Workplace360 Issue 11. April May 2024

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You may notice a heavy focus on sustainability in this issue, hot on the heels of our December 2023 edition. Well, it’s no coincidence. At Workplace360 , we’re committed to championing sustainability, and April presents an ideal opportunity to align our efforts with Earth Day on the 22nd.

This isn’t merely an editorial preference but a pledge: moving forward, each issue that coordinates with Earth Day will delve deeply into the sustainability issues shaping our industry. In the meantime, we will continue to cover the topic in every issue.

There’s no need for a recap on the environmental crises we’re facing – we all know the challenges. Yet they serve as a call for action towards reaching net zero, protecting biodiversity and safeguarding our collective future. The situation may be dire, but we also need to highlight the progress being made.

Take, for example, my chat with Andrew Bryers, Head of Sustainability at Lyreco UK & Ireland (page 12). The reseller’s

Our industry is renowned for its sense of community and we should leverage this spirit to propel sustainability forward

efforts are emblematic of sustainable business practices in action – always evolving, always improving. And while manufacturers often get a bad rap for their environmental impact, positive advancements are being made (page 34).

Admittedly, there’s still a very long journey ahead, but these initial steps are promising and hopefully signify a growing momentum. Our industry is renowned for its sense of community and we should leverage this spirit to propel sustainability forward.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow and the adage is particularly apt in this context as there are plenty of under-the-radar actions making a huge difference. Battery recycling, for instance – read Energising the future on page 24 for more details.

Harking back to our industry being ‘one big family’, I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Workplace360 CEO Steve Hilleard, who started his presidency of The Society of Old Friends on 16 April. Read about his plans for the networking society on page 52. Congratulations also to our colleague Kelly Hilleard who was recently named Chair of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity.

Meanwhile, the events calendar is in full swing, with members of the Workplace360 team recently attending both the Prima Software and Integra Business Solutions conferences (pages 18 and 58, respectively), with lots more happening over the next few months. Hopefully see you soon.

Michelle Sturman, Editor EDITORIAL Workplace360 Editor Michelle Sturman 020 7841 2950 News Editor Andy Braithwaite +33 4 32 62 71 07 Assistant Editor Kate Davies 020 7841 2950 OPI Editor Heike Dieckmann SALES & MARKETING Head of Media Sales Chris Turness 07872 684746 Chief Commercial Officer Jade Wilson 07369 232590 Commercial Development Manager Chris Armstrong Digital Marketing Manager Aurora Enghis PRODUCTION & FINANCE Head of Creative Joel Mitchell Finance & Operations Kelly Hilleard EVENTS Events Manager Lisa Haywood PUBLISHERS CEO Steve Hilleard 07799 891000 Director Janet Bell 07771 658130 Executive Assistant Debbie Garrand Follow us online: Website: Linkedin: business supplies and beyond O O business supplies and beyond Workplace360 c/o OPI, Focus House, Fairclough Hall, Halls Green, Hertfordshire SG4 7DP Tel: 020 7841 2950 CBP0009242909111341 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. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, copied, stored in an electronic retrieval system or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with provision of the copyright designs and patents act of 1988. Stringent efforts have been made by Office Products International to ensure accuracy. However, due principally to the fact that data cannot always be verified, it is possible that some errors or omissions may occur. Office Products International cannot accept responsibility for such errors or omissions. Office Products International accepts no responsibility for comments made by contributing authors or interviewees that may offend. Workplace360 is printed in the UK by An OPI publication EMAIL US... To email any of the Workplace360 team, use the following: first name.surname@
L-R: Workplace360’s Steve Hilleard (left) and Kelly Hilleard with Prima Sofware’s Ian Buckley (second from left) and Rob Harper (right) at the recent Prima Software GROWTHFACTOR-e conference in Liverpool


04 Editor’s note 08 News 12 Sustainability spotlight Lyreco talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to sustainability 18 Event Prima Software hosted its second successful GROWTHFACTOR-e customer event 24 IMO Carl Stevens explains the importance of battery recycling 28 Advertorial How to create modern workspaces with Exacompta 52 Heart of the industry New President of The Society of Old Friends, Steve Hilleard, reveals his plans for the networking association 56 IMO Tim Beaumont tackles the thorny issue of five-year, auto-renew contracts 58 Event Integra’s National Conference gave delegates plenty of food for thought 62 Exposed! Jack Massey, BOSS Federation CONTENTS
In conversation with... evo CEO Andrew Gale (second part of a two-part interview)
20 60 Annie Conlan looks at the importance of diversification in our sector The furniture category is moving in new directions as increasing attention is paid to collaborative workspaces, health and wellbeing 46 30 Workplace360 talks to Bisley’s Richard Costin Vendors explain how they are deploying innovative and necessary solutions to help improve sustainability 34 6 WORKPLACE360 - APRIL/MAY 2024


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Findel acquired by Manutan

France-based B2B distributor Manutan has made a strategic move into the UK educational supplies market with the acquisition of leading reseller Findel. Headquartered near Manchester, Findel can trace its roots back to 1817. It operates under five well-known brands: Hope Education, GLS, Philip Harris, Davies Sports and EuHu.

In the 12 months to 31 March 2023 (FY23), Findel generated revenue of £116 million. Although it describes itself as an international company, more than 90% of its sales are derived from the UK. Its secondlargest market last year was Asia, with revenue of around £2.4 million.

In 2021, private equity firm Endless – the owner of evo – backed a management buyout of Findel from troubled group Studio Retail. This £30 million deal came after regulators had blocked Findel’s acquisition by purchasing organisation YPO at the end of 2020.

Findel [...] appears to be a good fit for Manutan

Details of the sale to Manutan were not disclosed, but Endless referred to its “successful exit” from Findel after just three years.

“At Endless, we are only ever a temporary custodian of a business, but I’m incredibly proud of what our teams have achieved over the past three years and look forward to seeing what they can do as part of the Manutan Group in the future,” commented Endless Investment Partner Andy Ross.

Findel CEO Chris Mahady added: “It’s been a remarkable three years with the Endless team, where we have transformed the business from an unloved and non-core division of a plc to the digital leader in our sector, with environmental, social and governance at the heart of our operations and culture.”

In FY23, Findel achieved adjusted EBITDA of £10.4 million. A multiple of between 5-7 times adjusted EBITDA would therefore put the acquisition price in the range of £52-£73 million – although that is a speculative figure.


Manutan CEO Pierre-Oliver Brial referred to the transaction as the biggest acquisition in the group’s history and one that propels it to the top spot in the distribution of school and educational equipment in Europe. Manutan’s UK operations (formerly Key Industrial) are mainly known for delivering MRO, warehousing and office products. Its most recent acquisition prior to Findel dates back to 2008 when it bought industrial shelving firm Rapid Racking.

However, the group has a strong presence in the education sector in its home market of France. There, its Local Authorities division comprises the Manutan Collectivités, Papeteries Pichon and Casal Sport reseller brands. With Findel, this division will now account for around 30% of Manutan’s total group sales of just over £870 million, offer some 440,000 products and employ approximately 750 staff.

Findel therefore appears to be a good fit for Manutan and it will now be interesting to see whether it uses this as a springboard for further acquisitions in the education sector, both in the UK and abroad.

Pierre-Oliver Brial

UK success at OPI’s European awards

The winners of OPI’s 2024 European Office Products Awards (EOPA) were announced on 12 March in Amsterdam. The EOPA recognise excellence across Europe and there was certainly a flag flown for the UK business supplies industry throughout the awards.

Yorkshire-based ACS Group was awarded Reseller of the Year as well as being Highly Commended in the Sustainability Excellence – Reseller category. Meanwhile, Leanne Gregg – Group People Director for evo – was named Executive of the Year and Banner’s Scott Ellis was Highly Commended in the Young Executive of the Year category.


• Business Product of the Year: tesa – tesapack Eco & Ultra Strong ecoLogo

• Wholesaler of the Year: Soennecken

• Marketing Campaign of the Year: Fellowes Brands –Let Your Productivity Flow – monitor arm campaign

Highly commended: BIC – BIC 4 Colours ‘A pen for every side of you’

• Initiative of the Year: Essity – Partnership for Progress UN event

• Sustainability Excellence – Vendor: tesa

Highly commended: Essity and Tork brand –Life Cycle Approach

• Sustainability Excellence – Reseller: Lyreco

Highly commended: ACS Group

• Vendor of the Year: Fellowes Brands

• Reseller of the Year: ACS Group

Highly commended: Lyreco

• Young Executive of the Year: Rasmus Olsen, Product Manager & Team Lead, Lomax

Highly commended: Scott Ellis, Head of Corporate Accounts, Banner

• Executive of the Year: Leanne Gregg, Group People Director, evo

• Business Leader of the Year: Nicolas Potier, CEO, Bruneau

• Industry Achievement: Alain Josse, Managing Director, RAJA Office


Improved profitability at Ryman

Ryman has reported a sharp uptick in profitability for the 12 months to the end of March 2024. In a trading update, the company said EBITDA for the full year just ended (FY23) was £2.7 million, an improvement of more than £4 million on the FY22 figure. The result was boosted by proactive inventory management, a 7.4% increase in trading margin in the key city centre high street business and a focus on profitability in the e-commerce channel.

Revenue for the 12 months to March 2024 was £104.6 million. This was down on the FY22 figure of £107.6 million, but the previous year included an extra trading week. E-commerce sales were lower, but instore growth was 2.5%, while the London Graphic Centre location grew like-for-like sales by more than 11%.

Recent initiatives include the introduction of the Ryman Design store brand aimed at stationery enthusiasts and artists. There are currently three outlets – two in London and one in Birmingham – at former Paperchase locations.

Ryman has also introduced its first-ever loyalty scheme as well as an app that allows users to create

personalised greeting cards that can be picked up at any of the chain’s 197 stores.

Ryman owner Theo Paphitis commented: “I am very pleased with the progress made by the Ryman business over the past two years as it recovered from the impact of the pandemic. I increased my personal involvement in the business as CEO 16 months ago. As well as increased time in the business, I have invested and committed to further funding to ensure Ryman has the resources to build on this progress.”


Simon Allan-Brooks, Managing Director of Viking UK & Ireland has left the company and joined safety products reseller Arco. He joined Viking in 2020 and was named Managing Director in September 2022 by new owner RAJA Group. Meanwhile, Viking Europe Director of Merchandising and Product Marketing Andrea Kenna has left the company after more than 20 years.

Office Friendly has elevated James Barras to the role of Senior Business Development Manager. His promotion comes after the significant impact Barras has had since joining the organisation as a Learning Development Officer in 2022. In his new role, Barras will focus on expanding member profitability and growth across the UK and fostering strategic partnerships.

Exertis AV has appointed Peter Vernon as Projection Business Manager after announcing an expanded relationship with Epson. Vernon has more than 30 years’ experience in the viscom and AV sectors, including 17 years at Sahara Presentation Systems.

Joining the Highlands team are experienced industry executives Chris Armstrong and Sharon Renshaw. They are taking on the respective roles of Business Development Manager –National Accounts and Business Development Manager – North.

Armstrong has been in the business products sector for the past 14 years, with spells at Superstat, Office Power and OPI/Workplace360. In addition to his job at Highlands, he will continue to work for W360

Renshaw is another familiar face in the UK office products channel, having previously worked for Nectere, Office Club and VOW.

Senior departures at Viking Highlands appoints BDMs Exertis makes AV appointment Martin Wilde stepped down as Chair of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity (BBSC) at the end of March. Vice Chair Kelly Hilleard has been elected as the new Chair, with trustee Philip Wesolowski (right) taking over her role. New Chair at BBSC
Office Friendly promotes Barras

Highlands and Rocada announce agreement

Highlands is now representing visual communications and office furniture brand Rocada for the UK and Ireland markets. The agreement came into effect on 1 April, with Highlands now serving as the Spanish firm’s exclusive agent for the UK and Ireland.

Rocada owner Marc Roca said he had been looking for a long-term partner following the sad passing of Ken Trenberth last year. “I’m confident that the combination of Highlands’ experience, our products and the fast service we’ll provide thanks to the warehouse we have in the UK will make this a good partnership for both companies,” he commented.

evo Foundation holds golf fundraiser

The third evo Foundation fundraising event was held on 28 March. 14 participants took part in the golf-themed day at Leeds Golf Centre.

