director. For many years, he was in charge of purchasing at wholesaling/dealer group organisation Alkor (previously known as Majuscule). He was also a member of BPGI’s purchasing council. Lacoste was historically Alkor’s largest dealer but left the group at the start of this year following the decision to align with DBO’s partner Intropa, following the merger of Lacoste and DBO in 2019. Lacoste-DBO also welcomed Bertrand Petit to its ranks. Petit has spent almost 25 years in the French B2B supplies channel, about 15 of them with RAJA. He was most recently in charge of the Hyperburo office supplies retail chain, acquired in 2019 by wholesaler Comlandi (itself a subsidiary of Spanish OP group Comercial des Sur). Between them, Lacoste and DBO have 11 retail outlets, and Petit has been taken on to develop this side of the business.
Romanian office supplies reseller Dacris has moved to a new head office and distribution facility on the outskirts of Bucharest. The company’s main business operations were previously located in Otopeni, a city located just north of the Romanian capital. After starting with one office building and one warehouse, Dacris acquired two further distribution facilities over the years as it expanded. As co-founder Lidia Fati explained to OPI, Dacris had outgrown this set-up and was looking for a larger surface area and greater flexibility. “As we didn’t want to follow the same pattern of buying a new warehouse, we decided to move our operations into a dedicated space to have everything in the same place. This way we can deliver orders faster and better to our clients,” she said. The result is the leasing of new 4,000 sq m (40,000 sq ft) premises in the Mogosoaia logistics park in the north of Bucharest, an area that Fati described as “a premium location”. Dacris has maintained ownership of its properties in Otopeni, and will now use these for “special projects”, including custom printing and a residential delivery service in response to the growing work-from-home trend.
ON THE MOVE LANGVAD TAKES ON SCHAEFER SHOP ROLE Former OTTO Office exec Christian Langvad has been appointed as VP of Operations at European business supplies reseller Schaefer Shop. Langvad left OTTO Office in 2015 and went to work for MRO and workplace reseller Jungheinrich PROFISHOP. After leaving the company earlier this year, he has now joined Germany-based Schaefer Shop, part of the Schaefer Group. The company has a presence in nine European markets and employs more than 600 people. An online/ catalogue reseller, its product categories include warehouse/operations, office supplies, jan/san and hygiene, technology, ink and toner, and office furniture. OKHOVAT TO LEAVE TWG Pejman Okhovat, COO of The Warehouse Group (TWG) – and former CEO of Warehouse Stationery – is to leave the New Zealand retailer early next year to join Australian retailer Big W. Okhovat has been with TWG since 2005 and had a number of roles before being appointed CEO at Warehouse Stationery. He became Group COO in February 2020 as part of a management shake-up and a move to an agile leadership structure. NEW APPOINTMENT AT KAUT-BULLINGER German dealer Kaut-Bullinger has named former Takkt and Staples exec Cornelia Krause as its Head of Strategic Purchasing. Krause started in the role on 1 October, reporting directly to Group Managing Director Robert Brech. She knows the broad business supplies sector well, having spent 13 years at Kaiser+Kraft/Takkt as Head of Marketing Coordination Europe, and over three years at Staples’ European product sourcing group. HUGHES LEAVES FRIENDS OP executive Betsy Hughes has left FriendsOffice after 24 years with the US independent dealer. As VP, then President, of Sales and Marketing, she is credited with driving multimillion dollar sales growth at Friends, and was instrumental in helping the reseller win a place on the key Premier Healthcare group purchasing contract. Hughes confirmed she hasn’t got anything specific lined up and told OPI it had been “a very difficult decision” to leave Friends.
IN BRIEF Officeworks launches CSR plan Australian office supplies reseller Officeworks has released its Positive Difference Plan 2025, outlining 18 commitments to support people and the planet over the next five years. Pledges include using renewable electricity to power operations, as part of a roadmap to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030 (see also Opinion, page 36).
What concerns you most about increased home working?
HP announces sustainability progress
Source: Posturite survey of UK businesses, September 2020
HP Inc has expanded its Planet Partners supplies return and recycling programme to 68 countries, including Argentina, Chile and Papua New Guinea. To date, the initiative has recycled over 875 million HP original ink and toner cartridges. The company has also invested $2 million in a plastic washing line in Haiti that produces recycled plastic for use in HP products. Since 2016, HP has diverted 771 tonnes (1.7 million lbs) of ocean-bound plastic in Haiti, with more than a quarter of this used to produce ink cartridges.
Consumer behaviour determines office coffee impact
A recent study by environmental consultancy firm Quantis has found that three office coffee systems – Nespresso capsules, fully automatic and soluble – present no intrinsic differences in their environmental impacts. However, real-world usage scenarios suggest that Nespresso’s portioned approach acts as a better safeguard against non-environmentally-friendly consumer behaviour.
This new way of working due to the COVID-19 pandemic allows us to change our work environments for the better (% agree)
Highest in the UK (64%) Source: HP Inc Workforce Evolution Study October 2020
People who are working remotely have to work a lot harder just to see, hear and be heard Gale Moutrey, VP of Brand Experience and Workplace Innovation, Steelcase
PICTURE OF THE MONTH Winner of the Amsterdam Innovation Award at the Interclean Amsterdam Online event at the beginning of November was LeoBots, a family of commercial floor cleaning robots produced by Singapore-based start-up LionsBot. The four autonomous, heavy-duty products – that each perform a specific function such as vacuuming, mopping and scrubbing – are operated via an app. They have also been designed to put the fun back into cleaning, being able to sing, rap and even tell jokes!
The topic of sustainability may be back around the boardroom table, but it’s not always easy to start on the path to environmental enlightenment. Certification schemes such as those offered by The Planet Mark are one way companies can commit to driving progress towards a better world
he world is at a critical juncture where greenhouse gas emissions from human activities need to be eliminated to make good on the promise of the Paris Agreement and United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). For the former, the global temperature rise this century must be kept well below 2oC, preferably 1.5oC. To attain the latter, poverty, inequality and climate change need to be addressed to create a healthier, more sustainable future for everyone – by 2030. The fallout from COVID-19 has been devastating in just about every way imaginable. At the same time, it has highlighted our impact on the environment. Who can forget the images of fish and dolphins swimming in the clear waters of Venice’s canals? Or the glorious view of the Himalayas seen for the first time in decades from towns in the Indian state of Punjab? To reiterate the seriousness of mitigating climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic calamity has prompted many countries to embark on a ‘green recovery’ path, touting resilience and financial stability through sustainability. But countless businesses are struggling to even start their environmental journey, often bewildered by jargon and who to turn to for information and help. OPI’s Michelle Sturman caught up with The Planet Mark Head of Business Development Jonathan Withey to discuss the state of the Earth, how to improve a company’s environmental credentials and to find out how realistic the path to net-zero carbon emissions really is.
OPI: For our readers who may not know you, can you give a brief introduction? Jonathan Withey: I head up the business development team at The Planet Mark and am a
sustainability consultant by trade. It all started with a geography degree which many of my friends would refer to as ‘colouring in’, but I did actually learn about the world and how different geographical systems work together. This naturally led to understanding the climatic system and in what way it’s changing. All this got me interested in sustainable development in general. My dad’s an entrepreneur and I love commerce and understanding how it works, so I decided to follow up with a Masters in Business and Sustainability – recognising the role organisations have in assisting our transition to a more sustainable way of living. From there, I did a whole bunch of things, including working for a private equity firm and then for a UN environment programme out in the Philippines. When I returned to the UK, I got a job with sustainable OP company Wiles Greenworld. OPI: You worked with Toby Robins at Wiles Greenworld, I believe, who is known in the UK OP industry for his sustainability credentials. JW: Yes. Toby Robins was Sustainable Development Director there and a pioneer of his time. From the 1990s, Wiles Greenworld was offering free recycling schemes for clients. When it delivered office supplies, recycling was collected
BIG INTERVIEW Jonathan Withey
If you can be competitive on price and service, what are your other USPs? Sustainability [is] a real driving force around that
OPI: Wiles Greenworld was bought by Commercial Group in 2016, and is undoubtedly now the UKâ€™s leading sustainable OP reseller. JW: Wiles Greenworld was acquired by Commercial Group because there was a similar alignment in cultures and approaches to sustainability. I used to look at everything
OPI: Inspiring change sounds like a tall order. JW: The Planet Mark moves the conversation away from complying with a large set of rules to providing a framework and the freedom within it to reduce your environmental impact.
as a reverse logistics model. I was immensely impressed with the approach Wiles was taking. Toby gave me rein over various aspects that would not only minimise Wiles Greenworldâ€™s impact, but equally tell powerful stories to customers to help green their supply chains, and win them retained business. This shifted the conversation away from price â€“ if you can be competitive on price and service, what are your other USPs? Sustainability was a real driving force around that.
Commercial was doing and have conversations with the team as a collaborative opportunity to understand our shared challenges and what we could learn from each other for our mutual benefit. Following the acquisition, I worked with some large organisations at Commercial, identifying what we could do to support them with their sustainability agendas. It involved some innovative reporting and I got to work with all the certifications from health and safety, ISO 18001 and ISO 14001 standards, to the Carbon Trust Standard, FSC, B Corps, the Carbon Neutral Company and The Planet Mark. As a result, I have considerable experience and a wide breadth of knowledge within an array of certification schemes. What drew me to The Planet Mark is its transformational approach. It not only measures and independently verifies environmental impact and incentivises companies to reduce it, it also has an amazing engagement and communication aspect to what it does. It really wants to inspire change, which is what sustainability is all about.
Jonathan Withey BIG INTERVIEW
Simultaneously, we maximise the benefit of those reductions by engaging meaningfully with staff to be a part of the organisation’s sustainability journey. It fosters a stronger sense of purpose around what they do. And purpose is a big buzz word at the moment. We’re moving from a pure revenue and bottom- and top-line focus, to the purpose of an organisation.
We want to help imbed a culture of sustainability within an organisation and do this by empowering passionate individuals
What we’ve also discovered is when you scratch beneath the surface of a company, you find out it’s doing loads of good stuff. But many struggle to communicate it, especially in a way that resonates with customers and wider external stakeholders. The Planet Mark works really hard at being able to create soundbites and talk to people in a language they’ll understand. I think as sustainability professionals, we may make assumptions about the level of knowledge that individuals have as we’re present among it on a daily basis. We want to be able to talk in a language that everyone understands because then we can start modifying behaviours, which is the aim of the game. This can lead to a ripple effect, which collectively is going to be what we need to transition to a model where we live, work and develop within planetary boundaries and continue to address aspects such as the SDGs. Any action, no matter how small, taken towards achieving the SDGs represents a step in the right direction and will ultimately result in a snowball effect.
OPI: You mention the importance of employees. I think they are often an afterthought for companies trying to become more sustainable. It sounds as though The Planet Mark has an employee-first approach. JW: Absolutely, yes. Our founder, Steve Malkin, and I have phrases we use regularly. One of them is ‘the knowledge is in the room’. The aim is to enable employees within a company to make conscious decisions that are going to have an assessable impact, which The Planet Mark helps measure and verify, but really equip them to take those action steps and be part of it. We want to help imbed a culture of sustainability within an organisation and do this by empowering passionate individuals to be the driving force of that change. We try to ensure this transformation happens right from the very top – it always helps to have top management buy-in – all the way through the company. We’ve learnt hard lessons with the gloomy rhetoric that the world’s going to end unless things change – but it doesn’t actually cause action. Instead, we focus on the positive and say hey, listen, this is going to be an incredible journey.
OPI: Take us through The Planet Mark sustainability journey for a company. JW: No matter the stage a business is at, if it wants to adopt something like The Planet Mark, a model and a system is developed to discern what its environmental impacts were worth the previous year. Then we can understand the measures already put in place and take that into account while establishing how the company is going to improve. It’s about wrapping our arms around as much readily available data as possible, to calculate the environmental impact and convert it into a carbon footprint. We have a consistent metric for quantifying that change and we sit on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is the most widely recognised global framework for measuring carbon and the rules associated with that. From an environmental perspective, Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are determined as a minimum. Scope 1 covers direct fuel consumption. If you’re a small office supplies dealer, you might have a fleet of vehicles, so the fuel put into those leased or owned vehicles is checked. Then any gas used to heat or cool your buildings is measured and independently verified. Scope 2 revolves around the electricity consumed.
Scope 3 involves indirect emissions, and we focus on a few of those because typically that’s where the biggest impacts occur. Other key metrics are waste and water data, procurement information such as freight, and business travel. From this information, a report is produced that includes an analysis of where the significant impacts are broken down. Opportunities are then identified to make the quickest and the most efficient improvements. OPI: You have the ZeroBy30 programme – what does this entail? JW: The ZeroBy30 programme was born out of the latest IPCC report on getting to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We’re all about ambition. There are many issues around climate, and we need to reach net zero as quickly and efficiently as possible. As a result, we have put together a plan with a former transformational specialist from Unilever, Judi Havelock, who heads up the scheme to build a roadmap for companies achieving net-zero carbon by 2030. We’ve just run it with our first organisation and formulated a ten-year strategy during which The Planet Mark certification is embedded to recognise year-on-year progress. It works extremely well. There are several definitions of net zero, but we define it as true zero carbon for Scope 1 and Scope 2. Under Scope 3, detailed mapping is carried out throughout the supply chain to understand where the opportunities to reduce to zero are. Where it cannot be reached, residual carbon can then be counterbalanced through approved offsetting plans. There are a few cowboy schemes around, and The Planet Mark has worked exceptionally hard to identify ones that are minimum gold standard and are actively sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. There are different vintages – a word I like to use in this context – of carbon offsets. If we can incentivise future compensatory measures that have a broader range of socio-economic benefits as well, that’s even better. We know organisations that make a public statement around committing to net-zero carbon don’t get far without a strategy behind it. We are here to help, and it’s exciting.
