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How a responsible supply chain helped a printing firm increase its turnover six-fold

06 April 2016 |

Ten years ago, Beacon Press was a small printing company that clients would rely on when they wanted infrequent, premium and niche services. Its industry leading green credentials were certainly an incentive, but the company was sometimes not considered for mainstream printing. In order to enter the mainstream it decided to concentrate on marketing the quality and price competitiveness of its work so that the high sustainability values could be the deciding purchasing factor rather than perceived as a barrier. Luckily, this proved to be the case. Find out how our client achieved this success.

Beacon had for 15 years been developing its award winning environmental printing systems and in 1996 had trade marked the name Pureprint to describe its environmental printing. In 2004 the Beacon Press was bought by East Sussex Press and the businesses were merged with a plan to change sustainable printing from a niche product into a mainstream business choice. It was also decided to call the new entity Pureprint Group.

In the space of a decade, the business has grown from a £6m-turnover, 65-person operation to one turning over £39m and employing 280 people. The growth is down to numerous factors, according to Pureprint director, Richard Owers. “There is no doubt that our sustainability and green credentials have been helpful to that because mainstream business has become increasingly concerned about that in the sustainability of their supply chains.”

In 2002 they became a member of the Global Forest Trade Network (GFTN-UK). The WWF-UK led partnership now works with more than 300 companies, communities, NGOs, and entrepreneurs around the world to tackle deforestation by creating market led incentives for responsible forest management.

Today Pureprint specify over 10,000 tonnes of paper a year and responsible paper purchasing is an essential for them. in 2001 they became the UK’s first FSC certified printer and now over 99.4% of the paper the firm uses is comes from certified sources and the remainder is from identified, credible and legal sources.

Now, Pureprint joins well-known British businesses such as Boots, Redrow Homes and Kimberly-Clark as some of the first UK firms committing to using 100% sustainable timber and wood products by 2020, as part of WWF-UK’s Forest Campaign. “Between the knowledge we’re able to glean from [the GFTN] and what’s happening in the marketplace, I think we’ve been able to create a very sustainable supply chain for paper for our customers.”

How Pureprint manages its sustainability program

Pureprint’s sustainability program uses a three tier approach: the first to make everything in its own production as sustainable as possible, using an environmental management system based on ISO140001 and EMAS; the second to share what they do with customers and staff to promote further environmental improvements; and the third is to take a leadership role within the industry and its professional bodies to encourage sustainability best practice throughout the industry.

One of the key things joining the GFTN did was provide a reference point for best practice. “We’re happy to be an educator and communicator and it’s important that we find the best third party best practice guidance. WWF-UK has been doing that for us on the subject of responsible paper purchasing for over 10 years,” says Owers.

Why sustainable sourcing is a good business decision

Pureprint has also added three Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for its commitment to sustainable development to its credentials. Preceding the second award, the company conducted some market research, keen to discover what its sustainability efforts meant for its customers and staff. What the results unveiled was very revealing : over 80% of Pureprint’s clients said the printer’s environmental and sustainability work ‘significantly influenced’ their purchasing decision, and over 50% of the firm’s staff said it had ‘significantly influenced’ their decision to come to work for Pureprint.

Indeed, sharing its knowledge created interest (“people wanted to talk to us a lot because it was something relatively new”) as well as a model for others to follow. “If we can influence others to do similar things, we actually have a bigger influence on sustainability than if we were keeping it all to ourselves.”

Beyond increasing sustainability, there is a key commercial benefit to sharing best practice. “If there are more people who are able to offer these standards and credentials, then it’s easier for a professional buyer to build those criteria into their purchasing process,” Owers explains. “If there are only one or two people offering something, than a professional procurement team find it difficult to include those criteria into their buying decisions. Whereas if there are more people offering this, than they can justifiably still buy well and competitively and include higher standards of sustainability in their procurement process.”

Risks and challenges

Owers says that being in Europe, the company is lucky that finding responsible paper merchants is not a difficult task. The company can hand over WWF’s sustainable sourcing guidelines and tell a supplier that this will be the auditing process that it will implement. “It was a strong enough sector that we were able to do that,” the director says.

Helpfully the flipside is that by not taking steps to make a more sustainable supply chain, a company is at risk of damaging its reputation, or, put more candidly, corporate embarrassment.

Owers cites a story of a paper merchant who had such an incident back in the early 2000s – an NGO identified something that was coming through the company’s supply chain and tracked it back to poor purchasing practices of timber in the Far East. “It made them wake up to some of these risks more quickly than perhaps would have been the case if the NGO hadn’t picked up on the problem.” The company joined up with WWF-UK shortly after, and became more efficient at checking its sources. “Out of corporate embarrassment, their performance became the best practice model that other merchants aspire to.”

WWF-UKs work with Pureprint demonstrates what can be achieved when a business takes sustainability issues seriously. WWF-UK believes that business has an important role to drive real, lasting change and wants to move responsible timber procurement into the mainstream. “If all [a company’s] customers say ‘if you’re behaving like that we’re not going to buy from you anymore,’ it is possible to change corporate behaviour ” says Owers.

What are the next steps?

As data technology advances and the business expands, Pureprint is trying to help customers print less. That’s right, less.

“We’ve got involved with handling people’s mailing and data about customers. It’s quite clear by better use and cleansing of data and better targeting we can help people print less and achieve more - which is an interesting thought for a printer to get their mind around.”

A recent job from a large financial services company consisted of 150,000 mailings, Owers relays. By checking that the recipients’ address data was up to date, complete and valid, Pureprint identified 14,000 mailings that would have otherwise been needlessly printed and posted because the data was inaccurate.

Another area of using advanced data to help customers print more efficiently is sophisticated personalization. By producing more personalized communication, the piece is more likely to be effective and to have an impact, thus reducing waste of effort and resource. “This is a whole new area,” says Owers, “More targeted mailings through greater use of personalisation is not only desirable from a marketing point of view, but also a sustainability point of view as well.”