2,000 evo staff also contributed by purchasing numbered balls at £3 each, with the owner of the ball that won a ‘nearest the pin’ competition given five days of additional annual leave.

This was the third event in a series of fun activities organised by the evo team as they look to raise £100,000 in the Foundation’s first year. It follows the success of ‘Walk of evo’ and a paraglide around Mont Blanc by VOW’s Managing Director Adrian Butler and Phillippa Bourne, Head of Marketing & E-commerce.

Marc Roca

Lyreco’s bold vision

Workplace360 Editor Michelle Sturman speaks to Lyreco UK & Ireland Head of Sustainability Andrew Bryers to find out how the reseller

is not just talking the talk but walking the walk towards a sustainable, socially responsible

Workplace360: Andrew, you’re fairly new to our industry – could you share a bit about your career?

Andrew Bryers: My academic journey began with a degree in Behavioural Biology, followed by a Master’s in Sustainability and Managing the Environment. I’ve held positions at the University of Nottingham as an Assistant Energy and Environmental Manager and at Aston University, where I accepted the role of Energy Manager, eventually taking the lead in environmental compliance and sustainability.

Subsequently, an opportunity arose at Lyreco, which has involved assembling a new team dedicated to sustainability, working externally with suppliers and engaging with customers and various stakeholders. The team’s uniqueness lies in our specialisation in sustainability and the fresh perspectives we bring from outside the industry.

W360: Let’s talk about Lyreco’s approach, particularly with the Goodness Programme. Is it fair to say it is the central pillar of your sustainability initiatives?

AB: Yes, although the Lyreco Goodness Programme isn’t limited to sustainability; it is the golden thread sewn throughout the business to encourage a different way of thinking and viewing customers as partners.

Dovetailed with the overarching Lyreco Group strategy, built on the pillars of Planet, People and

business model

Progress, we’ve tailored six objectives for our region. This allows us to address specific needs and goals within our local market.

W360: Could you explain how the Lyreco UK & Ireland operations integrate with the broader Lyreco sustainability objectives?

AB: Lyreco UK & Ireland aligns with Lyreco Group’s core sustainability targets and strategies, including adherence to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for emissions, which requires our contributions to the overall mission reporting.

In terms of supplier credentials, while we follow the Group’s assessment requirements, we utilise a localised tool – the Supplier Sustainability Action Tool (SSAT) – to conduct our evaluations, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of our suppliers.

W360: Now to the objectives you’ve just referred to.

AB: Underpinned by the Planet, People and Progress pillars, the six objectives guide our initiatives and actions. Firstly, on the planetary front, we focus on reducing our impact on the planet, emphasising the need to lessen our carbon footprint and improve sustainability across all our operations. It includes a commitment to having no tailpipe emissions in our fleet by 2028.

PV panels at Lyreco’s national distribution centre in Telford

The second revolves around working closely with our suppliers to source products that are as ethical and sustainable as possible. It includes a commitment to making 90% of our products and services environmentally responsible by 2026.

Our third one champions the principles of the circular economy: minimising waste generation within our operations and promoting reuse and responsible recycling or disposal methods. We’re also enhancing our customer reuse and recycling services and adapting to legislative changes.

Under the People pillar, the fourth objective prioritises the wellbeing and development of our employees, emphasising diversity and inclusion initiatives led by our People and Culture department.

Our fifth objective – social responsibility – sees us actively engaged in community initiatives and partnerships, including volunteer days, charitable contributions and educational outreach programmes.

Lastly, our Progress-oriented objectives are embodied in the Goodness support programmes. Under this, we work with microbusinesses and social enterprises through the Lyreco Goodness Supplier Support Programme. Last year, we also launched our Community in Practice network, bringing together our supply chain and customers to share knowledge. It has grown to include around 40 suppliers and over 50 customers, offering a platform for members to access valuable sustainability-focused webinars and participate in in-person events planned for this year.

W360: Considering Lyreco’s reputation for its meticulous approach to selecting sustainable products, how does the Supplier Support Programme fit in?

AB: This initiative is something we’re quite proud of. When I joined Lyreco, one of my first projects was to

develop what initially began as the Lyreco Goodness Microbusiness Support Programme. It was designed to onboard approximately ten microbusinesses each year, providing them with sales support, free convention access and visibility in our catalogue.

As the programme evolved, it became apparent that social enterprises were increasingly integral to our supply chain, spurred by rising customer demand to engage with such organisations.

This prompted me to expand the venture into what is now known as the Supplier Support Programme, which includes microbusinesses, social enterprises and charities that fit within our product categories and embody an ethos of sustainability.

The programme is now structured to operate over an 18-month cycle, with the initial six months dedicated to understanding them and crafting their go-to-market strategy. This ensures a deep comprehension of their operations and needs by the time they are introduced to our catalogue or web shop. We have a dedicated colleague in our Product and Services team who leads in assisting each supplier.

I’d also like to add that we have become a Social Enterprise UK support member and joined its Social Procurement Connect service to better identify and work with social enterprises.

The Lyreco Goodness Programme isn’t limited to sustainability; it is the golden thread sewn throughout the business
Lyreco UK & Ireland Head of Sustainability Andrew Bryers

The Impact Report offers our customers insights into their Scope 3 emissions

W360: Can you please explain more about the SSAT introduced in 2022?

AB: The SSAT is a cornerstone of our approach to ensuring our suppliers are in step with our sustainability goals. Developed with NETpositive Futures, our version includes around 50 questions.

It is a mandatory first step in our sustainable product assessment process for all suppliers. It’s a gatekeeper of sorts; before we even consider a supplier’s products, it must score at least 50% on the SSAT.

As we continually refine the SSAT, adding new questions and removing others, scores may be affected. If updates to the tool result in a dip below the requisite 50%, suppliers must resubmit their information to remain eligible.

W360: Could you share the types of questions or key areas you focus on with the SSAT?

AB: The SSAT covers the environmental, social and governance (ESG) spectrum, starting with broad questions for a comprehensive overview before probing deeper into specifics.

We evaluate commitments through inquiries about emission targets, environmental management systems and overall sustainability strategies. On the social front, we delve into critical issues such as modern slavery, supply chain auditing and health and safety, gauging whether organisations have dedicated sustainability staff proportionate to their size and how they remain legislatively compliant. Governance scrutiny includes assessing the formalisation of sustainability commitments, diversity and inclusion policies and employee wellbeing initiatives.

Where gaps are identified, the tool automatically generates an action plan. To complement the SSAT, our recent introduction of the Impact Report offers our customers insights into their Scope 3 emissions by detailing their spend and the sustainability profiles of the products purchased, as well as supplier information on aspects such as delivery methods.

W360: It seems you’re hot on B Corp status and EcoVadis certifications in your assessments.

AB: There are three pathways to meet our criteria: by achieving a minimum score of 50% through SSAT, attaining B Corp certification or securing an EcoVadis rate of 45%, which presently corresponds to around a Bronze level.

W360: Have you considered pursuing B Corp certification for Lyreco?

AB: Yes, I’ve initiated the process by completing the free B Corp assessment, where we scored 65% right off the bat, which is promising. The certification threshold is 80%, so we’re now evaluating what steps – be they short-term adjustments or more significant changes –could help us bridge that 15% gap.

Though the Group hasn’t officially decided to pursue B Corp status, achieving it for Lyreco UK & Ireland could positively impact our overall EcoVadis rating.

W360: And what’s Lyreco’s current standing?

AB: We have an EcoVadis Gold rating, with a score of 72. There is a huge plan underway aimed at reaching the Platinum level.

W360: I know Lyreco has joined SBTi and set its net zero targets but the SBTi website indicates Lyreco UK & Ireland is merely in the ‘committed’ stage.

AB: SBTi guidelines are structured such that only Lyreco Group can set and commit to targets, preventing individual branches or subsidiaries, such as ours in the UK, from establishing separate SBTi commitments.

Supplier Sustainability Action Tool (SSAT)

Lyreco UK & Ireland has taken proactive steps by developing a carbon reduction plan, which is crucial for engaging in public sector tendering and meeting Crown Commercial Services requirements.

Our plan aims for net zero across all three Scopes by 2030, surpassing the Group target of a 50% reduction by 2026, with an extended goal towards 2030 and a final target for 2050. In addition, a Lyreco Group objective has been established: by 2026, 76% of our suppliers must have set SBTi targets.

W360: 76% seems quite ambitious…

AB: We’re assessing where we stand in relation to this goal and identifying the best ways to assist our suppliers with SBTi. Across the entire company, a vast amount of data is being collected to meet these objectives and work out how to calculate certain data sets – relying on estimates doesn’t provide the level of precision we’re aiming for.

W360: Moving onto products, the ‘Green Tree’ assessment has evolved into what’s now known as the Sustainable Selection, correct?

AB: Yes. Lyreco Group started to reassess the original ‘Green Tree’ product assessment in 2021. It has now implemented a company-wide supplier and product

Lyreco UK & Ireland has taken proactive steps by developing a carbon reduction plan, which is crucial for engaging in public sector tendering and meeting Crown Commercial Services requirements

evaluation under the new name ‘Sustainable Selection’ that looks at the People, Planet and Community aspects of products.

Following a successful SSAT score, we consider a product’s impact under our three pillars. It also involves an evaluation of packaging, which must meet a minimum of 80% recyclability by weight.

For the Planet pillar of the assessment, the environmental footprint during manufacturing is assessed, where we consider various aspects, including certifications, life cycle analyses, chain of custody, recycled content and refurbishment potential. There must also be at least two self-declared environmental declarations, such as reduced emissions or improved material use.

The People pillar’s assessment examines elements such as ergonomics and other relevant qualifications that indicate a product’s contribution to user wellness. Regarding the Community dimension, we assess how the product supports broader societal goals, considering aspects like Fairtrade, the involvement of social enterprises and the manufacturing location’s proximity to our operations (eg products made in the UK or Ireland).

It’s important to note that our Sustainable Selection process adheres to ISO 20400 standards and is subject to an annual external audit by certification firm SGS.

W360: You referred to the circular economy earlier. I believe you had a partnership with reuse firm Loop. Is that still active?

AB: The Loop partnership involved providing refillable hand soap bottles, but we encountered logistical complexities – particularly in terms of collecting and transporting returned items, which would have inadvertently increased emissions due to the need for additional vehicle movements.

Presently, we collaborate with a social enterprise for hygiene products that offers a take-back scheme, which we make available to our customers.

Our focus has since shifted towards providing recycling services, such as confidential waste, toner


cartridges and Nespresso pods. We’re introducing a tissue recycling service with one of our hygiene suppliers and have partnered with the UK’s only PPE reuse company. We are also exploring a closed loop initiative for pens and stationery recycling.

We also offer a platform for the reuse of items within our network. This allows businesses to list surplus items, offering them to other members or charities at no cost, save for collection fees.

W360: Revisiting the target of having 90% of products and services be sustainable by 2026 – this seems like a pretty tall order.

AB: The 90% target by 2026 is a collective goal, which allows for some variance across different countries. In the UK and Ireland, we’ve moved from 28% to 49% in 2023; and for the coming year, our target is to increase this to 59%.

W360: Are there enough suppliers of eco-products and services to enable you to hit the 90%?

AB: We found, when jumping from 28% to 49%, that the majority of our suppliers were already in alignment with our criteria; the key was providing them with the necessary education and support to navigate our assessment process effectively.

As we move towards the 90% target, the challenge becomes identifying opportunities that could have been overlooked. Ultimately, our strategy focuses on pushing our existing supply chain towards greater sustainability rather than simply replacing suppliers that may fall short. However, upcoming EU legislation on environmental claims and carbon neutrality, for example, may make this harder.

Our Supplier Support Programme also plays a critical role in this effort, and we’ve already seen notable sales from the outset as they are now more aligned with our core categories.

W360: What other plans are you excited about?

AB: There are several that stand out. One is the LCA as a Service (Life Cycle Assessment as a Service) from our first Pioneer programme. It is currently being trialled in Scandinavia, specifically Sweden and Norway, and offers our suppliers support from sustainability specialists and data calculation tools.

Another significant development is the launch of our new Interiors division, which emphasises sustainable furniture solutions. We’ve partnered with Waste to Wonder, Europe’s largest organisation dedicated to the reuse of furniture, to ensure it is either reused, benefits local charities or is sent to support educational projects in developing countries.