OPI: Do you think COVID and everything else that’s happened this year so far has hindered or helped the sustainability movement? JW: In many ways, it’s too early to tell as we’re still in the midst of the pandemic, but I’ve been reflecting on this. Think back to the first lockdown when society was much quieter because there was less travel and moving around. We could hear the birds, and there was a deeper connection with the natural world as we spent a lot more time outside. There was this really reflective period of change as everything slowed down. And, of course, carbon emissions dropped significantly, which we knew would happen. I was reading a report recently that said there would be about a 6% drop in global emissions this year compared to 2019, which is the largest reduction since 1900. Fast forward a few months, however, and we’ve almost forgotten about it. I get it. We want a bit of normality now, which isn’t going to happen for a while. Still, we have to treat this as an opportunity with all the sensitivities it deserves because first and foremost, we’re in a health crisis. But this is the tipping point where we might lose the momentum. There is already talk of emissions bouncing back. When I talk to customers, they’re naturally slightly nervous. They have annual targets of around 5% to reduce their carbon emissions, which they know will be smashed between 2019 and 2020 as activity naturally dropped. Because of this, The Planet Mark is building in protocols to help measure carbon working from home, for example. But I want to try and encourage organisations to aim for a 7% decrease every year from now until 2030 if we are to have any hope of stopping the climate warming 1.5oC-2oC and beyond – when things get a little more challenging. OPI: You mention working from home. How are you addressing this aspect in terms of determining carbon footprint? JW: There are a couple of possible ways. We’ve created an estimate because it’s incredibly difficult to differentiate carbon and energy connected with people’s professional and personal activity. It’s designed to recognise the average energy consumed associated with business undertakings when working from home. As we gain a more thorough understanding moving forward, because no one has really done this before, then we can become more accurate with how things are done and see where we go from there. It’s certainly relevant now because I think office employees are going to be working from home a lot more.
OPI: Often, instead of devising a strategy to get to net zero, it seems companies are merely relying on carbon offsetting. JW: Reducing carbon emissions in this way can be a sensitive subject and there’s been a lot of media coverage around what it is and the benefits. It could potentially be a greenwashing exercise or one where money is just thrown at the problem and people think they’ve done their bit to contribute to issues such as the climate emergency. Carbon has a lifecycle of about 100 years in the atmosphere, and we have to reduce it to mitigate climate change. Companies should actively understand their carbon footprint and establish measures to decrease it as efficiently and robustly as possible. But they also need to be realistic.
We need ambition and to treat this like the crisis it is. If you’re implementing everything possible, are still emitting carbon and want to offset it as part of the solution, then it’s better than not doing it. But look very carefully into the credibility of those offsets and the projects they support. If feasible, try and create a relationship and story between the carbon reduction initiatives you’re supporting and the nature of your business.
BIG INTERVIEW Jonathan Withey
For more from the interview with Jonathan Withey, listen to OPI Talk – visit opi.net/podcast
Jonathan Withey BIG INTERVIEW
OPI: Going back to the impact of COVID: understandably, the elimination of single-use plastic seems to have taken a back seat. But there’s also been an increase in PPE and PVC barriers, etc, in the office. Is there any way of avoiding a lot of this? JW: It’s problematic. There’s never going to be the perfect answer or solution to this. It is a balancing act between getting people back to work safely and also trying not to generate as much single-use plastic waste as before. We were doing amazing things, and I don’t believe momentum has been lost. The wheels and the cogs that are turning to put changes in place around packaging, the type of products that we use, and proactively seeking additional sustainable options – I think they are here to stay. As I said, this is a health crisis and we have to do what we can to address and alleviate it. Could there be more reusable alternatives? Probably. However, they’re going to take time to come through. We just have to make sure the waste infrastructure is geared up to cope with it and that, as a minimum, products don’t end up in landfill or our water systems and the oceans as a result.
OPI: What do you think businesses in general could be doing to help mitigate the current massive waste problem? JW: It’s an interesting one. It is hard, but not unachievable. When I was working in the business supplies industry, I would always look at things from a sustainability perspective. I’d be talking to a large client across the desk and that customer would ask what to do about paper to reduce waste and impact. My first instinct would be to say ‘buy less paper’, but I’d get a kick under the desk from the sales rep sitting next to me saying – but obviously not really saying – ‘Hold on, our whole business is built on selling paper’. In terms of dealing with the wastepaper generated, segregating it at source is vital. In my opinion, in an office, you can’t just have a general garbage bin and a mixed recycling bin. You need a recycling station that separates material types into different streams to provide the greatest hope and possibility that the contractor is going to deal with it in a way that does ensure they get recycled. Dividing rubbish at source helps minimise contamination levels, so have a conversation with the landlord and/or waste collectors to find out how they’re making sure it remains that way when it arrives at the mixed recycling facilities. Get employees involved as people are really passionate about recycling. Talk to companies like TerraCycle – they have some great solutions for non-recyclable materials. Having said all that, the fundamental aim should be the reduction of any potential waste in the first place.
OPI: E-waste is also a huge and growing issue, but it’s difficult to try and recycle electronics. JW: I totally agree. The IT industry has a duty to build circular responsibility principles into how they manufacture their product so that it can be broken down and taken back and reused or recycled.
The problem is technology improves at such a rapid pace that an IT architecture quickly becomes redundant. It ends up as a vicious circle where you’re constantly upgrading. We need to get better at it, starting with manufacturing and making sure the correct infrastructure is in place to be able to reuse and break down those parts. The issue sometimes is that there is a disconnect in communication between the taking back and the selling of the product. Plus, we’re still terribly good at extracting raw materials and creating items out of virgin materials rather than recycling old components. But great things are happening, and some big tech companies are maturing in their take-back scheme offerings. OPI: How realistic do you think it is to get to a circular economy for any industry? JW: There needs to be collaboration and the world has never been better connected. We’re amazing at problem-solving. I think it would be such a detriment to who we are if we allow some of these issues to overcome us, don’t get over the hurdles and take on the challenges. We have to find better solutions both for ourselves and future generations. Humans have been on Earth an insignificant amount of time, and the planet will recover. But if we want to be part of the journey and continue to do whatever we like as a society, then we have to deal with these responsibilities. They are slapping us in the face, saying you need to do something; otherwise it’s not going to go very well. It’s very daunting. We’ve never faced this before, but I believe we can do it. It may sometimes feel like: ‘what can I do’? But we all have a role to play and The Planet Mark is trying to incentivise that and motivate people to play those parts. OPI: There’s so much greenwashing around as well as conflicting reports. How do I know what I should be doing as a business and that I’m on the right track? JW: There’s no right or wrong way to do this, especially as it’s all new. The United Nations is calling this decade the Decade of Action. We’ve got ten years and doing anything is better than doing nothing. But having a structured approach and a framework to achieve sustainability and measuring – incredibly important – to understand the effects of your decisions and celebrate changes is good to do. There is a lot of legislation and regulation, and it fulfils an important role I believe, because sometimes we can’t be trusted to make the wisest decisions. Speaking slightly candidly, my advice is: be compliant with environmental regulation, but really concentrate on what your impacts are, what is important to your external stakeholders, and focus on helping them as well as yourselves. If I talk about sustainability with my investor and finance hat on, from an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) context, those businesses with strong ESG credentials are more resilient and are going to grow. I consistently say that, if we can make sustainability easy and profitable, then we’re onto a winning formula.
OPI: Flipping that coin, what is your biggest concern currently in terms of sustainability? JW: My biggest worry, with everything that’s going on right now globally, is that we do not lose
significant momentum. We must not go through the same experience we had in the last financial crisis and recession where sustainability was placed on the back burner to allow economic revival to take precedence. We cannot let that happen this time. But I’m heartened by what I’m seeing and hearing from government and businesses around the world regarding a green recovery. OPI: The greatest opportunity? JW: From both a personal and The Planet Mark perspective, companies are still engaging with us. I’m having incredibly passionate conversations with those who think sustainability is enormously important and top of their agenda. People are becoming more informed about the challenges, which can appear overwhelming. But they’re resulting in action and change, which is what we need to see. Personally speaking, I’m just as guilty sometimes. I’m not a vegan, for example, but I’m trying to be better and am on a journey. It’s about trying to go further and talking about it. With behaviour change, we know that vocalising to friends, family or colleagues what you’re going to do makes it far more likely that you will take action.
BIG INTERVIEW Jonathan Withey
OPI: You may be doing all you can as a business to become sustainable, but you’ve still got to rely on the supply chain to play its part. How difficult is it to achieve that supply chain compliance? JW: That’s a really good question. Achieving Scope 3 is a critical topic at the moment, and it’s not going away. We became a globalised world pretty quickly, and we’re still catching up with where everything is coming from, what the consequences are, and how to reduce them. Getting beyond tier one, tier two suppliers, depending on what you sell and manufacture, is pretty hard. There are solutions and collaboration opportunities out there, technologies like blockchain that will make it easier, and some great data gathering platforms such as EcoVadis and Sedex.
OPI: You earlier talked about the green reset, post-COVID. Who knows what that translates into down the line, but to hear those words gives me hope. JW: Absolutely. But we cannot let the green reset just be words, because we’re very good at that. It’s about putting it into action as quickly and efficiently as possible. We have to be positive and really keep encouraging it, make our voices heard, and not be scared to speak out. OPI: If someone asked you, what is the one thing I can do immediately to become more sustainable in my business, what would it be? JW: Start by embedding a culture of sustainability within your organisation – show that it’s important to you, and lead from the front. Talk to staff to discover who is passionate about the topic, recycling and nature, etc. Set up a meeting so they can have a conversation about the environmental issues that are core to the company and to them as individuals, and go from there. Prepare a plan to learn and share that information. By the way, employees will become more productive, and you’ll have a lower staff turnover too.
For more information about The Planet Mark, visit www.theplanetmark.com
OPI: Any final thoughts? JW: Ultimately, as a global society and as human beings, we need to be ambitious and understand there are a lot of challenges to overcome. What do we want the world to look like in 2050? At the moment it’s not looking too great, so let’s imagine that better world and take steps to create it.
The CHANGING face of OUTSIDE SALES While the field sales rep might not be going away anytime soon, the nature of the role looks set for a shake-up in a postCOVID-19 world. Andy Braithwaite investigates...
Fast forward to 2020 and a world where, in many countries, sellers that had been used to spending much of their time on the road have been forced to become ‘kitchen table’ reps, working from home as pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing measures have made customer visits difficult, or impossible.
Sales professionals have made a very good living out of the process of establishing a rapport DRAMATIC SHIFT “There’s a dramatic shift when it comes to selling,” said Neal Benedict, a sales consultant and founder of Silver Brick Sales Solutions on a podcast earlier this year. “Sales professionals have made a very good living out of the process of establishing a rapport – getting in front of customers, having lunches, dinners and extended meetings with them – and trying to understand problems that impact them, not only professionally but personally. "A lot of that interaction has either gone online or dried up. They don’t necessarily know how to
n 2015, Forrester’s now (in)famous report, Death of a (B2B) Salesman, forecast that one million B2B sales people would be displaced by 2020. Two years later in a follow-up study, the business intelligence firm found that more than two-thirds of B2B buyers preferred to research online on their own, up from 53% in 2015, putting hundreds of thousands of order takers, and one million reps overall, at an even greater risk of displacement. Forrester hit the nail on the head when it said: “B2B buyers want skilled consultants for high-consideration purchase scenarios. [...] They want easy and seamless interaction with sales professionals who think strategically. B2B buyers expect [reps] to do their homework ahead of time, know their prospect’s challenges, understand the competitive context and define specifically where they can create immediate value.” The 2017 report also focused on the vital and growing importance of online tools in the B2B sales process, arguing that digital played just as important a role in full-service interactions (outside sales) as it did in self-service interactions (websites). It asserted: “Successful companies of the future [...] must upskill and digitally enable customer-facing sales people.”
Outside Sales HOT TOPIC
have that interaction when they’re not sitting in front of people.” He continued: “If those individuals can’t be successful in doing the things they were doing prior, what do they need to do to be successful and doing the things that are going to be critical in today’s environment? I think this is a big question mark for both the individuals executing that role and the management levels responsible for making sure those roles are executed well.”
While COVID is seen as a threat, it could actually be an opportunity
Richard Costin, Managing Director of UK-based manufacturer Bisley, adds: “People will always buy from people, but digital promotion and presentations at this moment in time are critical. Apps that provide key information are available to upload and send to (potential) customers. Sales reps will promote their products, but in different ways – for now.” According to sales-i co-founder Kevin McGirl, the outside sales rep isn’t going away. “In fact, our customers in various industries are looking to develop their outside teams,” he notes. “However, it’s more of a ‘Navy SEAL/SAS’ type of approach, meaning there will be fewer of them, but of a higher quality and with greater skills. They will be far more consultative and act as business advisors.” Does this mean the so-called ‘biscuit dunker’ sales representative will finally be consigned to the history books?
THE NEXT NORMAL OF SALES Recent analysis by McKinsey has concluded that for B2B sales, digital is the future. According to the consultancy firm, B2B decision-maker preferences and behaviours have “shifted dramatically” since the onset of COVID. Below is a summary of its findings: The tide has turned: digital self-serve and remote rep interactions are likely to be the dominant elements of the B2B go-to-market model going forward when selling to both SMBs and large enterprises. l Don’t count on returning to a pre-COVID-19 level of in-person sales coverage: only 20-30% of B2B buyers want to ever interact with reps in person, even in their ideal/post-COVID-19 model. l Long-term changes: over 90% of B2B decision-makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run. Furthermore, three in four believe the new model is as effective or more so than before COVID-19 (for both existing customers and prospects). l Self-serve: 99% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50,000 or more online. l Shift to video: video conference connections are critical and are preferred over audio/phone by four out of five B2B buyers. l
“The social visit is no longer relevant,” continues McGirl, adding that buyers were already changing before COVID struck. “They don’t have time to talk about sports or the weather, and they can also do a lot of their own research online. There’s a big parallel between the ways the consumer buys and how a business buys.” With many sales people still working from home, it at least levels the playing field in terms of getting in front of customers. “The social call is very difficult to do online,” suggests McGirl. “There has to be an underlying reason that is business related. If, for example, I explain how customers can make some cost savings, they will probably take the call. Therefore, in a 20-minute Zoom call, both parties get value and the rep is still building a relationship. “Ironically, the situation we are now in has enabled outside reps, even though they are working from home, to use digital tools that make them more effective. While COVID is seen as a threat, it could actually be an opportunity.” CHANGE OF FOCUS The topic of outside sales also came up at the Future Focus virtual conference run by UK business supplies trade association BOSS in
What is your current strategy regarding the size of your outside sales teams? n Decrease n Keep the same n Increase
In-person meetings will still be necessary, Haworth stated, but will bring added value. “Any sale that is a solution sale, represents a significant capital expenditure or goes through a formal process, will still require some face-to-face physical input at some stage,” he said. However, as this issue of OPI goes to press, COVID-19 infection numbers in the US have hit record levels, and countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have either re-entered lockdown or tightened mobility restrictions. Any return to normalcy still seems some way off. The challenge for many sales people is going to be how to differentiate themselves and stand apart from the competition without being able to interact in person with their customers.
HOT TOPIC Outside Sales
One person making waves at the moment on B2B social media platform LinkedIn is Marah Edelen, Director of US Print and Supplies at HP. As well as co-hosting an online video podcast, Edelen has been delivering interesting content on how sales reps need to adapt in these fast-evolving times. “There are two buckets of sellers,” she says. “One that is doing status quo, doing everything they used to, staying on top of their business, getting it done. But there is a whole other set of reps who are making it happen, stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying new things with their customers. They are viewing this as an exciting moment to change the game, instead of wondering when things are going to get back to normal.”
People who spend all their time pushing solutions and products have completely missed what social selling is Edelen points to personal brand and authenticity in order to gain her attention on LinkedIn. “If I have a window into who you are and what you are about, the likeliness that I will engage in your [...] solutions and product posts goes up significantly,” she shares. “People who spend all their time pushing solutions and products have completely missed what social selling is, by definition. In fact, when I look at their posts, they only have two likes and no comments – this tells me that their network doesn't find value.” She continues: “It's your personal point of view and how you teach me something new that hooks me. Bring people into your world. From there, yes, please tell me more about your business and how I can benefit.” She urges those who may still feel reticent about creating a personal online brand to take the plunge. “Don’t hesitate – be a pioneer,” she states. “Not only does it elevate you with your clients and customer set, but it elevates you in your career. Don’t wait and wonder why you didn’t get on that bandwagon. Do it now and lead the way.”
September. The organisation’s Chairman Simon Drakeford moderated a panel discussion which looked at the changes that need to be made in the business products industry post-COVID. “What is the future of the person-to-person sales model, especially when people are nervous about accepting someone into the office, and avoiding personal contact, certainly in the short term?” he questioned. Panellist and Managing Director of technology distributor Westcoast Alex Tatham responded: “We have already begun to change our sales model over the course of the past few months [and] the focus must be on understanding what the customer’s strategy is. “Our senior sales people are very much partners/business managers. If they were previously going to speak to members of the purchasing department to ensure they were all happy, now it is much more important they talk to the CEO/senior management. Our job is to make sure we can take the pain away from customers and support the strategies they have to be able to help them deliver those.” Tatham admitted that this evolving role might be a challenge for some sales reps. “Sales is going to change and our people need to be able to evolve with it. "We are going through a major training programme with all our senior sales people at the moment – to lift them to the point where they can have a strategic discussion with their customers, as opposed to a ‘how much can I supply you with today?’ type of conversation. This will be an extremely important focus for our business. Whether that is done in person or on a Zoom call I don’t think is material at all.” Steve Haworth, CEO of the EVO Group of Companies, broadly concurred: “I think there will be more face-to-face contact, but it will be digital,” he noted. “We’re having more face-to-face [meetings] now on a transactional basis with customers because of digital technologies like video conferencing. The in-person meeting – having a coffee, a catch-up chat – we have to get away from that and move more to a solutions-based selling model.”
Where there’s a will,
THERE’S A WAY
SPECIAL OPI looks at the accelerating trend of sustainable packaging – by Michelle Sturman
For more exclusive content from interviews with manufacturers, visit the Magazine section on opi.net
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED Global brands are currently at the forefront of sustainable packaging due to the drive to meet not only legislation and regulations, but the increasing numbers of more environmentallyconscious consumers. Ultimately, this will promote a significant reduction in single-use plastic in particular, along with the accelerated use of alternative materials such as those that are biodegradable or compostable. By way of illustration, paper manufacturer Arjowiggins has launched Sylvicta, a translucent, functional barrier paper, which is fully recyclable, compostable, marine-degradable and made from renewable raw resources. This race for sustainable packaging materials is producing results in some unexpected quarters. Drinks producer Bacardi, for example, has unveiled its first plant-based biodegradable spirits bottle.
he scourge of packaging has once again reared its ugly head. However, considering last year’s heavy focus on the ‘war on plastic’, this time it’s not just about single-use items but all packaging. There are several reasons for this, and most are to do with – you’ve guessed it – COVID-19. Coronavirus caused an unprecedented increase in the amount of packaging in use as e-commerce became a necessity during global lockdowns. The resulting surge in home deliveries has been accompanied by a closer examination of the sustainability of packaging – an area already under scrutiny from consumers and businesses before the pandemic. To put the growth of e-commerce into perspective, Pitney Bowes’ latest Parcel Shipping Index revealed that in 2019, global shipping volumes reached 103 billion parcels. The company predicts that, by 2026, this figure will reach 220-262 billion units. While the full impact of COVID won’t be known for some time, the Index reported that in April alone, there was a 60% rise in parcel volume in the US. As Asia Pulp & Paper European Director for Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations Liz Wilks notes, one big takeaway from the pandemic is how much packaging is being consumed. “Food packaging, in particular, saw tremendous spikes as people sheltered in place, which can be a problem. Food contaminants make recycling difficult or even impossible, so much of that wrapping is going to end up in landfill. More attention will need to be paid to readily available biodegradable alternatives as a replacement,” she says. For packaging specialist Sealed Air, lockdowns accelerated the need for many of its customers to examine their e-commerce capabilities. However, meeting customer expectations related to environmental responsibility during the growth in
online purchases while ensuring products arrive damage-free is no easy feat. The company said it was taking “significant steps” towards achieving its pledge to ensure all its products are 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. To this end, it has redeveloped its Mail Lite mailers and AirCap bubble liner to contain more recycled content, with the latter offering easy separation of the inner and outer components for recycling. Five new paper void-fill and cushioning machines have been added to Sealed Air’s Paper Systems series, which are designed to fit around any shape and type of item. According to the manufacturer, the paper void-fill offers a highly protective solution by helping to minimise product movement during transit. “We use our expertise in designing and testing packaging applications to deliver the best overall performance for each customer. If paper is the right solution, we now have the range to provide this,” says Eric van der Kallen, Portfolio Manager, Sealed Air.
Sustainable Packaging FEATURE www.opi.net 28
PROVIDING PACKAGING SUPPORT Several recent surveys indicate that demand for environmentally-sound packaging is rising rapidly, as well as sustainability as a whole. The 2020 Green Buying Report, commissioned by Trivium Packaging and conducted by Boston Consulting, reveals that 67% of the public in the US, Europe and South America currently identify as ‘environmentally aware’. Crucially, sustainable packaging options are important to more than two out of three consumers; 47% won’t buy products in packaging that is harmful to the environment, while 74% said they would be happy to pay extra for sustainable versions. INFORMATION IS KEY 53% of respondents are actively looking for recycling or sustainability messaging on-pack. This is also backed up by a study undertaken across several European countries in June this year by packaging firm Amcor. According to Amcor’s It’s a wrap: The future of packaging is all about sustainability survey, while respondents have plenty of knowledge about general recycling, what’s often missing are specific instructions on the packaging itself. 83% of people said they check pack details for information on how to dispose of an empty item correctly. A prime example is being told which recycling bin it should be placed in. Related to this, nearly half of all respondents said compostable packaging would positively influence their purchasing decision, but less than one-third could actually correctly identify the symbol for it. Additionally, people are willing to pay more for logos that provide strong differentiation and those that certify the origin of materials, such as bio-based or FSC-certified. However, while the ability to recycle packaging is virtually non-negotiable nowadays, it is just one concern. Most consumers believe reducing the carbon footprint of it is equally important. RETHINKING BUSINESS Packaging company Smurfit Kappa investigated the importance of the balance between sustainability and profitability in its report Sustainability reshapes the business landscape. For good. Despite being conducted during the pandemic, results reveal that 83% of UK companies described sustainability as an opportunity to be exploited. 74% admitted they wouldn’t wait for competitors to up the ante before defining their own benchmarks for success. According to the research, in a post-COVID-19 world, businesses will be turning to environmental, social and governance measures and rethinking their products and packaging solutions to tackle waste. The top two sustainability challenges were: materials used in packaging (68%), and collection and recycling (59%). Longevity is key to the environmental agenda, which is a sentiment echoed by respondents – 82% of executives are now treating sustainability as a long-term investment, rather than a cost. When firms were asked what changes would be most beneficial for the continuing success of sustainability practices, 50% said greater customer awareness of the associated impact. Next was industry regulations and/or benchmarks (39%), followed by companies in the same sector collaborating on the topic (38%).
Meanwhile, paper packaging is now being used in some other FMCG sectors. Coca-Cola, for example, has recently revealed a paper bottle prototype – which still contains plastic, albeit 100% recycled. Johnnie Walker has launched a plastic-free, paper-based whiskey bottle and Carling introduced paper beer bottles. The material is also being used for beauty and personal hygiene products like toothpaste tubes and deodorants. “Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen some significant shifts globally to provide sustainable packaging. It is a trend that has been building for some time now, with brands such as Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola, etc, all looking into green options. It is interesting to see that consumers are keeping pace too and, in some cases, leading the global movement,” says Wilks. BEING RESPONSIVE COVID-19 has also highlighted several complications involving packaging. Closed recycling centres and severely disrupted refuse collections are just two examples that have brought these issues to the attention of consumers. But even pre-pandemic, tainted waste, capacity issues and insufficient recycling infrastructures caused major headaches. Simultaneously, panic was rife at the start of the pandemic as it was unknown if and how long for coronavirus adhered to packaging materials. This led to a rise in single-use plastic for hygiene purposes in supermarkets, for example. However, this specific circumstance is likely to be a temporary blip while we wait for a breakthrough in the fight against SARS-CoV-2. Although many countries are presently in a second lockdown, a post-COVID green recovery is advancing the sustainability and closed loop agenda. This significantly affects the packaging sector, and vendors are responding. Paper manufacturer Sappi says all its material development is based on wood fibres which are a renewable source. Product-wise, it is striving to make them fully recyclable or even compostable to support the circular economy. The vendor is currently working on increasing the sustainability of the next generation of barrier papers as an alternative to film- and foil-based packaging.
FEATURE Sustainable Packaging
The other heartening news is that the results from numerous surveys recently undertaken on sustainable containers bode well for the future (see ‘Providing packaging support’, left). But the reality of the situation is far from clear-cut and often muddied by lobbyist groups and misinformation about what is sustainable and what is not. This has unfortunately led to the packaging sector having to grapple with numerous issues. Some of these include: the myth that plastic is a completely unsustainable choice when, in fact, it can be a viable option; apprehensions about aspects of bio-based materials, particularly concerning land use; confusion over the difference between biodegradable and compostable; and finally, problems with determining what can be recycled or reused. It will require a concerted effort by the entire supply chain to educate end users.
Paper packaging in all forms is replacing plastic varieties THE PAPER CHASE One sector benefitting from the rise in green packaging is the paper industry, which is at long last winning the credibility battle over its environmental credentials. The public is also becoming increasingly familiar with certifications such as FSC and PEFC. “Sustainability is a global topic, important to all businesses. We are noticing it as a huge priority in the paper and packaging industry, with the call for products with a strong sustainability profile continuing to increase for our customers and wider society,” Johannes Klumpp, Marketing & Sales Director at Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper, told OPI. NORPAC VP of Sales and Marketing Tom Crowley supports the sentiment, adding that legislation which limits or bans the use of plastic bags, for example, is stimulating demand for paper products. “Paper packaging in all forms is replacing plastic varieties, and most consumers and governments are seeing the advantage of this substitution,” he asserts. “We’ve expanded the production and sale of our lightweight recycled packaging papers, and in doing so, are keeping 300,000 tons of mixed paper out of landfill.”
IT’S COMPLICATED The answer to green packaging is complex and requires fundamental changes in the supply chain in terms of sourcing, materials, optimisation and recovery. But its significance in the circular economy and role in helping to address some environmental concerns from consumers is producing rapid innovation and collaboration. With an ever-louder mantra of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, there seems to be little excuse for not embracing sustainable solutions.
OF TIME? The unabated use of technology to run our daily lives has led to the global scourge of e-waste. This major environmental issue requires solutions, and fast – by Michelle Sturman
hat weighs 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) and possesses a raw material value of around $57 billion per year? The answer is Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) – more commonly known as e-waste – and it is the fastest growing waste stream worldwide. According to The Global E-waste Monitor 2020: Quantities, Flows and the Circular Economy Potential, a mere 17.4% of the 53.6 million Mt of e-waste generated in 2019 was officially documented as properly collected and recycled. Additionally, the total weight (excluding photovoltaic panels) of worldwide electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) increases by 2.5 million Mt on an annual basis. By 2030, the global generation of WEEE is projected to grow to 74.7 million Mt – almost double that of 2014. There are three primary drivers of e-waste. The first is consumption of EEE. This is likely to rise this year because of COVID-19 and the purchasing of items like laptops, tablets and desktop computers due to work-from-home guidelines and the increase in online education. The second is the shorter lifecycle of EEE, especially for items such as smartphones. The third is the scarcity of repair options available for electronic and electrical items – it is often less expensive and more straightforward for consumers to replace rather than fix equipment. This has led to the hoarding of EEE within home and office environments. The proliferation of smart devices linked to IoT is increasingly exacerbating the problem as EEE moves into sectors such as furniture, clothing, transport, health, security and energy. At the moment, there are six categories of e-waste: temperature exchange equipment, screens and monitors, lamps, large equipment, small equipment, and small IT and telecommunication equipment.