Our Social Value Partners programme – launched last year with organisations specialising in sustainability areas such as Young Enterprise, Global Action Plan, the Carbon Literacy Project and more – aims to deepen our engagement and support for our customers.

W360: To wrap up, could you pinpoint areas where our industry needs to advance in sustainability?

AB: I don’t think we’re as far behind as it might seem. The key to progress, I believe, lies in a comprehensive mapping of the supply chain and enhanced due diligence. One approach that works well for universities, for example, is a centralised network or platform enabling industry players to scrutinise the supply chains. There’s no reason this couldn’t work in our industry.

The demand for precise information on the carbon footprint of products is on the rise and creating a unified system that standardises data collection and sharing could streamline the process for everyone.

To read the 2024 Lyreco UK & Ireland annual report on sustainability, visit: lyreco-goodness/embracing-sustainability-the-lyrecogoodness-report-2024.


Engaging visions

Prima Software hosted its largest-ever VIP customer event with insightful updates, thought-provoking sessions and expert guidance

Prima Software marked a significant milestone on 21 March, with over 200 delegates attending its GROWTHFACTOR-e VIP customer event. Following the overwhelming success of the inaugural event in 2022, GROWTHFACTOR-e returned with a grand second edition. The Crowne Plaza Hotel in the heart of Liverpool was the perfect setting for this gathering of industry leaders, suppliers and members of the business products community.

The one-day event was packed with company and product updates from the Prima team, with a masterclass facilitated by guest speaker and LinkedIn expert Mark White. After a 12-year career in sales and marketing, White has devoted the past 14 years to delivering in-house training to almost 500 companies on how LinkedIn can form part of an organisation’s business activity going forward.


The event also featured the long-awaited reveal of Prima ENGAGE, which the company had kept under wraps for more than six months. The day’s centrepiece was undoubtedly the introduction of this fully integrated customer engagement portal.

This innovative solution – set to transform the sales process with its user-friendly design, streamlined workflow and seamless integration with Prima ERP – was received with considerable excitement. The announcement spurred a surge in demo requests and trial user registrations for its official release in Q4 2024.

Attendees could also explore a supplier exhibition, with over 24 companies showcasing their most recent products and services. In addition, Prima held breakout sessions such as the well-received Prima HELP Live and the newly launched 121 Leadership Insights.

These provided customers a unique opportunity to interact directly with Prima’s leadership team, including CEO Steve McLaughlin, Managing Director Ian Buckley, Development Director Arun Vairavasundaram and Customer Operations Director Steve Dennis.

The day concluded with a prize draw, where attendees had the chance to win one of several prizes. The evening’s festivities began with a drinks reception and dinner. The highlight was a surprise performance by singing waiters, leading to an unforgettable night of dancing and celebration and culminating with a performance by eight-piece band New Power Soul Club.

It was about creating a space where people could genuinely connect

Reflecting on the event, Prima Software Marketing Director Rob Harper said: “The team extends a heartfelt thanks to all attendees, customers and suppliers for making it a tremendous success. We’re looking forward to continuing these engagements and building on the day’s achievements in future events.

“Our aim was always more than just providing our customers with Prima updates and presenting a preview of Prima ENGAGE; it was about creating a space where people could genuinely connect, share ideas and leave feeling inspired.

“Having such a diverse group of suppliers on board and hearing the positive feedback from everyone has blown our expectations out of the water. This has been a milestone for us.”


On stable ground

In this second part of a two-part interview, Workplace360 CEO Steve Hilleard talks to evo CEO Andrew Gale about refinancing the business, the launch of the group’s charitable arm and lots more besides


W360: Could you elaborate on the refinancing process from last October and its significance for the company’s future?

AG: Secure, sensible banking facilities are one of the basics for any business, so it is excellent news that we have this nailed down. With our financial metrics trending positively, a lot of folks were interested in having a slice of the cake.

The process ultimately culminated in a new threeyear deal with Leumi ABL and Close Brothers. Leumi was part of the syndicate for the last cycle and if you know me, you know I value loyalty and working with people I can rely on. The Breal guys did exactly what they said they would do, but the pricing differential was just too big.

The new mix of funding with an £80 million invoice finance facility and a £10 million term loan was precisely what we wanted. There are a number of improvements in the base terms and it helps that these new facilities will reduce our interest costs by c£2 million a year, other things being equal. So, a really good result.

In tandem, our primary shareholder, Endless, recommitted to the business by increasing our revolving credit facility, waiving accrued interest on its legacy instruments and resetting the life of the fund that holds the investment in evo. This was a major statement of support from Endless, in terms of both money and time.

W360: Moving on to sustainability, what role do you envision for evo?

AG: We have a responsibility across all our businesses to lead the way on this one. There are many aspects to focus on, but we are prioritising the supply chain, the environment, people and community. The supply chain has a huge impact, and under the guidance of Simon [McLoughlin, Group Buying Director], we work continuously with our suppliers to ensure a compliant and robust source of goods for our customers.

Last year, we upgraded our practices in labour, human rights and ethics and updated our supply chain map for risk evaluation. Our most recent Modern Slavery Assessment scoring increased to 91% (from 89% last year) as a result. We work closely with our suppliers to expand our portfolio annually and will persist on this trajectory.

Environmentally speaking, our carbon footprint is significant from our operations, deliveries and procurement. We’re working on removing carbon through measures such as purchasing green energy, installing electric vehicle (EV) charging points across our locations and expanding our EV delivery fleet.

W360: I imagine Banner’s major clients are driving some of that.

AG: Yes, this is a key topic, but price is still important. We also see a shift towards sustainable procurement across our other channels, including VOW, Complete and Premier Vanguard.

We are guided by stakeholders, legislation, sustainability platforms and, of course, our own desire to innovate, improve and do the right thing for the environment and communities in which we operate. Each year, our CSR steering committee uses the feedback from our EcoVadis and Sedex sustainability ratings to help shape improvements within the various departments and across the business as a whole.

With our financial metrics trending positively, a lot of folks were interested in having a slice of the cake

In tenders, we are challenged to evidence our credentials as a good corporate citizen, which plays into what we’re doing with the evo Foundation. Through this, we can raise money for good causes while employees enjoy charitable activities. It’s a win-win at every level.

W360: I was going to ask you about the evo Foundation. Are there other industry charities closer to the group you could have supported rather than starting something from scratch?

AG: I get that thinking; but respectfully, I believe that approach would be a touch lazy on our part and I think we can do better. We will continue to support the BOSS Federation, of course, but we can do more, and I’m learning from EWS, my previous employer, and the Commercial Foundation here.

I think long after I’ve gone, the evo Foundation might be one of the things people look back on and say, “That was a good idea”

The evo Foundation will do more ‘fun stuff’ to raise money; we want to support education and hardship and make a difference in the communities where we operate. Just writing a cheque to BOSS or attending a dinner is not enough and I’d suggest more charity is better than less.

The evo Foundation will aim to fundraise around £100,000 a year. Hopefully, employees can have some fun, we can raise some money and if it helps evo demonstrate we are good corporate citizens, then it is all great.

W360: Do you have any events lined up already for this year?

AG: Yes, employees across the business have come forward with suggestions and we have a full calendar of events. Remember, everybody at evo now gets two charity days a year – it was one last year. In March, Adrian Butler [Managing Director of VOW] and I hosted a Hole-in-One challenge; while in Ireland, we have a GAA match coming up, followed by Dragon Boat races in Leeds and a darts event to come in the autumn. There are more in the works, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises – some of my colleagues might read this article.

I’m also trying to learn from external successes, like the great work the Commercial Foundation does with disadvantaged youngsters. Arthur and Simone Hindmarch deserve a lot of credit for their efforts. So, expect something along those lines at an evo warehouse in 2024.

I think long after I’ve gone, the evo Foundation might be one of the things people look back on and say, “That was a good idea”.

W360: Your legacy.

AG: I note your enthusiasm for the topic, but I’m just warming up.


W360: I was going to say it’s early in your tenure to talk about your legacy.

AG: Agreed. There is plenty to do on the business front – it will not be dull.

W360: I want to ask a few closing questions regarding the future before we wrap up this interview. First off, are there any AI-related projects now in progress?

AG: I expect every organisation is looking at this topic and it is one we all need to embrace. If technology can take care of monotonous tasks/functions, let’s do it. If it can make information available 24/7, let’s do it.

Luke Blanks, our IT Director, is leading our efforts here and we are trying to learn from others. But – and this is important – I want my customers and suppliers to be able to speak with a person, so we will be going on the AI journey in a controlled manner.

W360: Part one of this interview highlighted what you’ve achieved in the past 12 months, so my second question is about your plans for the future.

AG: Right now, the focus is on 2024, and we have a clear plan that we are looking to execute to deliver our

Assuming the next investing cycle excites me, then I’d be up for more fun. If not, someone else can do it

FY24 goals. As we work through those, the ideas for FY25 onwards will be developed based on the themes already discussed [read part one – Rising to the challenge, March 2024, page 20].

I don’t believe in ‘strategy’ – it is more often than not something folks in expensive suits like to write down but don’t do. I plan to deliver, so expect the evolution to continue. I’m only 54, so there is much more fun to come with evo; but do I plan on being here in ten years? No – I’ve other things to do.

W360: Didn’t you say that 15 years ago?

AG: OK, fair challenge; but I think I’ve got a better job now that hopefully gives me a little more control of my destiny!

Folks also ask whether I’ll leave when Endless exits. The answer is, I don’t know. I might do, particularly if the future doesn’t look interesting. Assuming the next investing cycle excites me, then I’d be up for more fun. If not, someone else can do it.

Until then, I’m going to continue to fix this business. I’ve got more to do.

W360: Thanks Andrew.

Ed’s note: Due to a delay from the auditor, evo’s financial results were not available in time to discuss them during this interview. Workplace360 will publish that follow-up in the June issue.

From left: Steve Hilleard and Andrew Gale

Energising the future

The importance of recycling batteries

How many times have you walked out of a supermarket and noticed a transparent tube overflowing with a random mix of batteries? Your first thought may be that this is just a money-making exercise that supermarkets do to make money from the scrap materials. Every little helps, as the saying goes.

Well, hold that thought. Contrary to the assumption of profiteering, supermarkets have an obligation to provide battery recycling facilities, mandated under the government Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. It’s not just about making a quick quid; it’s about adhering to legal requirements. Any company introducing over 32 kg of batteries into the UK market must, by law, offer some form of free battery recycling.


Why the fuss? Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty. Understanding the significance of proper battery disposal extends beyond merely fulfilling recycling

quotas; it’s a crucial measure to prevent environmental degradation. Batteries, classified under the WEEE Directive, are not meant for landfill disposal. Yet they often end up there. It’s the unfortunate reality of their small size – they’re easily overlooked. Replace the two AA batteries in your mouse and it’s tempting to toss them straight into the bin. Harmless, right?

Not quite. Those seemingly innocuous batteries are loaded with toxic materials such as zinc, nickel, mercury and iron, each harbouring the potential to inflict significant harm on the environment. Zinc, for instance, isn’t exactly a blessing to human health if it seeps into the environment, contaminating groundwater or polluting the air.

And then there’s mercury, a genuine ecosystem annihilator. Its ability to bioaccumulate means it steadily builds up in the tissues of living organisms as it ascends the food chain, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. The longevity of mercury means it can even poison ecosystems far from where it was originally released. It’s not just about ticking boxes on recycling quotas. It’s about preventing environmental catastrophes and protecting future generations.


Lithium batteries are a whole other ballgame. You’ve probably heard about lithium fires being difficult to handle – that’s because of a process called thermal runaway. Lithium is highly reactive and can ignite spontaneously when it comes into contact with either air or water. It can react vigorously and there are some scary YouTube videos of this happening.

Once this happens, thermal runaway takes over and the heat generated by the battery’s internal reactions causes further chemical reactions to occur more rapidly, releasing additional heat. This creates a positive feedback loop, leading to a swift increase in temperature. This thermal runaway is why it is so difficult to extinguish lithium fires – the more water, the more vigorously the lithium can react. Due to this reaction with water, these fires are often left to burn out, releasing many hazardous by-products and exacerbating the environmental dangers.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s just lithium batteries causing such dangerous events. West Northamptonshire Council reportedly experienced 11 incidents in the past 12 months due to carelessly disposed batteries causing fires in their refuse carts, with temperatures reaching up to 800°C.