WHAT A WASTE Last year, three-quarters of global e-waste was composed of small, large and temperature exchange equipment, with the latter increasing the most in total weight generated since 2014. Screens and monitors have registered a slight decrease (-1%), but this is attributed to the replacement of heavy CRT monitors with lighter flat panel displays. In terms of the regional distribution of all this waste, Asia produced the highest quantity in 2019 at 24.9 million Mt, followed by the Americas (13.1 million Mt), Europe (12 million Mt), Oceania (2.9 million Mt) and Africa (0.7 million Mt). However, in terms of collection and recycling rates, Europe came out top in 2019 with 42.5%, with second-placed Asia considerably lower at 11.7%. The Americas and Oceania were not far behind (9.4% and 8.8% respectively), while Africa suffered the lowest rate at 0.9%. As of today, only 78 countries have adopted an e-waste policy, legislation or regulation while the recycling infrastructure differs greatly between high, middle and low-income nations. Broadly speaking, the richer a country, the better developed its waste recycling set-up. Despite this, it is estimated that around 8% of e-waste is still thrown into standard waste bins – typically small equipment and small IT electronics – where it is subsequently landfilled or incinerated. Often, discarded items that can be reused are shipped to low or middle-income countries and an alarming amount of electronic scrap continues to be exported illegally or stolen.
TIPS FOR RESELLERS
E-waste is a significant global problem, so every action taken to help reduce it counts. With so many obsolete or broken electronic goods sitting in offices and homes, resellers can become an indispensable partner for the responsible reuse, repair or recycling of these unwanted items. They can link up with charities that can repair goods, partner with reputable recycling firms, investigate manufacturer and wholesaler take-back programmes and become a local collector, and check municipality guidelines to see how to dispose and recycle e-waste.
TCO CERTIFIED OFFERS SUSTAINABILITY IMPACT TOOL TCO Development, the organisation behind the environmental certification TCO Certified, has extended its online Product Finder to include measurable sustainability performance data for certified electronic items. The new functions in Product Finder enable purchasers to access detailed information on TCO Certified IT products, such as the percentage of post-consumer recycled plastic content, weight, energy consumption and battery cycles. It is also possible to calculate an item’s CO2 emissions and energy costs in the use phase. Product Finder users can then export the data to use in its measurement, reporting and communication efforts. “Proof and measurement are key to driving sustainability. Placing trust in unverified product claims can put purchasing organisations at risk of greenwash. In addition to the verification in TCO Certified, the new Product Finder features offer measurable data to purchasers wishing to talk about the sustainability impact of the IT products they use,” says TCO Development Global Director of Purchaser Engagement Clare Hobby. Visit: https://tcocertified.com/product-finder for more information.
A mere 17.4% of the 53.6 million Mt of e-waste generated in 2019 was officially documented as properly collected and recycled COMPLETING THE LOOP There are many challenges surrounding e-waste, but solutions are being sought. The Circular Economy Action Plan, for example, forms one of the key blocks within the EU Green Deal (see page 50 for more details), which adjusts the linear WEEE Directive of ‘take, make, use, dispose’ to one based on ‘reduce, reuse, return and recycle’. The plan aims to tackle the entire life cycle of products by promoting circular economy processes and sustainable consumption, and ensuring the resources used are preserved within the economic system for as long as possible. It also widens the EU Ecodesign Directive to include aspects such as the ‘right to repair’. This
A TOXIC ENVIRONMENT In countries with a minimal or absent waste recycling framework, WEEE is invariably left to the informal sector to deal with. In this scenario, e-waste is frequently dealt with in a dangerous and toxic environment, with severe health consequences for the workers concerned and nearby human and wildlife populations. Most EEE contains hazardous substances like mercury, brominated flame retardants, chlorofluorocarbons or hydrochlorofluorocarbons. Not only do they have an impact on human health and the wider environment, but the incorrect administration of this type of waste contributes to global warming. According to the Monitor, non-recycled EEE means it cannot substitute primary raw materials and help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are created from their extraction and refinement. E-waste also contains several precious metals such as gold, silver, copper and platinum, critical raw materials including cobalt, palladium, indium and germanium, along with non-critical metals like aluminium and iron. Estimates suggest that at the current documented collection and recycling rate, an additional four Mt of raw materials could have been made available for recycling.
currently focuses on EEE household appliances like washing machines and televisions, but is expected to be expanded into other categories like small consumer electronics such as mobile phones and laptops. Going further, a sustainable products initiative will revise the Ecodesign Directive with other legislative measures. These are designed to make goods more ecological, durable and energy-efficient, as well as address the presence of harmful chemicals. It should be noted that Europe is not unique in proposing such measures. As of last year, 20 US states had signed up to legislate the Right to Repair bill. While it is abundantly clear that much needs to be done to halt the massive amount of WEEE being incinerated, dumped in landfill, or exported to countries with minimal infrastructure or environmental controls, moves are underway to address these issues. The bottom line is that embracing a circular economy for EEE provides environmental, financial as well as brand benefits and will reduce the amount of e-waste we create.
November/December 2020 31
The business of SUSTAINABILITY
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, recovery has been linked to sustainability. But what does it take to place it back firmly on the business agenda?
ith the arrival of COVID-19, the global push towards sustainability took a back seat. Now, as we approach the end of the year, talk has turned to the post-pandemic ‘green recovery’ as a means of reviving economies, reducing inequalities and upping resilience. OPI’s Michelle Sturman talks to Filippo Veglio, Managing Director, World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD) about its vision for creating a better future for everyone.
OPI: Firstly, for anyone who may be unfamiliar with WBCSD, please provide a brief introduction to what you do. Filippo Veglio: WBCSD has been around for 25 years with the mission to make sustainable businesses more successful. We are a membership organisation representing a network of some 200 companies globally, covering approximately 20 industry sectors. WBCSD looks at how to embed the principles of sustainability into organisational strategy and decision-making, as well as the various disclosure mechanisms that firms have.
OPI: In 2010, you developed Vision 2050. Could you give some background to this, including what’s happened over the previous decade, and the current ‘refresh’ of this plan? FV: Slightly over a decade ago, a dozen or so members sat down and asked how do we, from a commerce perspective and as ambitious organisations wanting to drive sustainability, articulate what the desired end point is of all our efforts? The result was expressed as building a world where nine billion people are living well and within the boundaries of the planet. One relatively groundbreaking detail revolved around the idea that the current business model is not sustainable. Referring to your question about the refresh, probably now more than ever, what we have is even less sustainable than previously thought. Clearly, there is an overshoot concerning what the Filippo Veglio planet can sustain. There is also the necessity to refresh our vision to take into account the  financial crisis, geopolitical and technological developments and two incredibly strong agreements – the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A decade is a long time in terms of those developments, so we’re looking at how Vision 2050 needs to adapt to this reality.
OPI: WBCSD has talked about ‘resetting capitalism’ in respect of improving the way consumption and production works. It sounds like a grandiose idea. How do you even begin to accomplish this? FV: It’s a good question. We’re planning several mindset shifts which, without getting too technical, relate to nine elements – the same as in the original Vision – that express how we get to shape the refreshed Vision 2050 pathway and where the opportunities lie. Take, for example, energy and power or mobility systems. What actions are required by companies, governments, policymakers, finance and technology to move these to an increased level of sustainability? We’re in an era of transformation from 2020 to 2030, leading, hopefully, to at least partially reaching the SDGs. We have a very clear ambition in this regard and are doing our best from a business angle to contribute to them. It may sound grandiose, but we essentially look at it all in terms of three ‘Rs’ – reinvention, resilience and regeneration. I’ll briefly describe them because they are all interconnected.
How do you reinvent and drive capitalism towards positive outcomes in line with sustainability imperatives?
For more from the interview with Filippo Veglio, visit the Magazine section on opi.net
bring their partners along in those value chains, and encourage adherence to guidelines? Clearly, the main challenge is not to convince large, exposed brands about sustainability, but to bring this issue down to the reality of entrepreneurs, SMEs, family-owned companies – that’s not pejorative, it’s a positive. We explore the policy and finance incentives that could be given to them so they align behind it – not only because it’s a must, but due to the fact it makes good business sense. We are trying to do our part by working globally through local counterparts which have in their membership over 5,000 organisations, some of which are smaller companies. We look at how to engage in advocacy and capacity building, as well as raising awareness about the exchange and adaptation of tools. A key area for members is how to lead to bring others on board and create patience. It’s also about having personal empathy for the realities of many businesses across the world which are struggling. The sustainability debate is won or lost at this level. We hope to provide the tools that can at least rally interest and then make sustainability more tangible for these kinds of smaller companies.
OPI: Your members are corporates, but the majority of the world’s businesses are SMBs – how do we get them on board? FV: You’re right, and I am giving you only the perspective of an organisation which works with those businesses that are committed to a programme of sustainability. These are companies taking action at a strategic level, and their decision-making and disclosures are in line with the requirements and imperatives of sustainability. Is everybody on board with this? Absolutely not, let’s be honest. WBCSD members are corporates – hundreds of thousands of employees and a huge reach through their supply chains. So the question becomes: In what way can they lift standards,
OPI: There is an emphasis on how businesses must be sustainable, and there’s talk about the ‘green recovery’ from governments currently, but how do you get them to work in tandem? FV: WBCSD is a business organisation, but in our DNA and at our very core is the idea of collaboration. How do we bring firms together on pre-competitive issues that are affecting organisations from all kinds of sectors across different value chains? In what way can collaboration be embedded in a wider sphere? For example, getting scientists to advise and challenge you on what you’re working on, or governments involving incentives or legislative frameworks to encourage this transition and accelerate transformation. This is at the heart of Vision 2050, and I really want to underline that what we want to contribute is a business perspective which we can then table dialogues around. In the EU Green Deal (see also Focus, page 50), you can see the growth and climate agenda coming together. I think there are some very interesting developments at the level of central banks, the EU, and from individual governments around the necessity to inject capital into the economy because of COVID, but in a way that drives them towards more sustainable outcomes.
The current model of capitalism is optimised mostly around financial capital and not necessarily towards delivering natural and social capital. Reinvention is a provocative word – used deliberately – but how do you reinvent and drive capitalism towards positive outcomes in line with sustainability imperatives? Resilience, which I think unfortunately and tragically so because of COVID, is definitely seen now as a real need. The question is how to embed resilience more strongly in sustainability and transformational thinking. Last but not least, regeneration. It’s one thing to always aim for more efficient outcomes, but how do you actually bring about greater regeneration for the ecosystems that surround us, and on which we depend? There is very little flexibility or slack in this. In this sense and it’s a very personal opinion, COVID has at least helped us to see the planet can rejuvenate if given the opportunity.
Sustainability 2020 G erman manufacturer edding takes its responsibility towards the environment extremely seriously and has developed a comprehensive sustainability action plan. Areas covered by the programme include refilling, recycling, carbon-neutral production and the conservation of resources.
REFILLING EXTENDS PRODUCT LIFE The various types of refillable markers and writing instruments offered by edding play an important part in saving resources. In fact, refill inks are available in an array of colours for around 70% of the company’s range. One bottle of ink holds enough for up to 15 refills, thereby considerably extending the lifespan of a marker. Refilling not only avoids waste, but also reduces the amount of plastic needed to produce new markers. Thanks to the user-friendly refilling process using either a drop dispenser or capillary system, ink can be topped up cleanly and with ease. Many edding products also have replaceable nibs.
RETURNS BOXES FOR EMPTY MARKERS It’s such a waste to throw old pens away as they contain valuable materials that could be recycled. But the question is: what to do with used and depleted markers and writing instruments? edding provides the answer with a returns box service for all empty disposable pens or refillable markers that are completely worn out – whatever the brand. Initially implemented in Germany, there are plans to extend the scheme across Europe. In
collaboration with a company that specialises in plastic recycling, edding has created a recycling loop, whereby over 70% of the plastic recovered is fed back into the manufacture of new products. CARBON-NEUTRAL ECOLINE Generally, the best way to be sustainable is to minimise the consumption of resources wherever possible. Thanks to edding’s considerable investments in research and development, up to 90% of the plastic parts used in permanent, whiteboard and flipchart markers are made of recycled material. Most (83%) of it is post-consumer recycled material recovered from various types of plastic waste like old yoghurt pots, enabling edding to avoid up to 83 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. The edding 24 EcoLine highlighter offers excellent environmental credentials and was the first marker awarded the Blue Angel ecolabel. Its cap and barrel are made predominantly from renewable raw material sugar cane resources. The EcoLine is also certified as carbon neutral, and any residual, unavoidable carbon emissions are offset by edding through investment in climate protection projects such as the reforestation of rainforest in Brazil. SUPERB QUALITY Based on its outstanding sustainable properties, EcoLine has been honoured with the GREEN BRANDS Germany Quality Seal on three occasions. Another great source of pride for edding is the nomination of EcoLine for the German Federal Ecodesign Award 2020, the country’s highest state accolade for ecological design. Out of 147 projects, only 28 submissions made it through to the final round. This prestigious award is presented by the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the German Environment Agency in partnership with the International Design Center Berlin.
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It’s been an enormously challenging time for everyone in the business products industry. But many operators have triumphed in the face of adversity and found ways to grow and thrive during the coronavirus pandemic – through new products, pivoting their business in a different direction or simply outstanding customer service. We want to celebrate these successes, so enter the NAOPA now to reward your team, customers and business partners for what they have achieved.
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Best Product - Core Business Product Best Product - Furniture Best Product - Facilities, Breakroom and Safety Best Product - Technology Product Innovation of the Year People’s Choice Young Executive of the Year Professional of the Year Industry Achievement
fficeworks is committed to making a tangible difference to people and the planet. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but on the grounds that it is important to our team, customers, partners, shareholders and locations in which we operate. It is simply good for business. We know customers want to engage more in sustainability efforts. Our role is to make it easy for them to do so, without compromising the value of the products or services on offer. People also tell us that they recognise sustainability is a shared effort between our contribution as an organisation and the actions they take. In 2015, Officeworks established its Positive Difference Plan. This outlined the goals with which we would support our employees, enhance our support for communities, source goods in sustainable and responsible ways, and reduce the company’s overall environmental impact. This year, the approach has evolved considerably to include a further 18 pledges over the next five years to continue to make a positive difference in terms of sustainability.
DEEP COMMITMENT The latest responsibilities include establishing a diverse team that possesses a keen sense of belonging and is genuinely connected to its local neighbourhoods. It also involves taking meaningful climate action by committing to use 100% renewable electricity from 2025 and contributing to the circular economy by becoming a zero-waste business. Our two-for-one tree planting initiative, Restoring Australia, represents one way in which we make it effortless for customers to take further sustainable steps. Simply by buying paper products from Officeworks, they are helping rehabilitate landscapes across Australia. Since launching the programme in 2017, clients have helped us restore over 1,500 hectares of land – the target is to plant two million trees by 2025.
Globally, e-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams (see also Feature, page 30), and increasingly, consumers want to dispose responsibly of their unwanted items. Our Bring it Back programme is available across the Officeworks store network and provides customers with a free, easy and secure way to recycle items including printers, laptops, mobile phones, and ink and toner cartridges. We have also launched a national battery, pens and marker recycling programme – the mission is to repair, repurpose or recycle 17,000 tonnes of discarded items over the next five years.
Sarah Hunter is Managing Director of Australian office supplies reseller Officeworks
Officeworks is committed to making a tangible difference to people and the planet. Not just because it is the right thing to do […] It is simply good for business ESSENTIAL RULE As a company, we are continuing to explore ways to support our clientele and respond to their ever-changing needs, including providing them with an augmented range of ‘greener choice’ products that are better for the environment. We need to make it painless for buyers to discover these items wherever and whenever they shop – online or in store – and ensure they are affordable while being uncompromising on quality. The excellent progress we have made so far on our sustainability journey wouldn’t have been possible without the support, commitment and passion of our workforce, customers and partners, who all play a crucial part in making such a valuable impact. For more information on the progress of Officework’s Positive Difference Plan and 2025 goals, visit www.officeworks.com.au/pdp
CLOSE the LOOP
GRE THINKEINN G S
In this How to... guide, global business products reseller Lyreco elaborates on the various facets of its 2025 Circular Economy pledge
n 2020, Lyreco has taken a step forward on its continuous sustainability path by making the circular economy a priority in order to deliver even more sustainable products and solutions. In February, members of the group’s Executive Committee endorsed a Circular Economy pledge, a five-year project that aims to develop fully ‘circular’ solutions for the reseller’s customers. “In line with our company vision, sustainability is a fundamental component of the ‘great working day’ that we strive to deliver to all our customers and employees,” says Group CEO Greg Liénard. “Sustainability is a pillar of Lyreco’s mission: deliver sustainably what any workplace needs so its people can focus on what matters most.” The Circular Economy is now a key component of Lyreco’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy 2019-2025 and a strong lever of progress for its overall sustainability performance. As a distributor, Lyreco is the link between suppliers, manufacturers and customers. It’s in an ideal position to ‘close the loop; from manufacturing to recycling or reuse. The reseller has defined five broad commitments to be achieved by 2025, three of which involve the products it distributes.
1. Be the first company in our industry with a full range of recycle-ready items Lyreco will propose a ‘recycle-ready’ alternative for all product categories. Recycle-ready items are products made from materials that can be re-inserted into the end-to-end value chain. Criteria for recyclability or recycled contents will be assessed according to ISO14021 standards. 2. Provide end-of-life collection and process used materials back into the manufacturing chain Lyreco can offer a collection solution for all ‘recyclable’ products, ensuring their effective recycling. 3. Remove all non-circular packaging from products sold Lyreco aims to reduce packaging use and move to 100% recyclable, reusable and compostable plastic packaging. 4. Ban single-use or non-circular plastics from all group offices Lyreco will ban single-use and non-circular plastics from all its premises because “acting in an exemplary way is a prerequisite to engage our customers”. 5. Develop a circular economy standard for the workplace industry with European stakeholders Lyreco will contribute with European authorities and circular economy key actors to define a standard for the workplace.
COFFEE CONSUMPTION THE SUSTAINABLE WAY Since October 2019, single-use plastic and paper cups can no longer be found at Lyreco’s corporate headquarters in Marly, France. Previously, head office employees used more than 180,000 cups a year representing about one tonne of waste. All 840 staff members have been given a porcelain mug and a reusable glass bottle. The site’s coffee machines have been replaced by devices with an integrated mug detector. Visitors are provided with reusable cups that are made out of seaweed-based bioplastic. Upon leaving the premises, they drop the cups into a special container so they can be washed by Lyreco’s catering staff. The reseller’s move to mugs and glass bottles was made after it conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) of various alternatives. Based on one coffee per day per employee, it found that carbon emission benefits relating to the raw materials, production, distribution, use, cleaning and end-of-life of the mugs were achieved after 6-10 months. In addition to cutting out the waste, the change reduced CO2 emissions by an equivalent of 3.5 tons a year. Despite an increase in the use of water, cleaning products and hand towels, the LCA showed that the overall environmental impact of the reusable solution was considerably less than that of the disposable cups.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY PRINCIPLES IN PRINTING
According to a 2017 report by Easy Recyclage, a single office employee in France generates an average of 130 kg of waste per year. With this in mind, a primary ambition of Lyreco is to help its customers make faster progress towards a drastic reduction of non-recyclable waste in the workplace in an effort to, ultimately, reduce their impact on the environment. Idea Bank (Poland) One of the company’s main challenges was to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles by employees. To support this effort, Lyreco Poland suggested to Idea Bank to replace them with glass jugs with water filters in all its premises. In 2019, this resulted in Lyreco reducing its orders for water in disposable plastic bottles by more than 60%. Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Netherlands) Lyreco’s deliveries to Dutch national railway operator NS are already CO2 neutral. In 2020, Lyreco went further by taking the first steps to adopting a circular approach. In addition to the selection of eco-friendly products, a greater emphasis on the circular characteristics of items is now also being considered. When collecting used office supplies, Lyreco ensures that as many products as possible are recycled and the raw materials returned to producers for new items. Ramboll (Finland, Denmark, UK) Each year, millions of pens are thrown away. In 2020, Lyreco embarked on a project to tackle one of the biggest concerns relating to the environmental impact of disposable pens. This has led to Ramboll scaling down the number of ranges it makes available to employees from around 200 previously to 13 today. The customer decided to select a dedicated range of recycled and refilled pens from Pilot Corporation. “It’s still early days, but employees understand the reason for the range being slimmed down in favour of more sustainable products,” says Helene Byskov Christiansen, Lead Consultant Global Procurement at Ramboll. “Besides, since we have chosen to cooperate with Pilot, which delivers high quality, it mostly means an improvement in the product itself.”
Lyreco offers recycling services in more than ten product categories, including: laser and inkjet cartridges, batteries, light bulbs, electrics and electronics, paper, cardboard, cups, plastics bottles, aluminium cans and coffee capsules. “With our customers striving for sustainable printing practices, ink cartridges play a key role in this field,” says Bruno Pluchart, Lyreco Group International Category Manager, Tech and Print. Every year, the company collects about one million empty cartridges, which represents just over 700 tons. “We cannot continue to have a product lifecycle that involves using things just once,” he continues. “Therefore, a circular economy is truly the future; it is about making sure we can give products a second or third life. “Empty cartridges are recycled to produce new ones. They are collected, reshaped, cleaned, have parts replaced and are refilled with toner so they can be used again. This means fewer raw materials are used to produce new cartridges. When it comes to non-reusable cartridges, they are dismantled to their raw materials such as plastic and steel. These materials are then used for the production of other items. It’s a zero waste process.”
TOWARDS ZERO-WASTE WORKPLACES
HOW TO... Circular Economy
First steps on the way to closing the loop...
It’s safe and clean, BUT IS IT GREEN? There’s no doubt about the importance of cleanliness and safety at the moment, but is enough attention being paid to green jan/san and PPE? OPI’s Heike Dieckmann has been finding out
hen COVID-19 hit the world in early 2020, the need for PPE and all manner of cleaning solutions and materials was so urgent and so great that sustainability concerns – by and large – went right to the bottom of the pile of priorities. The health of the people on our planet had become far more important than the planet itself. Billions of single-use disposable face masks, aprons, gloves and wipes, small plastic bottles of hand sanitiser, not to mention the ferocious amount of chemicals in canisters of disinfecting and cleaning products, have done nothing to drive the green agenda. This sector, which had been making great strides in becoming environmentally responsible, seemingly put on the brakes in sustainability terms, largely as a result of the incredible and sudden spike in demand for items. Availability – and credibility – was an issue, sustainability wasn’t.
THE WAY FORWARD But many months on, what is the situation now – is there a better balance again? There are certainly solutions out there as many manufacturers of cleaning products and PPE are putting more emphasis on ensuring that everything – from raw materials all the way to packaging – has a minimal impact on the environment. Plant-based disinfectant sprays, probiotic cleaning products and responsibly-produced and recyclable PPE – all these items are out there and available.
Many vendors outside the jan/san and safety realm – particularly those with existing sustainability credentials – have also been growing their portfolios with new products in these categories. One of them is Eco Guardian, a Canadian company founded 17 years ago that made it its mission to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Its core line for many years were compostable breakroom and foodservice products. With the acute shortage of PPE in Canada in mind, Eco Guardian sprang into action. Says CEO Anil Abrol: “We had the connections to get PPE into Canada – fast. We knew that our factories had the material production expertise from the reusable bags we make. We also had insight knowledge of Health Canada’s regulations from our inpatient foodservice product line. “From there, it was a case of getting all the pieces in place. Eco Guardian now sells reusable masks, Health Canada-approved face masks and isolation gowns, children’s masks, thermometers and face shields.”