This issue isn’t isolated to a single council; when the national scale is considered, the potential for such hazardous events multiplies. You can now start to see why councils are running a marketing campaign called Never Bin Batteries and are keen to try to keep batteries separate from the rest of the waste they collect.

Carl Stevens is General Manager of H-Squared


There’s no hard and fast data for exactly how many batteries are used in the UK. A report by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) in 2015 estimated that approximately 610 million consumer batteries were sold in the UK each year. Throwing out your two AA batteries might not be a lot, but multiply that by our 70 million population and we’ve got a problem.

So, are we doomed? Not quite. Battery recycling is efficient, with levels of almost 98% for certain types of battery chemistries. Many facilities employ cuttingedge technology, including automatic sorting systems equipped with sensors and specialised software, making the whole process highly sophisticated.

The energy consumed in extracting and refining raw materials far exceeds that required for recycling. By closing the loop through recycling, we not only conserve energy but also slash the greenhouse gas emissions associated with resource extraction and production.

Your ‘normal’ day-to-day alkaline batteries have their materials efficiently separated and repurposed. For lithium batteries, valuable metals such as cobalt, nickel and copper are extracted for reuse. As a side note, cobalt stands out as being a difficult and unsustainable material to mine.

The quest for sustainable lithium battery recycling has piqued the interest of significant entities, including the US Department of Energy, which has launched highly lucrative competitions aimed at innovating the recycling process.

These competitions challenge participants to develop methods capable of recycling at least 90% of lithium from batteries. Phase 3 of the project, for which winning teams were awarded a total of $2.4 million, is now complete. The award for the next and final phase is a staggering total of up to $5 million.

Battery recycling is efficient, with levels of almost 98% for certain types of battery chemistries


So how can businesses help? As highlighted earlier, UK legislation mandates that any business introducing over 32 kg of batteries into the market annually must provide a free recycling scheme. To put this into perspective, selling one single pack of four AA batteries each day equates to approximately 32 kg across the year and includes any batteries sold online as well as from physical retail premises.

You may be thinking that this will cost thousands to implement, but actually, the National Battery Collection Scheme is completely free for businesses.

The initiative offers guides on the different types of batteries, a container to collect the batteries in, information on how to manage their storage and literature on how to raise awareness of battery recycling to others – all at no cost. It’s a very positive, extra service for your business to offer. It will also set you apart from other companies that don’t understand the impact and importance of battery recycling.

For more information, visit: how-to-recycle-and-reduce-waste/recycling-in-theworkplace/national-battery-collection-scheme.


Creating modern workspace environments

Exacompta’s SMALL-BOX mini storage units offer stylish and versatile solutions for today’s workplaces, aligning with sustainability and functionality trends

Recent data from the Office of National Statistics reveals the continuing shift in workplace dynamics, with only 16% of employees working exclusively from home between September 2022 and January 2023, compared to 28% adopting a hybrid model. In London, hybrid working is notably popular, with four in every ten employees choosing to split their time between the office and home.

This evolving work culture has led nearly 20% of businesses to transition from traditional fulltime offices to coworking spaces under more flexible payment terms, offering potential savings of around £20,000 annually for an SME.

This trend highlights the growing recognition among businesses of the financial and productivity gains attainable through reimagining work environments.

Increasingly, companies across professional sectors are incorporating elements such as naturalistic surroundings, informal break-out and collaboration areas, adaptive drinking and dining spaces and layouts conducive to hybrid working. These changes reflect a broader move towards modernising workplace practices to align with contemporary work-life balance aspirations and efficiency goals.


Incorporating biophilic design principles, which draw on our innate connection to nature, can significantly enrich the work environment. By integrating natural elements into office spaces, businesses can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the workplace while promoting greater social integration and wellbeing among employees.

Research from the University of Exeter and the University of Technology Sydney reveals the tangible benefits of such an approach: productivity and creativity can be boosted by 15%, while anxiety and fatigue may drop by more than 37%. Moreover, the positive effects on wellbeing can reach up to 40%.

Introducing elements such as a more naturalistic colour palette, materials and imagery, can enhance physical and mental health. Installing biophilic walls and providing vegetation in and around an organisation’s premises can strengthen air quality, helping prevent sick building syndrome symptoms. Meanwhile, incorporating natural light can also make a massive impact on the daily rhythms of the body in correspondence with an individual’s psychological welfare.


Establishing collaborative modular areas in the office environment introduces an additional layer of functionality, promoting enhanced efficiency and teamwork.

Exacompta has released two new additions to its SMALL-BOX mini storage units, tailor-made for any desktop area

By prioritising flexibility within these spaces, employees have the ability to reconfigure their surroundings to fit the needs of their projects through adjustable elements such as movable walls, acoustic dividers and multipurpose furniture. This adaptability enables teams to quickly modify the workspace in response to their changing demands.

Additionally, the integration of technology into these areas is crucial. Incorporating audiovisual tools for digital systems, such as videoconferencing, provides efficient data sharing and communications.

The trend of ‘hotelification’ in office environments, which blends elements of hospitality with traditional office functions, is gaining traction, particularly the inclusion of barista-style kiosks. Considering that 7080% of workers in the UK consume tea or coffee, these kiosks create a more inviting workplace.


Dealers need to look at providing a broader range of customer solutions, offering refurbishment services for corporate facilities and home offices, by presenting products that align with these current trends. Another great sales avenue is bundling together additional bolton items and services in a comprehensive yet bespoke one-stop shop package.

Expanding its line-up of premium stationery products, Exacompta has released two new additions to its SMALL-BOX mini storage units, tailor-made for any desktop area. Made from recycled post-consumer plastic waste, these units not only address the growing demand for sustainable office solutions – which will only continue to rise as Gen Z becomes increasingly prominent in the workforce – but also provide a versatile storage option.

Each mini storage unit features two slim drawers for small items, such as phones and pens, with one wider drawer capable of holding A4+ documents, making them the ultimate mini multifunctional storage solution for essential office items.

Their low height also makes them ideal for use as stands for screens, printers or coffee machines; while they can be conveniently stacked thanks to four inbuilt notches on the top, maximising vertical storage potential. In addition, two separate coffee capsule tray holders are available for the wider drawer, catering to both Nespresso and Vertuo varieties.

The NeoDeco version of the SMALL-BOX mini storage units features a classic Art Deco design, aligning with its current revival in popularity. Meanwhile, the Skandi model incorporates a palette of soft pastel colours. Each SMALL-BOX mini storage unit comes with a 25-year warranty as standard.



Workplace360 caught up with Richard Costin, CEO of UK manufacturer Bisley, to chat about the company’s rich history and recent shift from commoditised products to innovative design in furniture solutions

Workplace360: Given your extensive experience within our industry, what led you to the vendor side of the negotiating table?

Richard Costin: After I left evo, I embarked on a consulting venture, which led me to help out on a successful government tender for Bisley. Following a management change, I was requested for a couple of days a week and subsequently introduced to owner Tony Brown. He wanted my insight, primarily into the broader UK business and daily operations.

I got to know him quite well and he invited me to join the board in 2019. Three weeks before the pandemic hit, I became CEO.

W360: What changes have you implemented since taking over the hot seat?

RC: The pandemic allowed us to do a deep dive into the business, from lean manufacturing to the product lineup, leading to quite radical changes within the company.

I decided to exit from the public sector as we had lost some customers over that direct business and shift focus to the consumer side and our Bisley Shop – which

at that point had zero revenue and is now around £5 million a year in sales. A key focus has been diversifying our product mix – shifting towards retail and home products and moving away from purely commodity items, despite their huge volume.

W360: How are sales?

RC: Bisley had previously reported consistent losses and, therefore, we took a lot of cost out of the business and improved our margin from pre-pandemic to now by four points across the group, and turned into profitability. The restructuring enabled us to emerge with a strong balance sheet and no debt, adhering to the principle that ‘cash is king’, as Tony often reminded us.

Revenue through our manufacturing arm, FC Brown, maintains a steady £43 million. Our subsidiaries, which distribute Bisley products alongside other brands, have sales of around £20 million. However, the last financial year was particularly challenging due to soaring energy costs, with gas prices increasing by 115% and electricity by 160%. For the new trading year, we will be in profit and we anticipate a strong year this year and next.


W360: What key lessons have emerged regarding the company’s future direction?

RC: The importance of diversification – not just in our sales channels or the range of products we produce, but also in moving away from non-Bisley manufactured products. Now, we only focus on products we manufacture in-house.

The office environment has evolved dramatically, with individuals desiring workplaces that resemble their homes, complete with biophilic designs, vibrant colours and amenities such as pool tables and beanbags. It has encouraged us to move beyond traditional, low-margin, commoditised offerings, such as the ubiquitous fourdrawer filing cabinet. We still sell thousands of them, but our strategy now emphasises more fashionable wood and steel products.

W360: Heritage seems to be a significant aspect of the Bisley brand. Can you expand on that?

RC: Bisley’s journey began in 1931 with Tony’s father, who was initially a panel beater working with steel. Now, with the sad passing of Tony, it is even more poignant. There was a moment when it felt like Bisley had perhaps forgotten its heritage and contributions during World War II, the innovation of jerry cans, the first metal waste bin and various other milestones. Now, we actively celebrate our heritage, Tony’s vision and the Bisley brand itself.

W360: So you mentioned diversification: let’s talk about products.

RC: The fastest growth is in locker walls. These aren’t just ordinary lockers; they are wooden lockers integrated with advanced locking technology. They incorporate hardwired tech similar to Amazon’s Locker service using barcodes, QR codes or PINs. They offer a wealth of data from locker usage such as office attendance and reservation frequency. Probably 60% of what we do now for locker walls has this technology.

The technology can cost three times more than the locker carcass, so the average order value for the trade is exceptionally high, with an opportunity for dealers to generate recurring revenue.

We’ve expanded into the home desking market and evolved our product portfolio to include sit-stand desks. Previously marketed only to consumers but now also available to corporate clients, these sit-stand desks have seen substantial interest and are distributed through wholesale and our new Bisley Direct portal.

In terms of seating, we acquired soft seating manufacturer Thomas Montgomery in Ireland, specifically for that market. We also recently partnered with MARK Product; based in Cornwall, it is probably one of the most sustainable, environmentally conscious manufacturers in the country. Owned by two product designers, the business is relatively small but well known to architects and those in the design sector. We have to diversify or die. It’s as simple as that.

W360: This leads nicely to sustainability. How is Bisley addressing environmental concerns?

RC: Sustainability has become a critical factor, especially in tenders we work on with the trade, where environmental questionnaires are now standard. Steel is 100% recyclable and our products are manufactured in the UK. We use local suppliers wherever possible, with most of our steel provided by local manufacturers. Our wood is FSC compliant, ensuring ethical supply chains.

Small changes can often make a big difference, so we began with practical energy-saving initiatives, such as upgrading to more efficient machinery, launching a ‘switch it off’ campaign and installing LED lighting throughout our facilities. Through these measures, we’ve been able to reduce our emissions by 46% since 2018.

We’re committed to achieving net zero by 2040, significantly ahead of the government’s target, as well as zero to landfill, with 100% of our general and wood waste already diverted from landfill. We’re also looking beyond our own business to address environmental concerns by supporting reforestation across multiple regions globally.

W360: The circular economy is becoming important in furniture manufacturing. What is Bisley’s stance?

RC: Although steel is 100% recyclable, it’s a relatively low-value, low-margin product and when companies

A key focus has been diversifying our product mix
This platform will offer dealers access to Bisley products that are not stocked by wholesalers

W360: So this portal is a route for the dealers?

RC: We have a vast network of dealers, many of whom historically have engaged in transactions of less than £1,000 a year. By transitioning dealers to the Bisley Direct portal, we aim to streamline operations and enhance their purchasing experience.

are refurbishing an office, they don’t necessarily want it anymore. So, we’ve partnered with several organisations that provide a second life for our furniture. This service allows customers to have items that are no longer needed collected from their homes or offices to either be reused or recycled.

Embracing the circular economy is a significant aspect of how we manage our product portfolio, ensuring we recycle and repurpose across the group.

W360: How did the slogan Made for Life originate?