The health of the people on our planet had become far more important than the planet itself Clover Imaging Group is another organisation that has embraced PPE and cleaning solutions as an add-on to its offering. Not only did these products compensate for declines in the imaging category, but Clover also benefitted from its already solid sustainability reputation. As Executive Chairman Jim Cerkleski comments: “In the early days of the pandemic, it was impossible to get hand sanitiser. Clover has been a distributor for Soul CBD for several years and the company also manufactures hand sanitiser. We were able to leverage this relationship to get a high-quality, US-made hand sanitiser out to our dealer channel. That led to customers
Green Jan/San & PPE CATEGORY UPDATE
WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT… Green PPE and sustainable cleaning solutions are now available in much greater quantities than at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but to what extent are customers actually asking for them? Quite a divisive question, judging by the answers that OPI received from the reseller community, not just between continents but also regionally. Demand for sanitising products has gone through the roof, but while at the beginning all types of products were accepted, we now see more and more requests for ‘softer’, less aggressive alternatives. – Isabelle Huguet, Cleaning Group Category Director, Lyreco Naturally, we saw an increase in demand for jan/san and PPE products. As can be expected given the current climate, the focus for our customers has been on ensuring that products conform to the necessary standards. It’s fair to say their sustainability has been a secondary consideration. – Raffael Reichhold, CEO, Office Depot Europe Demand for masks and gloves has been very volatile, with considerable price fluctuations. Calls for more sustainable products in these categories have been rather muted. – Jens Melzer, Managing Director, LogServe (wholesale operation of German dealer group Soennecken), Germany Our impression is that the majority of people adhere to the rules [of wearing masks, for example] because they’ve been told to do so by politicians and governments. They don’t necessarily believe in their validity and because of this, cheap and basic are the main criteria. – Thomas Veit, Managing Director, soft-carrier, Germany Even here in California, the biggest concern at the start of the pandemic from our customer base was to simply get their hands on whatever PPE was available. As the market is becoming more plentiful and we’re seeing options for environmentally-preferred PPE, many customers are choosing ‘green’ products, although price and availability is still the greatest concern. – Margee Witt, CEO, Blaisdells, California, US
Sustainability is important when you feel secure about the future of your company and life itself. When faced with COVID-19 as an existential threat, sustainability remains a value, but it takes a back seat to surviving. No one has asked us about the disposability of products or their long-term toxicity. All they were concerned about was today and tomorrow and about whether a product worked against COVID. – Bob Mairena, CEO, Office Solutions, California, US
We have not had a single instance of a client seeking PPE products that are environmentally friendly. Most customers simply want products which help keep their employees, customers and communities safe. If PPE remains a fixture with our clients, I have no doubt that interest in green solutions will rise. With that said, most of our customers are reluctant to pay a premium for a commodity-type item solely on the basis that it is more environmentally friendly. Companies manufacturing these products must find ways to enhance their value beyond the potential environmental impact if they want to accelerate their adoption. As an example, customers are willing to buy reusable masks because they believe they are ultimately cheaper, provide a marketing opportunity for logos, or are safer due to some antimicrobial properties. The fact that they are potentially less impactful on the environment doesn’t seem to be a factor in the decision-making process. Finally, the Midwest lacks the infrastructure needed to truly embrace a green culture. Many of our cities are unable to find buyers for recyclable products and, as a result, items picked up for recycling often end up in landfill after all. We also lack a commercial composting facility in the state of Iowa so compostable items may also go to landfill unless the client has access to a private composting facility. – Lincoln Dix, VP Supplies Division, Storey Kenworthy, Iowa, US
requesting other PPE products and through our partnerships across the globe, we were able to source a wide assortment of these items. “Most recently, this led to discussions with a large, vertically-integrated manufacturer of disinfectant wipes. This company liked our green story and the PPE success we have had and was looking for a partner that could sell soft packs of wipes as an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic canisters. We purchased the production capacity for the soft packs and are now able to offer our partners a secure source of US-made, N-Listed (lab-certified to kill COVID-19) disinfectant wipes. They keep plastic waste out of landfills, and these packs are also much more efficient to ship, cutting down on greenhouse gases.” MIXED DEMAND Feedback from resellers as to the uptake of and requirement for green jan/san and PPE is mixed, to say the least (see left ‘What customers want…’). It’s certainly helpful when the reseller itself has an ingrained sustainability proposition, drives the agenda and the environmentally-sound products and solutions of its manufacturer partners. The UK’s Commercial Group is one such operator. As company co-founder and Managing Director Simone Hindmarch explains, the immediate response of its customers to COVID-19 was to ensure the health and well-being of staff. “Sourcing and providing accredited PPE options that would work was the first step. Cost was another focus, as revenues and profits were hit by the pandemic, so not only did clients want the right protection, they also wanted it affordably. “But over the past few months, we’ve started to see a gradual shift towards more sustainable options. Requests for reusable face coverings instead of disposables or bio-hygienic jan/san products are examples of that. There’s been an evolution from ‘What can you get?’ to ‘I know what I want, can you get it?’” After meeting the demands of the early scramble for available product, Commercial took the decision to step back and think about the issue in a more long-term holistic way. Says Hindmarch: “At board level, we talked about going a bit further than simply supplying PPE. We want to help deliver an overall solution. Ultimately, our aim is to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. By providing screens that allow for better distancing, clean air technology which kills airborne pathogens or smart thermometer access control, for instance, we can reduce the need for PPE.” KNOWLEDGE AND EDUCATION Unsurprisingly, education and training across the board is vital in an attempt to move from overzealous cleaning and safety procedures to a future where sustainability and employee protection work in tandem. Steve Ashkin, President of The Ashkin Group, a leading advocate for sustainability and green cleaning in the professional cleaning industry, says: “Some people want to use the harshest, strongest products out there. They think it’s
CATEGORY UPDATE Green Jan/San & PPE
somehow better or more effective. But you can’t kill a virus deader than dead.” He adds: “Of course, protecting people’s health is our number one priority. But we need to train people how to clean. The science is quite clear that current disinfectants are highly effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. But that’s only the case if the disinfectant is used properly.” (See OPI’s interview with ISSA’s Dianna Steinbach in OPI September/ October 2020, page 34). Ashkin also refers to the US Green Building Council which, in June, added a new pilot credit component to its LEED rating system in response to COVID-19. “Facilities and cleaning services managers are extremely busy right now and they need help,” he says. “The new credit, called Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space, is intended to support managers of buildings and spaces as they work to respond to the coronavirus pandemic through sustainable, healthy cleaning and hygiene practices. It provides guidance on effectively cleaning and disinfecting buildings using best practices that also meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Environmental Protection Agency guidelines relative to COVID-19.”
THE RIGHT BALANCE While supply chains for all manner of PPE and cleaning solutions have gone back to something approaching normal, the COVID-19 situation overall clearly hasn’t, with infection spikes, new lockdowns and ever more economic strife hitting us on a daily basis. Striking the right balance to make sure the planet emerges from this pandemic as minimally damaged as its population is challenging, to say the least.
A GAME of two halves Print and all that it entails has been an interesting category in an interesting year. It’s not going to disappear, that’s for sure, but it’s certainly become a whole lot more complex
– by Heike Dieckmann
act: print volumes in 2020 have seen sharp declines due to COVID-19 and the mass migration of large parts of the global workforce to the home as a place of work. And while printing has continued in the home office – and of course soared in some settings such as the healthcare sector – and also provided new opportunities, it’s not been a good year. According to research firm IDC, total page volumes are set to fall 13.7% in 2020, from 3.2 trillion pages in 2019 to 2.8 trillion this year. Myth: Managed print services (MPS) have lost their relevancy as a result of the home or – at best – hybrid working situation. This widely-held perception has not been substantiated by anybody OPI spoke to for the purpose of this article, nor by some of the most recent research reports available.
MPS OPTIMISM Indeed, in its State of the Channel 2020 survey which investigated attitudes among 205 channel organisations selling MPS in the UK, France, Germany and the US, Quocirca revealed that despite sales declines in 2020, the majority display optimism for next year, with 66% predicting revenues will rise in 2021. 34% of respondents confirmed to the print industry insight and marketing intelligence firm that selling MPS has opened new opportunities to provide value-added services while 32% said it has helped them build longer-term customer relationships.
Do those comments and figures tally with the fact that a considerable part of the workforce continues to be based at home? They certainly do, according to Tony Wills, Head of the Document Solutions Business Unit at Canon UK & Ireland. “If anything, MPS has increased in relevance as companies need to ensure they’re continuing to maintain the same level of support employees would receive in an office environment,” he says. “For example, businesses will want to ensure sensitive information isn’t compromised, and with the whole family potentially using the same printing device, security features will be more important than ever. As a result, having an MPS which extends beyond the physical office is critical for businesses to manage costs, security and auditing.” (see also ‘Print security at home – uncharted territory’, page 46)
We assisted many customers with making adjustments to their print environment, with equipment moves to the home or within the office Sarah Custer, VP of Services & Solutions at US-based Distribution Management, concurs and asserts that MPS – which the company offers through its mpsSELECT program – has never been more vital. “Of course, page volumes are down and we are observing this in nearly every vertical. But even with staff shifting to homeworking, we have significant ability to remotely support the environments that remain up and running, which has kept the overall decline somewhat in check. “We offer local device management services to keep the at-home, non-networked machines replenished. For the networked ones, we’ve continued shipping supplies just in time, based on predictive analytics and usage – which has been even more critical as of late.
For a somewhat alternative view of the print industry, listen to OPI Talk and our interview with imaging channel commentator Ray Stasieczko. Visit opi.net/podcast
For more feedback on topics such as consolidation in the print sector, visit the Magazine section on opi.net
Referring to specific hardware, there’s been a steady decline in A3 machines for some time, exacerbated by the pandemic which has further accelerated the transition to lower-cost A4 devices. Inkjet products are also in much higher demand. And while George refers to less price sensitivity due to high demand, this may be a relatively temporary occurrence as the supply chain recovers and also as companies – and entire industries like the hard-hit hospitality sector – return to work full time. Cost will be a crucial factor for those that have suffered the most over the course of 2020. Remanufactured cartridges perfectly fit the bill in this context, says Clover Imaging Group’s CEO Eric Martin, as do the refurbished printers the company has been selling through its subsidiary Depot International. WHERE TO FROM HERE? To say it’s all change would be an exaggeration, but the print category is certainly evolving. Home and hybrid working bring both tremendous opportunities as well as challenges for all channels. Consolidation is a foregone conclusion. So where are we headed? Dom Gryszan is Director of Marketing at Apogee, a UK-based company owned by HP Inc – which, incidentally, at the beginning of this year, was in the midst of a hostile takeover bid by Xerox, a bid that was dropped in the early stages of the pandemic in March. He concludes: “I don’t think we have yet seen the true impact of the outbreak on the businesses in our sector. “Pre-COVID, this segment saw many acquisitions by the OEMs and private equity (PE), driven by high multiples and purchase prices. This set certain expectations in the minds of owners looking to sell their operations in the near future. These are unrealistic post-COVID, but it will take time to adopt a more realistic view of the value of their businesses. Until then, the value they put on their companies won’t be attractive to OEMs or PE. “There have been few defaults on payments by clients so far, but every business has been affected. It will reduce their ability to pay and, ultimately, also their value. Once that hits the bottom line, we could see a surge in acquisitions of failing businesses, and more realistic prices for those looking to sell.”
CATEGORY UPDATE Imaging Supplies/MPS/Print November/December 2020
“We assisted many customers with making adjustments to their print environment, with equipment moves to the home or within the office. From a break-fix, remote triage standpoint, we increased our remote resolve rate over the same period last year, providing assistance for customers needing help. “Another key development has been our integration with smart device services. This enables even more remote diagnostics and resolve capabilities and further enhances our ability to minimise downtime as workers have returned to the office with limited internal resources. By continuing to support customers, we’ve kept these environments operational with as little interruption as possible.” Also paramount from a consumables perspective is the fact that MPS ties customers in contractually and that is crucial at a time when the Amazon threat is looming ever larger. OP resellers have certainly been losing out to discretionary spending – and this includes print hardware and consumables – which has gone to Amazon and other, non-OP, online players. As David Sass, President of Source Office & Technology – a US-based dealer that counts tech solutions, which comprises its MPS offering, as its fastest-growing category – says: “MPS is more important than ever for OP dealers as having your transactional ink/toner under an MPS agreement protects this business from both online transactional competitors as well as from copier dealers.” . AVAILABILITY ISSUES As regards hardware, COVID-19 has resulted in a considerable uptick in printer sales, often partially subsidised by employers who need their staff to be just as productive and effective at home as they were in the office. And while the whole print and imaging environment in educational settings has stood idle for a good part of the year, homeschooling has been a major driver for increased sales. Worksheets, background information, test papers, etc – educating children and students from home typically requires a lot of printing, despite their ever-growing digital astuteness. All this has posed its own challenges in terms of product availability. According to John George, Managing Director of UK-based technology and consumables wholesaler JGBM, stock availability was a real issue due to factory shutdowns at the beginning of COVID. “We’ve seen high demand and the challenge has been meeting that demand. We were able to pre-order early and through sourcing too, our print hardware sales are up year on year. We’ve also focused on helping dealers sell work-from-home technology products by issuing regular stock updates while also concentrating on sourcing stock. “Supply is still not back to normal levels due to how the pandemic has affected production, but demand remains high. In terms of margin, if anything, market prices went up because consumers are prepared to pay more.”
Imaging Supplies/MPS/Print CATEGORY UPDATE www.opi.net 46
PRINT SECURITY AT HOME – UNCHARTED TERRITORY The retreat to the home as a place of work has seen much-needed revenue opportunities for many operators in our industry, print certainly being a category which has benefitted from a hardware and consumables point of view. But with employees now printing from their home devices – or those provided by their employers at short notice – comes an issue that is relatively new in this setting: print security. Quocirca recently published a report – Printing in the Hybrid Workplace – which takes a look at UK and US IT decision-makers’ plans for a secure converged digital and print environment. According to this snapshot survey of over 300 IT experts, 83% of respondents state that their IT departments are either very or somewhat concerned about the security of information being printed on home machines. The report found that the US is more likely to provide approved devices to employees (59% against 36% in the UK) and to have implemented digital rights management (55% against 41%) in a bid to secure home print devices. LONG-TERM CONSIDERATIONS Hybrid working will most likely stay with us for some time, if not forever, and businesses are having to reassess the way they look at print security in a domestic – or combined home/ office – environment. Tony Wills, Head of the Document Solutions Business Unit at Canon UK & Ireland, says: “We’ve seen a rise in the sale of printers that are compatible with print security solutions. A high number of companies now want to buy these types of devices for employees working remotely to ensure they have the tools needed to work securely and productively. The responsibility of securing the homeworking setting is increasingly shifting to the employer and we will see this trend continue to rise.” It’s not just about the end point technology and how safe this is, however. As Dom Gryszan, Director of Business Strategy at UK-based MPS firm Apogee, says: “There are other practicalities to consider. Is the employer comfortable that an employee can access, download and potentially print sensitive information in their own home, for example? These are conversations we are having with many clients trying to find their way through the transition to homeworking. There are many solutions we can provide, but often it is not actually technology that is the issue, but rather the nuances of the way in which a business works and its perception of risk.” Global print management software firm PaperCut urges all businesses to consider the implications of ‘unmanaged’ remote print. The company asserts that unmanaged print can result in considerable costs for companies. Printing to a desktop printer can cost up to five times more compared to an office-based A3 multifunction device, for example.
The second concern is security, as just mentioned. GDPR hasn’t gone away during the pandemic and now more than ever companies need to keep a watchful eye on what is being printed, where it is being printed and whether those prints are secure. PaperCut’s advice is to follow a number of steps to keep remote print secure and print volumes down:
From top to bottom: Canon UK & Ireland’s Tony Wills, Apogee’s Dom Gryszan and PaperCut’s Steve Holmes
• Review IT print policies: do you need to introduce new guidelines when it comes to printing to protect confidential documents while users are working remotely? • GDPR awareness: kick off some refreshed employee training on the significance of GDPR compliance in this new environment and the importance of minimising waste to keep costs under control. • The cloud: investigate cloud-based solutions to track home printing. According to Quocirca’s aforementioned report, 49% of IT decision-makers have already deployed cloud for print management, with a further 36% planning to do so. • Flexibility: add secure and flexible printing solutions for employees who need to print securely over the internet and release their print jobs when they arrive at the office. Steve Holmes, EMEA Regional Director of PaperCut, states: “The new normal means that returning to our place of work will often be punctuated by periods of having to be based at home again. While many businesses have done a terrific job of helping their staff work from home effectively, our concern is that the sort of print processes and disciplines displayed in the workplace may fall through the cracks when people work from home. This leaves companies vulnerable to security breaches as well as suddenly escalating costs as staff expense back their print costs. “We’re advising companies to keep best print practice and intelligent print management solutions on the agenda even when their staff are working remotely. That way, they will enjoy better ways to keep their data secure, reduce their print costs and waste, and find more flexible and touch-free ways in which to operate in a post-pandemic world.”
The print and consumables category is often a tough one for office products resellers. But solutions are available to turn the challenge into an opportunity, says France-based Armor Group
he printing and consumables sector is under pressure like never before. What’s needed to reverse the sliding fortunes – and sales – are a willingness to change, new ideas and routes to market and, to top it off, excellent collaboration. Bob Reynolds, Sales Director at aftermarket consumables manufacturer Armor, talks to OPI about its dyalog managed print services (MPS) solution, how it can open up new lines of business, cement existing ones and create even more customer ‘stickiness’.
OPI: Let’s start with the overall premise that printer consumables are in decline. It appears that office products resellers in particular are missing out – why do you think that is the case? Bob Reynolds: You’re right. In a nutshell, there are four components that can explain this: The first one is the digital revolution. Whether we like it or not, mobile phone technology, cloud-based services and other software solutions result in both B2B and B2C users reducing their print volumes. We’re still far away from a paperless environment, but the declines are there and will continue. Secondly, OEMs in this space have embarked on an aggressive pricing strategy in an attempt to maintain their print volumes. They are prepared to literally slash pricing in order to keep or win a deal. We have seen examples where the recommended retail price for one consumable is in excess of €300 ($348), but the price given by the OEM, as part of a volume deal and linked to the end user committing to use only that OEM’s consumables, has been reduced to €50. It’s a discount I find difficult to justify. Thirdly, OEMs are often negotiating directly with large B2B corporate end users, cutting out their traditional business partners. The wholesalers are being used as a logistics tool, but OP resellers lose
out. Similar tactics are deployed in the B2C setting. This includes HP’s Instant Ink programme, for instance. On paper, it looks attractive, but the end user is completely tied into HP and thereby loses all possibility of choice. This type of programme also cuts out most of the reseller channel, with the exception of a few chosen HP partners. Finally, with the merging of A3 copier devices and A4 MFP devices, more people are addressing the same end user. The copier companies and to a lesser degree IT resellers are often very specialised in print; they have sales people who are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also capable of selling contractual deals. The latter is where OP dealers often fail. OPI: Why do they fail? BR: OP resellers typically have very strong and sustainable relationships with their customers. They offer tailor-made solutions, make desktop deliveries to specific departments – all that creates incredible loyalty. Print is different. Within medium or large corporate end users, you’re dealing with IT departments. Unlike copier companies or IT resellers, OP dealers don’t have relationships with this part of the company. IT people also consider print to be a pain. It’s not considered strategic and all they want to do is simplify the process or, better even, outsource the problem to someone else. The cost of printing is not their main concern. Copier dealers and IT resellers have a distinct advantage here: they have the right contacts, know the print business, speak the same language as IT people and and sell value propositions encompassing print as a service. Quite different from just selling a printer and its consumables. OPI: So how do OP resellers fit into Armor’s strategy and plans? BR: Historically, our customer base was made up almost entirely of OP resellers. However, for the above reasons, transactional volumes with these partners started to decline, mainly with the contract stationers that served large corporate end users, as the OEMs entered into direct relationships.
Simplicity from both an operational but also administrative perspective. l Cost reduction, not tying up too much capital and no signing of lengthy rental contracts. l No fixed tie-up with just one printer brand. l Consumables to be replenished automatically, no ordering needed and only one quarterly invoice that encompasses all print costs. l Sustainability awareness, with collection of empty, spent cartridges a must. l
Neither the copier dealers nor the OEMs could – or wanted to – fulfil these requirements. We believed we could, in collaboration with our OP reseller partners, so we launched dyalog, a contractual-based offering conceived by Armor that is now available in all major European markets. OPI: So dyalog has been going for a few years? BR: The programme was launched in 2018 on a proof-of-concept basis. In the first year, we signed up over 800 devices; in 2019, a further 1,200 devices were put under contract. At the end of Q3 this year, we had 3,000 devices under contract, but as you can image, COVID-19 hit our 2020 plans somewhat in that we had planned for over 4,000 – a loss of 25%.
OPI: It sound as if OP dealers can ‘sell’ this MPS model without having huge amounts of expertise in this area themselves.
If your offering and service is as good as you say it is, there is no need to have a contract, as neither the reseller nor the end user will want to walk away BR: That’s correct. There needs to be a willingness to accept change, that’s certainly a prerequisite. Dealing with IT departments, for example, which may not be their usual port of call. The dyalog team is constantly on hand to provide full support and is also involved in joint visits to customers to help the reseller initially. As I said, all the back-office work is done by dyalog while dealers get on with their usual transactional business. They merely bill the end user quarterly – the rest is handled on behalf of the reseller by the dyalog team. OPI: Finally, what are your hopes for Armor as well as OP resellers with regards to the print and imaging space? BR: We believe Armor – and dyalog – is a very viable, alternative route to market for these resellers. If they are innovative and prepared to change, they have an excellent chance of creating value while at the same time reinforcing that all important customer loyalty. On a slightly different note, one of my aspirations is to ultimately completely do away with contracts. If your offering and service is as good as you say it is, there is no need to have a contract, as neither the reseller nor the end user will want to walk away. You can’t get a better endorsement that your concept works – for everyone.
OPI: How does dyalog work? BR: The keyword in everything was simplicity. The premise is that the reseller promotes the programme and Armor takes over all the back-office duties on its behalf. Investments by the customers are only required when each individual printer needs replacing. As Armor is a multibrand operator, we have the ability to do that very easily. It starts with a free, no commitment audit of the existing print fleet that shows information about the printers in place, how many prints have been made, mono/colour usage and so on. The reseller – with support from the Armor dyalog team – can then advise the end customer how best to manage the fleet, the cost of doing so, the savings made, etc. We’ve found that seven out of ten audits lead to further engagement, which is testament to the quality of information supplied. When an agreement is reached, simplicity again is key. No lengthy and binding contracts, just a one-year commitment from both the OP dealer and the end user.
Once that is done, the dyalog team installs the data collection agent permanently with the end user, and also ensures the smooth running from an operational perspective over the length of the contract. At the end of each quarter, dyalog provides the reseller with a report and an invoice covering the quarter. The reseller then invoices the end user with the previously agreed margin added.
At the other end of the spectrum, it was difficult to address the very small customer and the SOHO market – that side of the business was primarily served through retail and etail. Apart from supporting our retail partners, improving volumes in this segment was going to be tough for Armor. On the plus side, what was left was this massive market of mid-sized companies. They were not well addressed by the OEMs – too small – or by OP resellers, as the IT department called the shots. This demographic, from a print perspective, was served by the copier and IT resellers. We set up a project group – headed by my colleague Pierre Lefort – back in 2016 to assess what these types of customers want and expect from a print partner. The results were quite clear.
n December 2019, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen revealed the continent’s ambitious plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050. According to von der Leyen, the EU Green Deal is a roadmap incorporating 50 policy measures for a climate and nature-friendly Europe. “Our goal is to reconcile our economy with our planet and make it work for our people. This is Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment,” she said at the time. The three fundamental tenets of the Green Deal are to ensure there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, no person or place is left behind, and economic growth is decoupled from resource use. It is designed to promote the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy through the Circular Economy Action Plan, restore biodiversity, and cut pollution.
TAKING ACTION A proposed European Climate Law will enshrine the 2050 climate-neutrality objective into EU law, with all policies contributing to this aim. Current legislation will be up for review to guarantee it orients with the new goals. In short, this means EU institutions and member states will be collectively bound to achieve the target, with all sectors of the economy and society committed to play a role. Commenting on the law, EVP for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans says: “We are turning words into action, to show our European citizens that we are serious about reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The European Climate Law is also a message to our international partners that this is the year to raise global ambition together, in the pursuit of our shared Paris Agreement goals.” Achieving net-zero will be easier said than done. Already, large corporates in certain industrial sectors are lobbying to water down aspects of the Green Deal, arguing that goals are unachievable under the new guidance. For example, the emission reductions target for 2030 is currently set at 40%, but has been increased to 50-55% under the Green Deal. In September, however, members of the European Parliament voted for an upgrade to 60%, with the final figure yet to be decided. This aside, for Europeans to reach net-zero midway through this century, all economic sectors will need to take action. This includes measures
such as investing in environmentally-friendly technologies, supporting innovation, cleaner and cheaper transportation, decarbonising the energy industry, ensuring buildings are more energy efficient, and working with international partners to improve worldwide environmental standards. Meanwhile, the European Climate Pact is intended to rally citizens, communities, schools, regions and organisations to secure a better future. Here, the emphasis is to give “everyone a voice and space to design new climate actions, share information, launch grassroots activities and showcase solutions that others can follow”.
This is Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment CREATING COOPERATION Establishing climate neutrality within the next 30 years will require significant public and private investment, with the EU providing financial and technical assistance to help with the transition to the green economy. The Just Transition Mechanism will help mobilise at least €100 billion ($118 billion) between 2021-2027 in the most affected regions. This is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the €1 trillion in financing over the next decade through the Green Deal Investment Plan. This will be derived from several sources, including capital from EU and national budgets, coupled with attractive investment conditions and measures to boost green public and private funding. To maintain Europe’s climate-neutrality ambition, a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is being proposed to reduce the risk of carbon leakage. This means that if EU products are replaced by more carbon-intensive imports or production is moved from the EU to countries with less stringent policies, then the mechanism (effectively a tariff) would ensure the price of imports better reflect their carbon content. The introduction of the CBAM is planned for Q2 2021. The Green Deal will affect everyone operating within Europe. The expectation is that there will also be tougher sustainability commitments in future trade agreements.
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Anticipating and responding to industry trends at an early stage has stood ACCO Brands in good stead and allowed it to offer customers the products that they need right now
s demand for products in the business supplies sector has fluctuated wildly in this pandemic year, ACCO Brands EMEA has been steady in offering solutions to the challenges its customers have encountered. OPI spoke to SVP of Marketing Arild Olsen about the products that have helped these consumers to manage and thrive in what has been uncharted territory in many ways.
OPI: It’s been a testing 2020 for all the obvious reasons. What has been your experience over the past ten months or so? Arild Olsen: ACCO Brands EMEA’s performance pre-COVID was very strong but, like all businesses, the company was hit by the global pandemic in March 2020. All markets were affected to different degrees, but pretty much in line with the spread of the virus. Thankfully, we were able to continue serving our customers during this difficult period due to our flexible organisational set-up and robust supply chain. Measures were put into place quickly to ensure the safety of our employees, and all our distribution centres remained open at all times. We have also benefitted from our very broad product portfolio and years of focus on anticipating and responding to upcoming trends such as working from home.
Leitz IQ: one of ACCO Brands’ shredders for the small and home office
OPI: ACCO’s product portfolio is huge. Where have you seen the highest growth versus perhaps a tailing off in demand? AO: Rather than a drop-off in demand for specific categories, we have seen an adjustment in the mix of products – that’s probably the best way of putting it. In the business machines segment, which includes shredders and laminators, for instance, we are selling far more smaller machines. Shredders like the Leitz IQ and Rexel Momentum are perfect for working at home and ensuring that data protection and GDPR guidelines are still being met by employees. We’ve had fantastic feedback for these products. The need for temporary signage in a wide range of environments has also meant a big uptick in the demand for laminators and their accessories, both at home – with the Leitz WOW model for example – or in the office where our innovative GBC Foton Automatic Laminator is very popular. In addition, and again with signage solutions in mind, our visual communications brand Nobo has generated great demand. We have also developed a completely new category of Nobo divider products to enable businesses such as restaurants and offices to address social distancing requirements and to continue trading. Other items that are very sought after are computer accessories – we see huge demand for these solutions. We’ve made considerable investments in keyboards, mice, docking stations and ergonomic products under the Kensington brand. With people now much more conscious about a healthy workspace – at home or in the office – our Leitz TruSens Air Purifiers have seen remarkable success. As people spend more time at home, we have seen great demand for storage solutions such as Leitz MyBox and Click & Store which both fit perfectly in the home environment as well as the modern office. At the same time, our Rapid DIY tools as well as our fine art pencils from Derwent have seen further growth and popularity. OPI: Before we talk more about this new hybrid workforce, I wanted to ask you about the topic of sustainability. Has that taken a backseat at all, in among more pressing issues?
ADVERTORIAL ACCO Brands
AO: It hasn’t. As a business, we are only too aware of our impact on the world around us and the responsibilities associated with that. Our work to continually improve our processes and products has been an ongoing task for many years. On the product note and due to increased demand, we have recently launched the first CO2-neutral lever arch file as well as 100% recycled pockets and folders. We’ve also expanded and relaunched the Leitz Recycle range in October which is completely CO2 neutral, 100% recyclable and, depending on the product, made from recycled plastic or card. OPI: Let’s go back to the current homeworking phenomenon. Products for this setting are not really new to you, are they? AO: No, they’re not. We’ve seen the rise of the home office for many years and invested relentlessly in this segment. About ten years ago, we launched the immensely popular Leitz WOW range which matches home interior design trends. Our new WOW colours were introduced in January of this year and are now more relevant than ever. We have continuously extended our portfolio for this demographic in order to meet all requirements.
Cleaner air with the Leitz TruSens Air Purifier
A hybrid working arrangement that is split between the home and the physical office will become the norm A new range addressing this customer segment is Leitz Cosy, launched in October 2020, where we yet again expanded our product portfolio with great solutions specifically for homeworking. Leitz Cosy perfectly blends a functional homeworking set-up with nice home interiors. It features a minimalist design, inviting matt-finish colours, premium quality as well as completely plastic-free packaging. We’ve seen tremendous interest in this range. The line includes wireless phone chargers, wall clocks, an attractive storage range, including the stylish storage carry box, as well as sophisticated note-taking accessories, such as magnetic glass whiteboards, wipe-clean glass desk notepads or desktop easels. OPI: Do you foresee a return to the office and, as such, changing customer behaviour again?