RC: In evaluating our products against competitors, especially those from the Far East or Eastern Europe, we noticed a significant difference in the gauge of steel used. Although we can’t match their prices, our products are, in many ways, over-engineered for durability and Made for Life reflects this.

Most of the products sold on the Bisley Shop come with a minimum five-year guarantee and if anything ever goes wrong, we either swap it out or send an engineer to fix it. The Bisley brand represents quality of design and British manufacturing excellence.

W360: You’ve mentioned Bisley Direct and e-commerce – let’s delve into those areas.

RC: When I started at Bisley, the majority of transactions were processed manually. Drawing on my days working at evo, I looked at EDI and now around 30% of our transactions with wholesalers utilise EDI – and it works well. Amazon did approach us to sell on its platform, but its control over logistics and punitive measures for delivery deviations led us to withdraw.

As for Bisley Direct, it was an online offering selling our products and a few other brands, but we didn’t own it. So, we acquired it, brought it under our umbrella, redesigned the website and put it on the same e-commerce platform as Bisley Shop. We are now launching our Bisley Direct portal for the trade.

This platform will offer dealers access to Bisley products that are not stocked by wholesalers. Benefits of the portal include account terms, order tracking and relatively swift delivery times for made-to-order products.

W360: Before Tony’s passing, an employee ownership trust was established, handing over 51% of the company to employees.

RC: Tony was deeply committed to the wellbeing of the shop floor staff and all employees. It was so important to him to be able to give something back. To achieve this, we established the employee ownership trust (EOT), granting 51% ownership to our employees and beneficiaries. This move was structured to benefit long-serving staff members, with rewards tiered based on tenure and pay scale.

To introduce the EOT, Tony wanted to provide an immediate financial benefit, so every employee globally who had been employed for more than a year received a £1,000 bonus, which equated to £500,000. At Tony’s request, we replicated this gesture the following year, distributing another £500,000 in bonuses. He was a very generous man.

W360: Looking ahead to the next few years, what can we expect from Bisley?

RC: Our commitment to sustainability remains paramount: we’re dedicating significant resources towards this, as evidenced by the appointment of an exceptional individual focused entirely on this.

While we are expanding on the consumer side, our corporate sector and trade relationships remain crucial. Our goal is to increase volume and introduce more products while continuing to innovate with new product development.

This means moving beyond our traditional image as merely a manufacturer of steel filing cabinets. Through marketing efforts such as photoshoots, videos and virtual fly-throughs, we aim to enhance Bisley’s brand value to the trade.


Green g als

Tackling sustainability necessitates a holistic approach, starting at the very heart of the industry with manufacturers. Workplace360 asked vendors in our sector for insights into the innovative solutions, products and services they are deploying to address environmental, social and governance challenges


Caring for people and the planet has always been at the heart of the Avery mission. This drives its ’local for local’ strategy, ensuring that more than 90% of Avery products are manufactured in Northamptonshire. This helps reduce freight journey distances, thereby lowering emissions and Avery’s carbon footprint. It also means that manufacturing is largely under the company’s control, enabling good sustainability decisions.

Avery is committed to securing materials from sustainable sources, with over 80% of paper label products being FSC-certified. The use of shrink film has been cut by more than 40%, with almost 100% of brown box waste reused or recycled. The research team has also developed specialised water-based coatings that are easily managed in waste and recycling streams.

A recycled labels range was launched in 2007 and the team continues to look at more eco-friendly material alternatives. In 2023, for example, plastic in its weatherproof labels was replaced with an innovative and durable paper alternative.

Avery’s ‘Green Office’ campaign, which started as a week-long event in 2009, is now celebrated for two months – May and September. In addition, policies and initiatives are in place to help ensure employees’ rights are respected and they feel comfortable, safe and secure in the workplace. Fully funded wellbeing schemes include a complimentary occupational health programme and vouchers for flu vaccinations and eye tests, among other benefits.

Avery has a flexible working policy, practises proactive safety management and actively supports local communities, fundraising events and charitable organisations in the areas where it operates.


The Brother Group Environmental Vision 2050 plan outlines a roadmap to becoming a net zero business by 2050, including ambitious Science Based Targets initiative certified goals to reduce emissions by 65% on 2015 levels by 2030. The plan has enhanced the company’s status as a sustainable vendor for partners and end-user businesses that are scrutinising their supply chains in order to reduce their Scope 3 emissions.

Remanufacturing toners and cartridges plays a major part in helping customers cut waste and emissions while reducing Brother’s own environmental impact. Customers can return used cartridges free of charge, enabling them to participate in the circular economy.

Last year, Brother became the first company to be awarded the Blue Angel certification for one of its remanufactured toner cartridges, consisting of more than 75% reused parts; to date, 40 million have been remanufactured around the world.

Customers save 5,300 tonnes of CO2 every year by sending cartridges to Brother centres for remanufacturing, including its carbonneutral hub in North Wales. Carbon-saving data is available to MPS customers, which is valuable for their own reporting.

Brother’s MPS Enterprise service further enables large organisations to benefit from a full breakdown of how much CO2 they’re saving by returning consumables to be recycled or remanufactured.

Sustainability has long been a key priority and Brother UK has been certified as a zero waste to landfill business for ten consecutive years. In the spirit of its ‘At Your Side’ ethos, the company is committed to sharing its sustainability experiences and insights with partners to help them on their own journeys.



From source to sale and beyond, Dams strives to ensure its carbon footprint is as small as possible –along with those of its dealers and partners. A major opportunity for dealers to enhance their corporate responsibility is through Dams’ sustainability initiative, re.think, which offers an innovative solution for furniture and waste packaging disposal.

Environmentally friendly electric vans are always on hand to manage the collection and transportation of waste to the re.think depot. At this facility, furniture is either recycled, repaired or remanufactured, as appropriate; and waste packaging is processed and recycled, thus avoiding landfill. Re.think provides ecoconscious dealers with a low-cost and hassle-free solution to any waste disposal woes.

The company is on track to reach net zero well in advance of its 2035 target, thanks to a myriad of processes, policies and products developed for this purpose. A standout example of Dams’ commitment is the Everly chair, made from certified regenerated post-consumer plastic and 100% recyclable at end of life. Other products are manufactured with FSCcertified wood from sustainable forests and are available in eco-friendly fabrics where applicable.

Dams has also scrutinised and refined its manufacturing processes and power consumption to cut carbon emissions, such as using a biomass boiler to heat its factories. Recently, it upgraded its fleet of warehouse vehicles to lithium battery-based power, achieving a 60% energy saving with this feature.


Recognised for sustainable manufacturing practices and the use of eco-friendly materials, Deflecto Group has established sustainability programmes that lead the way in providing environmentally friendly and innovative products globally. Deflecto is the world’s largest manufacturer of desk chair mats and utilises renewable plant-based materials in their production.

The desktop range is produced in the UK and is licensed to bear the Made in Britain registered trademark. Dealers buying these products are supporting British industry and helping to reduce carbon emissions through shorter transportation distances. The company’s sustainable desk accessories are made from up to 80% post-consumer waste and are fully recyclable.

Deflecto Group’s global manufacturing sites emphasise the recycling of scrap, plastic wrap, pallets, aluminium and adhesives, with obsolete items donated to organisations such as Habitat for Humanity. All sites are supplied with 100% renewable energy and use recycled heat from compressors to keep employees warm in the winter. A range of sustainable environmental programmes on-site include recycling and the utilisation of recycled materials in production and packaging.

The new product development teams are laser-focused on creating new ranges with sustainability at the forefront. 2024 has seen the introduction of Magnetoplan – a highquality product selection that promises a long, resourcesaving lifespan.

Deflecto Group offers a five-year surface guarantee on its SP whiteboards. For the enamelled surfaces of its CC whiteboards, environmentally friendly e3 CeramicSteel is used, which is 99.9% recyclable and comes with a 25-year surface guarantee. Magnetoplan whiteboards are made with wood-based carrier material from sustainable FSC forests, with the whiteboard accessories range produced from recycled PET.



Durable is leading the charge in eco-friendly manufacturing, with a commitment to sustainable practices deeply ingrained in every aspect of its operations. The company boasts a wide range of eco products, which includes over 50 items crafted from at least 80% recycled materials and bearing the Blue Angel certification.

Durable’s monitor mount series, for example, is created from 60% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. The packaging is made from 75% recycled materials and is also 100% recyclable.

During 2023, more than 5,000 tonnes of CO offset, securing the company carbon-neutral status. It has long invested in renewable energy, with over 12,500 sq m of solar panels worldwide; while the transition to LED lighting has reduced energy consumption by over 70%.

Waste management is another critical area of focus: over 80% of its plastic waste is reused during manufacturing, while 84% of product packaging is fully recyclable.

At the heart of its sustainability efforts, Durable champions RETHINK, an initiative emphasising its own four Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle. Although an internal call to action, its impact runs through the company’s entire supply chain.

The newly launched EFFECT series – including a monitor stand, drawer and desk mat – perfectly encapsulates the RETHINK ethos by using 60% recycled PET plastic, reducing material use through intelligent design and offering multi-functional products to enhance their reusability.


Since its inception in 2009, edding’s EcoLine range has been continuously evolving and setting new benchmarks for eco-friendly products. In 2020, for example, the EcoLine markers were certified as climate neutral, with any residual, unavoidable carbon emissions offset by edding through investment in climate protection projects.

83% of the plastic used in edding’s permanent markers, whiteboard markers and flipchart markers comes from postconsumer plastics. This translates to an impressive 90% recycled material overall, which contributes to a significant reduction of approximately 126 tonnes of CO2 annually, compared to the use of virgin materials from fossil fuels. Furthermore, EcoLine products have the distinction of being the first markers to receive the Blue Angel certification.

Taking sustainability a step further, edding has introduced the return box initiative to demonstrate its commitment to a circular economy. The process is straightforward: customers can place any brand of pen or marker into the return box once it has run out and send it back to edding UK free of charge for recycling. The materials are then repurposed to create new EcoLine products, thereby establishing a closed loop system that minimises waste.

The return box initiative simplifies the recycling process for customers, eliminating the need for material separation and enabling them to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability with a certificate recognising their participation.



Environmental protection has been an integral part of Exacompta Clairefontaine’s corporate strategy for over 40 years and the company’s initiatives have been recognised with an upgrade of its EcoVadis status from Bronze to Silver.

ExaClair’s partnership with the World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced project has resulted in the offset of an additional 10,96 kg of CO2, aiding in the conservation of 2,075 m² of critically endangered tropical forest.

A reduction in plastic shrink-wrap usage of up to 77% has been achieved at the UK production site; while the manufacturing team is transitioning to more sustainable packaging solutions for boxed products, such as responsibly sourced envelopes, wherever possible.

Outdated lighting has been replaced with energyefficient LEDs across UK facilities, lowering the number of light fittings required by one-third and halving energy consumption with the help of newly installed light sensors in less active areas. Air conditioning units have been updated to more energy-efficient models and the company fleet refreshed with hybrid or electric vehicles.

ExaClair has launched a specialist recycling programme with a partner organisation to repurpose the web cores that are left over from the manufacture of manila products. This process involves shredding and crushing the web cores into bales, which are then sold back to paper mills to mash into pulp.

The ExaClair distribution centre has also significantly cut down on wood and material wastage by managing a sustainable circular flow of pallets with suppliers and customers. This has reduced the number of pallets needed by 30%.

ExaClair also actively promotes its ecologically conscious practices through the creation of content that enables resellers to incorporate these sustainability messages into their websites and communications with end users.



Fellowes Brands’ mission is to go further and do more, working hand in hand with trade partners to provide guidance, education and commercial opportunities while ensuring a more sustainable future.

Packaging is the first touchpoint of the customer journey and Fellowes aims to achieve 100% recyclability and eliminate single-use plastics by 2028. In addition, the use of water-based inks is favoured for sustainable packaging solutions.

Transitioning to circular products requires the use of multiple design strategies. Fellowes products are

designed to last and this is clearly evident across the company’s extensive ranges. Many – such as paper shredders, laminators, height-adjustable desks and monitor arms – come with extended warranties.

Fellowes is dedicated to increasing the amounts of recycled content it uses, thereby reducing demand for virgin resources and repurposing secondary materials into brand-new products.