Meeting customer demand: Leitz Recycle and the first CO2-neutral lever arch files
AO: Homeworking was already a slow-burning trend. It was hugely accelerated by the crisis, but will continue after the pandemic subsides I’m sure. A hybrid working arrangement that is split between the home and the physical office will become the norm – and the expectation of staff – in the future, I’m convinced of that. OPI: That surely represents a massive opportunity for you? AO: It does. We have a full range of solutions that are designed to create a modern workspace – wherever it is – in terms of aesthetics, quality and functionality as well as, of course, employees’ health and safety. OPI: Too much future-gazing appears rather futile at a time when it’s hard to predict what the next week or month might bring. But let me just ask this: how well positioned for the future is ACCO Brands EMEA in your opinion? AO: Over its history of more than 100 years, ACCO Brands has been through many crises. We have always managed to come out stronger at the other end. I believe this will also be the case this time. 2020 has been a record year for us in terms of new product launches. We have made substantial investments to ensure we can continue to react quickly to new product demands. We also work closer than ever with our reseller partners to guarantee the best service for end consumers. From a company point of view, the current crisis has really brought the teams across Europe together. There’s been a fantastic commitment and passion throughout the organisation to get solutions to our customers quickly and support them at this difficult time. So yes, to answer your question, I think ACCO Brands is very well-positioned going forward.
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increase in turnover in 2020, compared to 73% earlier in the year. In addition, distributors are slightly less positive about gross margin trends: while a few are expecting their margins to increase in 2020, the shift towards predicting lower yields this year is more pronounced.
arly in 2020, OPI and specialist office products market research firm Martin Wilde Associates (MWA) published The View From The Top: The State Of The OP Industry 2019-20. This annual survey, in its seventh edition this year, serves as an authoritative sourcebook for our sector. There was plenty to report on and digest from 2019 and the start of 2020, all of which is covered in the original study. But then COVID-19 happened, the world as we knew it turned upside down and a completely different dimension was added to previously made forecasts and predictions. An update was needed to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business supplies industry.
The research update has [...] found dramatic changes in forecast product trends in 2020 As such, OPI and MWA took the opportunity to revisit the senior industry executives in Australia, Benelux, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the USA who had originally participated in the State Of The OP Industry survey. What are these executives’ thoughts now as regards core OP market value, their sales and margins, as well as the growth or decline of key product categories and distribution channels? GLOOMY PREDICTIONS The latest research has unearthed some fascinating new findings. Across the seven the shrinkage in geographies, the expected demand for core OP in 2020 has accelerated considerably, for instance, with 94% of all from the respondents expecting this, compared to 85% earlier in the year. The anticipated downward trend is now also significantly steeper. While respondents’ overall revenues are still expected to outperform the core OP market in 2020, most currently believe that these will be lower than those of 2019: only 37% expect any
SHIFTING TRENDS The research update has also found dramatic changes in forecast product trends in 2020, all caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Cleaning/janitorial supplies, PPE and technology products now head the list of categories that are most widely expected to grow in the surveyed countries, displacing catering/breakroom supplies and office furniture. The previous ascendency of these latter segments has been completely thrown into reverse. As regards traditional stationery, the pandemic has done little to arrest the long-standing downward movement – this continues to be the category by far the most likely to diminish this year. Meanwhile, other key core OP segments such as cut office paper and printer/ IT consumables appear to be rallying slightly, not least because of the move to homeworking. Indeed, the workplace exodus is clearly affecting trends across the distribution channels. Amazon/ Amazon Business and – to a lesser extent – other internet-only OP resellers continue to be the most widely expected to take share in 2020, with eBay also appearing as an upcoming channel in many countries for the very first time. Unsurprisingly, COVID has hugely benefitted the facilities supplies specialists, while operators such as paper merchants and furniture distributors are forecast to be struggling this year.
The State Of The OP Industry Report
Please visit www.opi.net/soti2020 for the comprehensive update report which also includes the full original survey published in April.
To be or not to be... GREEN
The OPI Green Thinking 2020 survey polled industry members from around the world, providing interesting insight into the importance of sustainability and corporate social responsibility in the business supplies sector
nalysing the second OPI Green Thinking survey, it is apparent that the coronavirus pandemic is, and will continue to be, a significant factor in our industry’s response to sustainability. Environmental concerns have clearly been taking a back seat while companies and customers dealt with COVID-19 and the resulting impact on their businesses. There is some positive news too, however. The use of environmentally-friendly packaging is on the increase, and more industry members are working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Do you think the move to the ‘sustainable office’ will transform your product mix? n It already does n It will soon n Not in the next few years
Are customers asking for more environmentally-friendly products?
Yes, definitely................ 44% Not noticeably so.......... 49% No..................................... 7% In which categories do customers request more sustainable products? n Stationery 60 n Office paper n Jan/san 50 n Breakroom n Education/school 40 n Office furniture n Safety
What percentage of your current sales is due to ‘green’ products? n 1-25% n 51-75% n 26-50%% n 76-100%
51% 50% 39% 28% 27% 15% 4%
Do you offer customers environmentallyfriendly packaging? n Yes, all of it n Yes, some of it n No
Do you have a packaging take-back scheme?
70% Have you taken steps to reduce your carbon footprint in the past 12 months?
How important is sustainability to your organisation?
Very important............. 43% Important...................... 38% Not important............... 19%
RESEARCH Green Thinking Survey 2020
Specifically referring to single-use plastic, are customers asking you to reduce this?
November/December 2018 57
Green Thinking Survey RESEARCH
Do you have an e-waste policy in place for customers and/or your own business? n Yes, for customers n Yes, for my own business n Both n No n Thinking about it n What’s e-waste?
What are the primary influences driving the importance of sustainability in your organisation? It’s the right thing to do n Customer expectations n Good for the brand n New product opportunities n Employee expectations n Legislation n New category opportunities n
80 70 60 50 40 30 20
72% 64% 47% 40% 35% 28% 19%
Do you have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme?
Yes.....................................50% No......................................37% Working on it...................13% What does your CSR programme mainly focus on?
Workplace health and well-being.....................59% Pay and employee welfare, such as diversity and equality.........................................14% External charity/community programmes.....27%
Are you working towards attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? n Yes, several of them n Yes, one or two of them n No n Thinking about it n What are SDGs?
THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABILITY DURING COVID Coronavirus has given us more time to think about the future and build sustainability into our 2025 roadmap. – North American reseller With the supply chain issues facing our industry, customers are worried about what can they can get their hands on, what is in stock, and staying alive in this COVID world. We had started to see an uptick in [green] requests pre-coronavirus, but in the middle of all this confusion, the message was lost. – North American wholesaler COVID has pushed back our plans. We have had to focus on obtaining product demanded by our clients today, rather than looking for better alternatives to offer them in the future. – European reseller With the pandemic, I expect that, certainly in the short term, people forget about sustainability and worry about putting food on the table. Once they are confident that they have their livelihood back, they can worry about it. During a crisis, only government employees can afford to care about this. – North American reseller The coronavirus pandemic has actually enforced our belief that we need to work towards more socially-responsible and environmentally-friendly outcomes. – European manufacturer of traditional OP I think surviving as a business is more important at this time than worrying about sustainability. – North American reseller Customers have other priorities and don’t ask for ‘green’ products. The questions we get are about health and antibacterial items. – European wholesaler Customers are looking more at price, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. – North American manufacturer of facilities supplies COVID-19 has put more focus on sustainability and the effect that human actions have not only on our future but also our planet. Being sustainable is no longer about opportunistic positioning for companies to increase their business; it is becoming essential for end users when considering products or services. – European manufacturer of traditional OP Coronavirus has amplified the focus on the origin of products and the circular economy. – European reseller
5 MINUTES WITH...
CAREER Q&A Describe your current job:
As EVP of Sales at Clover Imaging Group, I collaborate with our vast partner network to provide cutting-edge technology while managing print solutions and helping partners reach their customers’ goals.
Your childhood ambitions? I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and work in sales, leadership and strategy positions for industry-leading companies that aim to make a difference. Clover, in my opinion, is such a company with its amazing sustainability efforts. Which celebrity do you admire? Celebrities and athletes go hand in hand these days. My favourite is Wayne Gretzky, a former professional ice hockey player. No other athlete has dominated a sport like he did, holding records that will most likely never be broken.
What would be your dream job if money wasn’t an issue?
Pete Klauck, Clover Imaging
Do you have any famous relatives? My grandfather was an advertising artist in the automotive industry. He had a passion for painting and developed the US Postal Service stamp commemorating the 100-year celebration of the American Circus. His art can still be found at auction today and I am fortunate to have some of his original work.
What do you do in your spare time?
If you could have the answer to any question, what would you ask? What is my dog really thinking and if she could speak, what would she say?
What kind of music do you like?
What is your favourite cuisine?
Seafood. I used to work in the seafood restaurants in Cape Cod during summer when I was at college and was taught how to prep and cook amazing ingredients in many different ways. What is most important to you in life? Naturally, family comes first. It gives me great pleasure to see my four kids grow as individuals. Two are ‘out’ now, the other two still in the nest. I cherish every moment with them!
I enjoy landscaping. In Texas, you can work with plants and flowers all year round. Favourite time of year?
Winter. I love the cooler temperatures in Texas and the colder days in the mountains of Colorado. It’s quite mixed. Austin has many great music venues and I have seen Green Day, the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam and Metallica there. Around the house, I listen to a lot of jazz and piano music – George Winston’s album December is a favourite of mine. What is the best place to visit back home?
I like going back to Montreal as it’s the closest thing to going across the pond – the city has really maintained its fantastic European vibe. Favourite travel experience?
I embarked on a 500-mile bike ride through California with the City of Hope. It was one of the most personal and fulfilling trips I have experienced.
My dream job would be to increase my participation level with the City of Hope (COH) organisation. My current role as Tech Committee Chair involves collaborating with other committee members to raise awareness in order to increase fundraising for COH’s life-saving research and treatment. The committee recruits new companies from the tech industry to join the united front to help expand awareness for COH. A full-time focus on these efforts would be very fulfilling I’m sure. Your best piece of advice to someone who has just joined the OP industry?
Learn, learn and learn some more. Diversify your category and product knowledge. Listen, observe and be patient. Find a mentor and as you go through your career, sharpen your skill sets to strengthen your areas of weakness. Surround yourself with good people and seek out strong managers.
Best career compliment you have ever received?
As we grow and move companies, former colleagues still stay in touch, recognising and celebrating your contributions and achievements. That is the best compliment you can receive in my opinion.
Kate & Ryan, the two clan youngest in the Klauck
What do you like about the OP industry? There are so many great and generous people in it. Phoebe, the dog
ACTION change today
hange has been a constant in the IT industry for the past 40 years. Perhaps that is why this channel appears so nimble compared to the print and office products channels. But with Brexit looming ever larger and all the current COVID-19 restrictions, changes in these two latter segments are accelerating too and will likely achieve a degree of permanence. Any lingering thought that survival in the current guise is an option should be banished straightaway. It’s time to Action Change Today – ACT! Here’s my list of ten action points that I think operators in the print and OP space should take a close look at:
1. Cut costs: it is the only thing you can do with certainty, however unpleasant. You may have done it once already, but you should do it again. Work your suppliers harder, outsource your warehouse, get your distributors to do the final mile for you. 2. Open up new channels: IT accessories, online stores, PPE, everything for the home office worker – there are opportunities. Bear in mind that with new product offerings, warehouse requirements will increase. 3. Source new suppliers: relying on one source is risky and reduces competition. Spread your portfolio. 4. Consolidate and/or partner: bring your customer relationships in line with parallel channels. This could mean merging with an IT, cloud or comms partner, for example. 5. Get ready for Brexit: there is unlikely to be an EU free trade agreement. This may create opportunities to help your customers in terms of exports to, say, Ireland, or with UK direct imports into an outsourced warehouse. Use your distributor’s expertise here. 6. Online is here and not going away: get yourself online and integrate electronically with all your customers and suppliers. 7. Public sector spending: this is a customer segment that is spending more than most. Make sure you have good connections, particularly with education, healthcare and other central government departments. 8. Reskill your staff where you can: this will not only help to retain them, but also steer them towards new parts of your business. 9. Consider consumption models: we already have plenty of print specialists, but you can take this much further. The cloud and XaaS will be key for all end users –
make sure you can expertly assist them with the products, tools and technologies that are prevalent in this category. 10. Measure everything: reporting and analytics tools such as Microsoft Power BI allow you to inspect what you expect.
Alex Tatham, Managing Director, Westcoast
Take a look back over the past few months and you’ll see that many of these points have been actioned by a whole host of operators.
Any lingering thought that survival in the current guise is an option should be banished straightaway Ricoh bought UK IT reseller MTI Technology, with the Japan-based firm saying the deal will bolster its IT capabilities across Europe. l The UK’s Commercial Group buys PPE direct from Asia. l Westcoast now has more than 20 outsourced partners in its warehouses. This number is increasing every month as Brexit approaches and resellers look to reduce their warehousing and stockholding costs. l The number of drop-ship orders through Westcoast has doubled. l The UK Department for Education has bought hundreds of thousands of laptops in 2020. l Life insurance and financial services company Prudential gives employees £400 ($511) to spend on home office products – all controlled through one reseller. l
In among plenty of doom and gloom, there has actually never been more opportunity in some segments of the OP industry, as there’s such huge demand for all manner of IT. Accessories such as webcams have had their best ever year in 2020, for instance. Westcoast as a technology distributor is forecasting a 25% increase in revenue this year. The upshot is that if you are in this sector and are not doing well at a time when the IT channel is flourishing, you need to do something fast. Partner up, do any or all of the above. Hope is not a strategy. This might be a Final Word, but we are – or certainly should be – a very long way from the ‘final nail’.
NEXT ISSUE Big Interview Greg Liénard, CEO, Lyreco Hot Topic 2021: what lies ahead? Category Updates l Writing instruments l Education/BTS