All corrugated Bankers Box products are made from FSC-certified 100% recycled board and are fully recyclable. Many ergonomics products are made of steel and aluminium, which are not only durable but also recyclable. Several monitor arm lines feature 4070% recycled content; while Earth Series mousepads are composed of 85% recycled content, with the postconsumer material derived from used vehicle tyres repurposed as the rubber base.

Designing with end of life in mind, Fellowes’ new BREYTA ergonomic accessories have been developed for easy disassembly and are 100% recyclable.

To help dealers navigate the world of sustainability, Fellowes continuously improves its communication strategies to highlight the eco-friendly features of product categories. Apart from increasing the sustainability of its products, the vendor is also reducing the impacts of its internal operations and was recognised by EcoVadis with Bronze status in 2023.

Fellowes is additionally pursuing third-party certifications such as BIFMA’s LEVEL programme for furniture and Indoor Advantage Gold.


In 2020, Hopax implemented its sustainable development strategy, encapsulating its mission of ‘Making the world a better place through innovation, sustainable development and contributions to human society’.

Recognising the importance of consumer confidence in the products they are using, Hopax has joined Sedex and has undergone a 4-Pillar SMETA Ethical Trade Audit, evaluating CSR, working conditions, environmental impact and business ethics.

Hopax now offers more eco-friendly packaging options, in addition to manufacturing a wider range of sustainable products. Its stick’n brand presents environmentally friendly repositionable products that use watersoluble adhesives. The range includes the following:

• FSC COC Certified Notes utilise paper sourced from forests that are sustainably managed, ensuring that they are recognised as ‘forest resources under good stewardship’.

• Recycled Notes are produced using 80% recycled consumer wastepaper and 20% factory waste.

• Eco Notes employ lighter paper that uses less pulp, thereby reducing environmental impact and transport footprint.

• Kraft Notes are made from natural, unbleached paper, which minimises the use of chemicals and the risk of water pollution.

Hopax is currently focusing attention on making its packaging materials more sustainable. This has resulted in two significant developments: an extended range of FSC COC Certified Notes packed in plastic-free boxes and Recycled Notes in boxes made with recycled card.



For the past 14 years, Lucart’s EcoNatural brand has been synonymous with sustainable innovation, thanks to a project leveraging advanced technology that can recycle 100% of beverage carton components. This unique manufacturing process turns everyday beverage cartons – made of cellulose fibres, polyethylene and aluminium – into valuable resources which, when correctly sorted, can be recycled through a specific recycling system.

Through Lucart’s proprietary technology, cellulose fibres are used to produce Fiberpack, the raw material for a comprehensive line of products under the EcoNatural brand, including toilet tissue, hand towels, handkerchiefs, napkins and reels.

Meanwhile, the polyethylene and aluminium are transformed into Al.Pe, which is then used to manufacture paper dispensers. This makes it the only system to offer a complete paper and dispenser solution produced entirely from recycled food cartons, setting a benchmark for circular economy practices in Europe. EcoNatural provides a tangible and measurable ecological solution. Since 2013, through the production of Fiberpack paper, Lucart has facilitated the recovery of over 10.7 billion 1-litre beverage cartons.

The environmental credentials of the EcoNatural range are further enhanced by multiple certifications. The entire range boasts EU Ecolabel and FSC Recycled certifications, with products manufactured at the Laval-surVologne site also receiving Cradle to Cradle status. In addition, EcoNatural toilet tissue and hand towels produced at the Laval-sur-Vologne and Diecimo sites are certified under ISO 14067 for Product Climate Neutrality, which means that all greenhouse gas emissions generated during the lifecycle of the product over a given period have been reduced and offset to zero.

And Lucart’s journey towards real and complete sustainability is not limited to its products – where possible, standard packaging has also been replaced by recycled and compostable paper or recycled plastic packaging.



The Navigator Company places the forest at the core of its sustainability strategy, which is guided by principles of responsible management that inform environmental, social and business objectives.

Navigator is at the forefront of the transition to a lowcarbon economy. In a bold move, the company has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality across its industrial operations by 2035 – 15 years ahead of EU targets – highlighting its steadfast dedication to environmental stewardship. The Navigator Company’s carbon neutrality programme is based on four objectives:

• Obtaining 100% of its electricity from renewable sources

• Reducing fossil CO2 emissions by substituting technologies

• Decreasing specific energy consumption by 15% (2025 vs 2015)

• Offsetting emissions that cannot be reduced

The Navigator Company has made a conscious decision to do more with less by choosing Eucalyptus Globulus as its primary material. The denser fibres of Eucalyptus Globulus allow for a 40% reduction in wood usage to produce the same amount of paper, saving precious resources.

The manufacturer also actively promotes the renewal of forests by planting 24 million cuttings and seedlings a year in its forestry nurseries.


Pentel has expanded its best-selling EnerGel pen range with the introduction of two products with impressive eco credentials. The EnerGel Xm Eco 79 is based on the design of the popular EnerGel pen range but is made using 79% recycled material. Meanwhile, the all-new EnerGel Eco 96 is a capstyle pen made with 96% recycled material – the highest percentage in any Pentel writing instrument.

The pens are equipped with fast-drying EnerGel ink, which is ideal for both right and left-handed writers as it reduces the risk of smudging on hands and paper. The EnerGel Xm Eco 79 features a comfortable latex-free grip, suitable for all-day use; while the EnerGel Eco 96 has a chunky barrel and a grooved finger grip for comfort and control.

Options for the EnerGel Xm Eco 79 include black, red, blue or green ink, offered in dozens by colour, mixed cardboard packs of four or a 36-piece counter display, ideal for retail settings. The EnerGel Eco 96, characterised by its black barrel, is available in black or blue ink, with a 24-piece counter display option for retailers.

Both models feature 0.7mm tips for medium line width and are compatible with Pentel’s LR7 refill range – in no fewer than 20 colours. The two new pens raise the bar for the EnerGel range, the majority of which are already made with a minimum of 50% recycled material, and most of which can also be refilled.



With EcoVadis Bronze status, sustainability is at the heart of everything Pukka Pads does and every product it creates.

Its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and achieving net zero is reflected through initiatives such as the installation of solar panels on its distribution centre in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, with plans to extend this to its factory in Bingley, Yorkshire.

Pukka Pads has also invested in two electric cars, replacing two diesel cars in its fleet. The solar panels also power one of its electric car chargers, alongside a fleet of forklifts at the distribution centre.

In terms of products, one of the company’s newer brands, Pukka Planet, is dedicated to bringing the best of ecofriendly stationery to the market, with bold, bright and innovative designs.

The latest addition to the Pukka Planet range is multipurpose copier paper featuring FSC recycled materials and 100% recyclable packaging. The acid-free and vegan-friendly reams are designed with planet-themed slogans such as ‘This is the good sheet’ and ‘Don’t be trashy, recycle.’

Pukka Pads works closely with its wholesalers to keep them up to speed with its eco credentials and latest sustainability initiatives. This information is also readily available to dealers either through their wholesaler or directly from Pukka Pads.

It will also be accessible through a new B2B ordering app which is currently under development.


Sylvamo’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitment is borne out in its inaugural ESG Report, published with the tagline: ‘Building a better future through the promise of paper’. This pledge extends to fostering the success of its entire ecosystem – encompassing forests, communities and those reliant on its paper.

Sylvamo has also aligned its operations with the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on sustainable forest management, community support and climate impact mitigation. Key figures attest to its progress: a targeted 35% reduction in Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; over $5 million invested last year in community support; the continuous sourcing of 100% of its fibre from sustainably managed forests; and the generation of more than 80% of mill energy globally from carbon-neutral, renewable biomass residuals.

Sylvamo’s Nymölla and Saillat mills, for example, benefit from low carbon grid electricity. For over two decades, the mills have proudly held ISO 14001 certification for their environmental management systems, while also boosting their energy efficiency with the implementation of ISO 50001. Both also possess FSC and PEFC chain of custody certifications along with EU Ecolabel paper certifications, with Nymölla also achieving the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.


T3L Group merged its go-to-market brands – Tarifold, 3L Office and Jalema – under a single, unified name, Djois, last year. With an ambitious roadmap, T3L aims to make Djois a strong, ‘eco-trendy’ brand, with new environmentally friendly solutions launched every year to cater to the growing demand for sustainable products. Currently, there are several product ranges on offer:

• Sustainable Tree-Free folders: Embracing a future in which cardboard need not come from trees, Djois uses PaperWise cardboard crafted from agricultural waste.

• Re-Solution: This range transforms recycled materials such as the insides of refrigerators and old clothes hangers into office interior products, including desktop sets, magazine files, book ends and wastepaper bins. This set is Blue Angel certified.

• Secolor filing: Traditionally made from virgin FSC-certified cardboard, most Secolor products are transitioning to 100% recycled cardboard. This cardboard is 250g thick, FSC and Blue Angel certified, chlorine and acid free and fully recyclable.

• Biodegradable products: This range – consisting of badge holders, adhesive pockets, non-adhesive CD/DVD pockets and business card pockets – is made from polylactic acid, a material derived from agri-food waste (maize, potatoes, sugar cane and sugar beets, etc).

To reduce the environmental impact of packaging, Djois has ceased using coloured ink, opting instead for simplified black/white or black kraft boxes. Looking ahead, the brand has set several key targets for the future, including achieving EcoVadis Gold certification, eliminating single-use plastics within three years and ensuring 80% of its products are made from environmentally friendly materials by 2026.


Ahead of the curve

to the workplace with spaces that reflect individual needs and desires. Employee sentiment will drive the development of innovative, multifunctional furniture.”

This perspective is reflected throughout the industry, down to dealer level, with Blakes Workplace Solutions Director Michael Byrne adding: “Lots of larger companies we work with are refurbishing offices to accommodate the new way of working. Staff are splitting their time between home and the office so we’re noticing big demand for collaboration areas, soft seating and acoustic booths.”

Spending patterns in the furniture category are moving in new directions to reflect growing attention on collaboration, health and wellbeing.

he office furniture sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience over the past four years. Vendors in this space have been skilfully adapting and tailoring their offerings to suit both home office setups and the changing preferences of the conventional workplace, with the aim of meeting the needs of today’s employees.

There is a belief at leading global furniture company Steelcase that many offices have yet to evolve to support diverse working styles, meaning customers are looking to invest in spaces that can satisfy a host of new requirements. CEO Sara Armbruster anticipates that this momentum, especially among large clients, is set to persist through the year.

Echoing her optimism, Dams Furniture Managing Director Chris Scott observes: “The outlook is bright as many organisations look to attract employees back

End users want the same level of comfort across workplaces and don’t want to feel like they’re sacrificing anything

ACCO Brands, although smaller in this market segment, has witnessed significant sales growth since late 2022. Regional Marketing Director for the UK & Ireland Elisabete Wells explains that the vendor expects sales figures to continue to increase, and that it is developing new products scheduled to hit the market later this year: “We are confident this is not just a trend. Hybrid working has become the norm and the office refit movement is still happening.”


Furniture now transcends mere functionality, especially as the lines have become increasingly blurred between home and office furniture. Since employees enjoyed new levels of comfort and aesthetics while working from home, they are simply no longer prepared to go back to cookie-cutter cubicles.

Wells captures this perfectly: “End users want the same level of comfort across workplaces and don’t want to feel like they’re sacrificing anything by working at one location instead of another.

“Ergonomics has major value here. When staff are comfortable and healthy, they’re more motivated and productive. Sick days are also reduced, which benefits the business and the individual alike.”

Bi-silque Business Development Manager Yvonne Partridge also highlights how the shift towards remote working models has fuelled a surge in demand for furniture that not only blends seamlessly into the home

Chatbox Acoustic hubs and Priva workspaces (right) from Dams Furniture

environment but also addresses the ergonomic needs of individuals: “We have intensified our research and development efforts towards creating innovative home office solutions that meet the modern professional’s requirements for versatility, functionality as well as style. The focus has shifted towards crafting pieces that promote wellbeing and can easily integrate into various home settings.”


The transition towards hybrid working models brings with it a host of benefits. In December 2023, the Journal of Occupational Health published Experiences of working from home: umbrella review, which studied nearly 2,000 academic papers on the impact of work-from-home (WFH) routines.

The findings were predominantly positive, underscoring the fact that WFH can lead to healthier eating habits, reduced stress levels and lower blood pressure. Professor Neil Greenberg, one of the study’s authors and a psychiatrist at Kings College London, warns that denying WFH options will make companies less flexible in the event of a future crisis that prevents people from reaching their offices.

Despite these benefits, WFH is not without its challenges. The same review found homeworkers can be more sedentary than their in-office colleagues.

Meanwhile, Posturite (a division of Fellowes Brands) published a survey in 2023 that revealed 34% of UK- and Ireland-based remote workers feel lonely. It is, therefore, unsurprising that collaboration continues to be a key focus of workplace wellness and the furniture industry is responding with new products to mitigate shortcomings.

Referring to the evolving nature of teamwork, Wells emphasises the need for workspaces to adapt accordingly. “Collaboration will become limitless and happen anywhere at any time,” she points out, spotlighting a move towards more informal spaces and spontaneous team interactions. “It’s entirely achievable, for example, through movable whiteboards and memo

boards or by employees pulling up ergonomic stools and active sitting balls,” she adds.

Indeed, Mark Brown, Sales Director at manufacturer 2020 Furniture Design, believes collaborative workspaces and breakout areas will evolve to become more agile and flexible. He states: “The next developments I expect to see will be furniture which is easily reconfigured and mobile solutions, such as products utilising wheels.”


Improving communication between at-home and in-office staff is difficult but Blakes is one dealer that has concentrated on addressing this issue, recognising the growing need for adaptable meeting spaces to support productive connections.

For those companies that downsized during the pandemic and are now grappling with limited space, Byrne believes a quick and easy fix is fully acoustic meeting pods. He explains: “These are available in a range of sizes and are ideal to prevent background noise. Unlike partition walls, the pods can become company assets and be taken with the client if they move premises.”

He has also observed a significant uptick in demand for these meeting pods, marking this as a substantial growth area, with sales already around one-third higher this year than in 2023.

Wells agrees, noting: “When employers are equipping a new office, there’s a major chance to build in solutions such as soundproof booths and pods that make it easier for remote team members to join their in-person colleagues.”

The focus has shifted towards crafting pieces that promote wellbeing
2020 Furniture Design’s ThinkPod range

The New World of Work whitepaper released by Leitz earlier this year found that 75% of homeworkers regularly encounter sound and audio problems when participating in virtual meetings. Such issues can not only cause embarrassment for employees when they have to request repetitions or repeat themselves but also lead to decreased contributions during meetings.

This highlights the importance of investing in furniture and equipment that support hybrid meetings, facilitating smooth interaction and realtime collaboration between in-person and remote participants. Reflecting on this rising demand, Brown notes: “A key area of growth has been private phone and meeting booths. We only see this trend continuing as businesses must allow more flexible work patterns, with less reliance on traditional desks.”


Meanwhile, the integration of technology into the fabric of modern office life is transforming not just how we work but also the physical environments we work in. It might be surprising to learn that 62% of remote workers prefer to be on camera during remote meetings, according to the State of Remote Work 2023 report from social media management software company Buffer.

The reasons cited for this preference highlight the human aspect of remote work: 67% believe it facilitates easier communication through visual cues such as facial expressions, while 16% find it reduces feelings of isolation. This shift towards a more connected and visually engaged remote working culture has significant implications for office furniture and design.

The proliferation of cloud-based technologies means traditional, cumbersome office furniture such as storage cabinets is becoming obsolete, freeing up space for more innovative uses. Moreover, the core pieces of office furniture that have defined workplaces for decades are undergoing a technological revolution. Bi-silque, for example, is currently spearheading several projects which integrate technology with


of remote workers prefer to be on camera during digital meetings

Source: State of Remote Work 2023

With the development of AI, it might not be long until a height-adjustable desk can analyse the needs of the user and adapt automatically

furniture design. Its initiatives include smart desks with built-in charging stations and app-controlled height adjustability, ergonomic chairs featuring posture sensors and other furniture pieces incorporating connectivity solutions.

Dams’ Scott is also excited by the digital possibilities. “With the development of AI, it might not be long until a height-adjustable desk can analyse the needs of the user and adapt automatically to deliver the best ergonomic set-up,” he says.

Such advancements can help address the ageold problem with office working – spending hours in the same position can lead to detrimental, longterm musculoskeletal conditions. Smart desks and similar innovations promote movement and variability in posture, introducing a dynamic element to the workspace that was historically absent.


The United Nations’ projection that 70% of the global population will reside in urban areas by 2050 highlights the critical need for our work environments to reconnect people with nature. As a result, biophilic design has also been growing in popularity in the modern workspace.

“Biophilic offices incorporate features of the natural landscape to create a more relaxing and healthier environment,” says Byrne. “It has been proven that biophilic design reduces stress and improves cognitive function and creativity. Recently, we’ve noticed big demand in this area and we now supply and fit green walls as an add-on to our existing furniture portfolio.”

However, the furniture industry is not without its environmental challenges, with issues ranging from deforestation and waste generation to significant greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, office furniture manufacturers have been vocal about their commitment to sustainable practices and advocating for the circular economy.

Dams Furniture developed re.think in response to calls for a responsible solution to the disposal of waste

Studio booths by Blakes Workplace Solutions

packaging and office furniture. “Through re.think, our customers can send in furniture for repair or recycling,” Scott explains. “Additionally, waste packaging such as cardboard can be recycled with ease, reducing their carbon footprint. With this programme, our manufacturing economy is circular; and any revenue generated through the initiative is reinvested into our sustainability efforts.” (Read Green Goals, page 34).

Equally, Bi-silque’s Partridge has observed a marked interest in second-hand and upcycled furniture, along with eco-friendly and renewable materials: “Sustainability is mandatory, and this has confronted manufacturers with an increased demand for longlasting and reusable products.

“Bi-silque meticulously selects materials for our furniture, prioritising natural wood or wood-based and sourced sustainably. Our preference extends to ecoconscious metals such as steel and aluminium, plastics with recycled content and cork.”

Marius Moldovan, General Manager at portable ergonomics vendor Standivarius, further highlights the importance of creating products that are not only made from sustainable materials but also designed for durability: “Office products that fail to marry form with function often end up as little more than decorative paperweights, eventually contributing to piles of waste. Furniture that doesn’t adapt to the needs of its users doesn’t just risk obsolescence; it threatens to contribute to environmental degradation.”


Today’s approach to office furniture necessitates an understanding that one solution doesn’t fit all. Employees want a workspace that is as individual as their homes. According to research firm Croner-i in


• POSITION your dealership as a trusted partner by becoming a knowledgeable authority on the latest market trends in office furniture and workplace design.

• INNOVATE beyond the basics of standard furniture offerings by identifying products and solutions which cater to wellness and individuality in the workplace.

• CREATE dedicated website sections and communication materials that feature consumer-enticing content.

• OFFER comprehensive solutions which address the entire collaborative ecosystem.

• TAKE advantage of the doubleselling opportunity that hybrid working presents by catering for the needs of home offices as well as traditional workspaces.

Furniture that doesn’t adapt to the needs of its users doesn’t just risk obsolescence; it threatens to contribute to environmental degradation

Individuality in the workplace: supporting employees to be themselves, staff members who can be themselves feel valued and included. This sense of belonging has benefits for both recruitment and employee retention.

Says ACCO Brands’ Wells: “People want to work for employers who understand, value and support them. Appreciating employee needs and delivering on them is crucial to helping with presenteeism, recruiting the next working generation – Gen Z – as well as retaining existing staff.”

In this context, it makes sense that the focus has shifted from quantity to quality. The advent of hybrid working models, which reduce the need for a high number of desks in a single space, allows companies to invest more thoughtfully in their work environments. This not only caters to the immediate requirements of employees but also positions businesses for future success by creating a workspace that people are eager to engage with.

Moldovan encapsulates this vision: “The goal is a future where offices are designed for longevity, adaptability and with the environment in mind –without sacrificing the joy of a well-curated workspace.”


as potential members. We aim to engage those who are making significant contributions and becoming well known faces within our sector.

W360: Could you clarify the membership fees?

SH: The annual membership fee for full members is just £80 and that is used primarily to secure 2-3 speakers per year for our formal dinners. Our list of honoured guests over the past 115 years can be viewed on the website and is really quite remarkable.

The membership reflects many of the industry’s most recognisable leaders and a lot of emerging talent

Raising glasses, raising profiles

As the new President of The Society of Old Friends, Steve Hilleard shares his plans for a more inclusive and vibrant community for our industry’s most influential networking group

Workplace360: What is the primary purpose of The Society of Old Friends?

Steve Hilleard: It is unashamedly all about networking. Founded in London in 1909, it started as a tightly knit association for stationers in the capital, particularly those in bookselling, publishing and bookbinding. Over time, it has evolved into serving what we now recognise as the workplace supplies industry, nationwide.

The range of networking events is increasingly varied and includes guest dinners as well as many less formal evening and lunchtime social functions, all of which are hugely enjoyable – as you’ll see from the numerous effusive comments left on our LinkedIn page.

W360: Is Society membership open to anyone?

SH: Membership is totally open, but it’s subject to approval by a majority vote among our ten committee members. Throughout my entire time on the committee, we’ve never refused anyone. While we don’t have strict criteria, we tend to appeal to those who have established roots in our industry. We are also focused on inviting younger members into the fold and have identified several emerging leaders and notable figures

W360: Is there a membership cap?

SH: There is but it has been reviewed twice in recent years as our resurgent Society has evolved into more of a national group and we have plenty of headroom for growth. Presently, we boast a membership of 169, up 17% on the previous year. The membership reflects many of the industry’s most recognisable leaders and a lot of emerging talent.

W360: Can someone come along and check it out first?

SH: Absolutely. We wholeheartedly encourage prospective members to attend as guests initially, perhaps once or twice, to get a real feel for what we do. Someone rarely joins without first experiencing one of our gatherings as a guest. Moreover, it’s not mandatory to be invited by an existing member; interested parties can come as paying guests to see if it aligns with their expectations and interests.

W360: Besides networking, are there additional advantages to joining The Society of Old Friends?

SH: That’s fundamentally it. Old Friends isn’t overly complex. This industry thrives on people and their connections and newcomers are often pleasantly surprised by the sense of community. The Society serves as one of many avenues for industry professionals to gather, not only for networking but also for the betterment of their career or business.

Our motto, “Forsake not an Old Friend,” encapsulates our essence perfectly. We exist in an industry where shared challenges are common, especially in the evolving landscape post-COVID. It’s an opportunity to spend time with your peers and an awful lot of serious business gets done – as well as a lot of clinking of glasses and eating!

W360: You took over as President on 16 April, so you’ve clearly been a member for some time. What are your plans?

SH: I officially joined back in 2004, thanks to the late Jonathan Straker, so it’s safe to say I’m definitely an ‘old friend’. I plan to uphold the name despite some calls for change, although we need to better explain what the Society stands for.

Steve Hilleard with Beth Tweddle MBE

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The name ‘Old Friends’ is not about age; it’s about enduring long-term industry relationships. For example, some members may only be in their early 30s yet their entire career has been in our industry. My main goal is to address the historically male-dominated composition of the Society. Currently, 17% of our members are female, and my declared target is to increase this to 25% during my two-year tenure.

While encouraging younger members is crucial, enhancing diversity by having more females in the Society is the top priority

W360: What strategies are you deploying to refresh the Society’s image, particularly in encouraging more young members and females to join?

SH: The umbrella focus is to extend and diversify our membership. While encouraging younger members is crucial, enhancing diversity by having more females in the Society is the top priority. We’ve assembled a task force composed of our existing female members to identify and reach out to influential women in the industry.

Additionally, we’ve taken on board feedback about our events and how to be more inclusive and considerate of all members’ needs, including providing longer notice for events to accommodate those with caregiving or other responsibilities. The target is to grow our membership to at least 200, with that special focus on increasing female participation.

Another part of our effort to rejuvenate the Society’s image includes a website overhaul, which I’m collaborating on with Rob Harper from Prima Software.

We will not dispense with some of the tradition and history pages, but we will be presenting a more welcoming and modern face.

W360: Sticking with diversification, there have been some successful events in the north. Are there any plans to expand to other regions?

SH: Old Friends was historically very London-centric but in recent decades the industry has spread out across the country and there is a proliferation of influential businesses in many other regions, especially the north and Midlands.

In the past two years, we have organised massively successful and very well-attended functions in Leeds and Manchester. We plan to continue these and will also resurrect activities in the Midlands – specifically Birmingham – in the second year of my Presidency.

W360: Lastly, the Society has some quirky traditions that potential members should know about. Please explain more about them.

SH: The most poignant is the nine o’clock toast at our dinners, where we raise a glass to those who cannot be with us – for whatever reason that may be. This is visually represented in our logo, which features a series of dots forming a clock face, with two dots missing at the nine o’clock position, as a little nod to this tradition.

There are many others but you’ll just have to come along and see for yourself. I promise there are no masonic rituals and you’ll also see that we deservedly lost the ‘old farts’ tag many years ago!

W360: Thanks Steve, and good luck with the plans for your Presidency.




Sustainable by conviction

As a certified OKOPROFIT company, sustainability is very important to us. Therefore, we pay attention to the origin and consumption of our resources.We primarily use environmentally friendly, recyclable materials that can be reintroduced into the cycle. g

An increasing number of magnetoplan® products are gradually transitioning to rPET recy plastic. Our whiteboards are 98% recyclable, and our mobile whiteboards are even 99% recyclable. Since we produce in Europe, we shorten transportation distances and aim for a minimal carbon footprint.

Sustainable - environmentally friendlygives valuable raw materials a second life.

magnetoplan® is FSC® certified

All our design whiteboards and many other products are FSC® certified.

The international certification system represents a more sustainable forest management. The wood from products with the FSC® label comes from forests that are responsibly managed.

High quality = extremely long lifespan

The high quality of our products ensures a long, resource-saving lifespan. We offer up to a25-yearsurfaceguarantee on our design whiteboards. For the enameled surfaces of our CC whiteboards, we use an environmentally friendly e3 Ceramic Steel that is 99.9% recyclable.

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Trapped again

Do five-year, auto-renew contracts have a place in our industry?

As head of a dealer group, I like to think we do a good job of championing the cause of independent resellers by leveraging the strength of collaboration. However, we have become embroiled in one scenario that has us stumped and prompted me to tell a cautionary tale for all small independent resellers.

A dealer in our group entered into a partnership with Stericycle (Shred-it) to offer shredding services, which had been mutually beneficial – until now. When one of the dealer’s customers decided to terminate the service after just over five years, the dealer informed Stericycle, only to be shocked to learn that the contract had automatically renewed for another five years because notice wasn’t given within the stipulated three months before the end date.


While we advocate for respecting contractual agreements, the predicament sheds light on what appears to be a strategy to bind dealers to lengthy

commitments without clear communication. At the very least, a courtesy notice from Stericycle indicating the impending conclusion of the contract would, undoubtedly, have been a more honourable approach.

Unfortunately, when you drill down into the fine print – a very long multi-page document – it transpires there is no such obligation on Stericycle’s part to remind or inform the dealer that the contract is coming to an end. It seems the absence of a reminder was in the hope that the dealer would inadvertently commit to another lengthy term. That is not my definition of a true partnership.

The expectation that SMEs can adeptly navigate the intricate process of terminating a service precisely after four years and nine months is unrealistic –especially in this instance when that period also involved contending with a pandemic, business shutdowns and furlough. It leaves a very sour taste in the mouth to think that there are still companies preying on SMEs in this way.


The fact remains that legally Stericycle has done nothing wrong, leaving the dealer in question likely to be stuck with a contract it does not want for an additional five years. Yet from a moral standpoint, the persistence of such tactics is troubling. Many sectors have shifted away from these antiquated and onesided agreements, recognising their unfairness, with consumers also typically protected.

Indeed, in canvassing opinions, BOSS Federation Interim CEO Debbie Nice told me: “It is disappointing to see this automatic renewal of a lengthy unwanted contract where the supplier provided no room for negotiation or appeared to express any compassion.

“With changes to employee responsibilities and ways of working, contract lifecycle management is becoming more important to avoid automatic renewal and contract disputes, with smaller contracts particularly at risk of going under the radar.”

I feel it is time for our industry to take a collective stance against these exploitative practices

Nice also noted that when the contract is between a supplier company and an individual customer, there are several consumer Acts that provide some protection against auto-renewal clauses. However, there is no such protection when the contract is between two businesses.

I feel it is time for our industry to take a collective stance against these exploitative practices.

Tim Beaumont is Managing Director of Nemo Office Club

The BOSS Charity Day provides an array of options, including a friendly golf tournament, a rejuvenating spa experience, or various other activities such as Archery, Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting and Segway Ridingculminating in a networking dinner, auction and raffle for all attendees.

Accommodation at Carden Park is on a first-come, first-served basis. If you require lodging, we highly recommend booking as soon as possible. You can secure your room by calling Carden Park reservations on 01829 731007 and quoting BOSS180624.

Book now at
NEW VENUE for 2024 - Carden Park, Cheshire, CH3 9DQ
Charity Day

Climb your Everest

Integra’s National Conference was packed full of topical presentations and enlightening insights that readied delegates for the future

Over 200 members, guests and representatives from 49 partners convened at The Hilton, St George’s Park, Burton Upon Trent in early March for the Integra Business Solutions ‘Elevate Your Business’ National Conference 2024. The event was designed to ensure delegates departed with practical advice directly applicable to enhancing their businesses. With a stellar array of industry professionals and inspiring experts presenting, attendees received a wealth of reliable and actionable insights.


Integra Business Solutions CEO Aidan McDonough opened the proceedings by commemorating his 30th anniversary with the organisation. He reflected on the evolution the dealer group has undergone and applauded members for adapting to ever-changing market demands.

McDonough emphasised the importance of sustainability, encouraging members to seize the opportunities to sell eco-friendly products and to work towards a net zero strategy. He also shed light on future trends, including the continuous momentum in M&A, the emerging influence of AI and the necessity for diversification into new categories to counteract the decline in traditional office products.

IDC Consulting Director Nathan Budd presented insights on the future of work, advocating for a digitalfirst infrastructure. He told the audience that although AI is the most dramatic change in the workplace, “providing a competitive advantage will only come from people, not machines”.

Taking the delegates further into the technology, Paddy Donnelly, Business Unit Leader at ECI Software Solutions, delved into how AI and managed content can enhance businesses. He also showcased the company’s new EvoX AI tool and advised members to partner with innovative vendors and leverage data analytics for decision-making.

Highlands Partner Gordon Christiansen reiterated that the future of B2B sales is hybrid, requiring a blend

of digital and in-person techniques. He noted that although digital platforms are crucial, the essence of partnerships and collaboration in business cannot be understated: “Relationships aren’t dead. People buy from people they can relate to and trust.”

The afternoon’s supplier exhibition provided a platform for members to connect in person, explore sales strategies and preview forthcoming product launches with service providers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. The Integra team were also on hand to talk about the group’s Green Initiative and i-merge service, among other things.

AI is the most dramatic change in the workplace


A highlight of the day was the chance to sit down with broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle, who shared a tale of a near-catastrophic experience when his oxygen tank exploded on entering the death zone of Mount Everest. Freeing the audience from this thrilling, suspense-driven session, he ended by encouraging everyone to “climb [their] Everest”.

Rounding off the day, delegates attended the Elevate Your Business black-tie gala dinner and awards ceremony, where the winners were announced against a backdrop of fine food and drink (see below). Elvis even made an appearance.


• Account Manager of the Year: Darren Renshaw, VOW

• Manufacturer of the Year: Hamelin Brands

• Wholesaler/Distributor of the Year: JGBM

• Product of the Show: ACCO Brands: Pro V Light

• Alliance Member of the Year: Discounted Office Supplies

• Directory Member of the Year: Office Essentials

• Gold Member of the Year: Geoff Ball Office Supplies


Navigating change

The importance of diversification in the workplace supplies industry

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ and it has unquestionably applied to the business supplies sector over the years.

It’s a lesson that is still relevant from when I started my career in our industry in the late 1990s. Back then, Tony Blair had just been elected Prime Minister, Princess Diana was alive, Oasis were breaking onto the music scene and businesses were still buying stationery.

Fast forward to today and most employees are not back in the office full time, we are coping with a costof-living crisis and the world is arguably at its most unstable since the 1930s. The stakes have never been higher for independent businesses that continue to rely on one product or service, putting themselves at risk.


Now more than ever, diversification is paramount for expanding revenue streams and maintaining a competitive edge in this evolving landscape. Having worked for a dealer group, wholesalers and now a manufacturer, I have witnessed just how effective the dealer market has become at adapting to change.

In the post-pandemic era, we are seeing the resurgence of larger dealers investing in their own warehousing capabilities again. The days of the ‘warehouse on wheels’ seem to be well and truly in the past. Dealers are also growing in new categories like workwear, facilities supplies and educational materials.

These diversification tactics, however, underline why it is so important for dealers to speak to their customers to ensure they are aware of all their requirements – not just the ones they already fulfil.

In one instance, a dealer supplying a client with office products overlooked a valuable opportunity. Upon visiting the customer’s location, which was undergoing renovations, they neglected to mention their in-house furniture division. This could have led to a great upsell. It also emphasises the significance of understanding a client’s business inside and out to make certain all potential product and service offerings are presented.

A key element of successful diversification is getting to know your suppliers – especially when entering a new category. For example, at Victor Stationery, we will train dealers on how and when to target schools, who they need to speak to and also help with marketing plans and product samples.

A key element of successful diversification is getting to know your suppliers

It is important to note that any strategic changes should embrace technological advancements as well as product diversification. By working with e-commerce and back-office providers, it is becoming much easier for dealers to deal directly with suppliers.


• Know your customer base.

• Make sure your data is up to date and relevant.

• Are there separate purchasers for different product sectors?

• Conduct a gap analysis with your largest customers to ensure you are not missing anything.

• Work with your dealer group and take advantage of the supplier support on offer.

• Talk to your wholesaler about the products you are selling. What can they do to assist you?

• Consider mergers and acquisitions as an option.

Annie Conlan is National Account Manager at

Who is the most famous person you’ve met?

Amy Dumas, aka Lita, from the WWE (major wrestling fan). I attended Comic Con a few years ago and was nervous approaching her stand, but she was the essence of cool and I was starstruck. Industry event-wise, Denise Van Outen.

If you could be friends with any fictional character, who would it be?

What’s the most random fact you know?

Probably not the most exciting random fact, but penguins have really strange and quite horrific-looking ‘teeth’. They are pretty scary.

Where is the most expensive place you’ve been?

It was a restaurant in Rome. One of the most expensive bottles of wine on the menu was ‘accidentally’ ordered. The bill was a bit of a shocker, although I’m not quite sure what I was expecting!

What’s something new happening in your life right now?

My partner and I are living with and taking care of my Grandad, as he was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I cannot thank my partner enough for helping us through.

We’re doing all we can to keep him happy and positive. Growing up, I was fortunate to have such a wonderful and caring man to do all the ‘Grandad things’ with. He loves his garden and we’re getting it ready so the ‘OAP’ (as we call him) can enjoy it.

What is one thing people would never guess about you?

I’m a second brown belt in kickboxing. A knee injury and current commitments have held me back from obtaining my black belt, but I’d love to get it. It’s been a few years, though, and I think I may have seized up.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I always wanted to be in the Scooby Gang.

What was the last TV show you binge-watched?

Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix – it was brilliant. Before that, I’d been watching Titans. I’m now waiting for the new season of The Boys on Amazon Prime.

Most embarrassing industry moment?

There are likely quite a few from my pre-sober days. One that sticks out is when I won the Salesperson of the Year award at an annual VOW event. I may have gotten a little overexcited and celebrated too much and ended up breaking my scaphoid bone.

Favourite holiday so far?

Lisbon, as I felt such a connection with this city. I have a Foundation Diploma in Portuguese and although I seem to have lost most knowledge, I can still piece together some written text. These days, though, it’s more UK holidays with the family.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I’m a big kid at heart, so it’s the PlayStation. I’m a real homebird and like the house to be clean and tidy, get the feng shui right and then play classic Tekken or WWE games.

Do you collect anything?

I still collect Pokémon cards. I also have a bit of an obsession with mugs and always get into bother for bringing yet another one home.

What’s your karaoke song?

I’m not much of a karaoke singer, but I sang Drops of Jupiter by Train at my 18th birthday party. My Gran said I was amazing, but she was biased.


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