The positive effects of being neutral

By Jez Abbott, Monday 10 April 2017

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Opting to go for carbon neutrality as a corporate goal is not to be taken lightly, says BrunelPrint commercial print director John Tugman. There is nothing neutral about such a move, demanding a rigorous review of your print business to assess whether it makes sense and what form it takes.

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Last September BrunelPrint and web-to-print sister firm brunelone.com, themselves divisions of Calendars & Diaries of Bristol, became the first printing operations in the country to offer carbon neutral printing for no extra cost on all jobs. It wasn’t easy undertaking due diligence. Then blending carbon neutrality with overall strategy. Then winning over not just customers and suppliers but its own staff.

“For many firms the draw of bolstering their corporate or brand reputation is a key consideration in seeking to go carbon neutral,” Tugman explains from his base in Bristol, appropriately the European Green Capital City in 2015.

“However it has to be pursued not as a standalone exercise but as part of a broader sustainability strategy that takes in the whole business. Above all your approach must be robust, transparent and based on a recognised standard, or there could be more to lose than emissions.”

The challenge

Those emissions soon clock up. The carbon generated by your business’s energy consumption from power, heating and lighting, all typically generated by fossil fuels, gets the carbon count ticking. The petrol or diesel used for travel, the water consumed by your business and the waste it disposes send it soaring.

To be carbon neutral, according to the government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, involves measuring your carbon emissions, then reducing them so that your ‘net calculated carbon emissions equal zero’. You can also ‘offset’ emissions to reach that elusive zero point.

This is for those carbon emissions you can’t eliminate through increased efficiency. Instead you ‘offset’ them by purchasing carbon offset credits that invest in environment-friendly projects elsewhere in the world through areas such as reforestation and the generation of renewable energy.

“For a printer considering carbon neutrality, it is important to think through the implications of what it might deliver, what risks and benefits could potentially result, and whether it represents value for money.”

Calendars & Diaries of Bristol, trading as Brunel Promotions, has three divisions. Its core business, Brunel Promotions, produces calendars, diaries and promotional gifts for the B2B market. The commercial arm, BrunelPrint, is overseen by Tugman, and brunelone.com, is the group’s web-to-print department.

The company, owned and run by Tugman’s managing director wife Susan, dates back to Victorian times when it printed grocers’ bags, calendars and almanacs to a generation blissfully unaware of carbon footprints, climate change and environmental sustainability.

Tugman saw agendas shift massively while working as a marketing director for Typhoo Tea when Fair Trade was in its infancy. Later, as a pot-plant and cut-flower supplier to B&Q, issues of sustainable timber and ethical labour were helping to define this more enlightened age of corporate social responsibility.

“When I joined BrunelPrint in 2014 I was aware there was strong and growing demand for suppliers to have good environmental credentials and that it was becoming a key area where companies could differentiate themselves,” he recalls.

The method

“I could see it working for the commercial print arm of our business. We are at the top end of a niche market and our printing and finishing are for clients within the blue-chip sector as well as marketing agencies and designers – people who want a good quality product rather than cheap print and who have clients that come under pressure to be as environment friendly as possible.

“A lot of them didn’t realise print could be carbon neutral,” and neither did Tugman until he read an article about Climate Partner in PrintWeek. The company, according to its website, can calculate, reduce and offset carbon emissions. Carbon management, it says, is the balancing, reduction, and offsetting of the carbon emissions generated by companies, their products, and their services.

Taking the first steps to carbon neutrality wasn’t “that difficult or painful”, recalls Tugman. After all, BrunelPrint had already committed to green practices with the ISO 14001 environmental standard and certifications from the FSC and the PEFC.

“We were already doing the auditing process and recycling as much as we could – all of our paper and most of our waste. We use environmental inks and the latest, most environmentally friendly Heidelberg litho machine, the XL 75. We’ve been in constant dialogue with HP in both Israel and the UK to squeeze out efficiencies in our three Indigos.”

Climate Partner feeds all the data on electricity, gas, water, transport, and paper into a climate calculator to come up with a carbon ‘loading’ that has financial values. This is where offsetting comes into play. These values are paid to Climate Partner as a carbon levy, which is then distributed to others to remove or sequester 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere.

Those ‘others’ for BrunelPrint are a project in Kenya that pays for water filters for locals, thereby reducing CO2 emissions, and an initiative in Papua New Guinea, funding the stewarding of rainforests to protect species and remove CO2 from the environment.

The result

The carbon neutral service was launched last September and it’s  too early to define its impact or detailed costs, says Tugman who is nevertheless specific in defining his business as the first printer in the country to offer carbon neutral printing for no extra cost to all customers on all jobs. Other printers, he insists, may offer carbon-neutral print, but they charge for it.

“The focus on carbon neutrality was driven by a desire to find a USP. But when we calculated the cost and benefits in terms of what we would spend on marketing and promoting our business in trying to establish a USP, it worked out we could offer this service free to our customers.”

The biggest shake-up to work practices has involved administration from all that number crunching and recording of data. For example, proving BrunelPrint’s website is carbon neutral means totting up the number of hits, how many people use the site and the time they spend online to get an exact figure on the energy used. This is then fed into the carbon calculator to give a value.

“Such extensive auditing can be painful and alien to some printers, but fortunately we were already doing a lot of that kind of work, so the information was already there. We just had to get at it, and this took a couple of months, pulling together all that data and completing the carbon footprint calculator to secure carbon neutral certification.”

Tugman also suggests going for carbon neutrality might not be for all print firms: “Our market is high-end with reasonable margins, so we could absorb the extra costs. Unlike the business-to-business sector, which is strong on environmental credentials, the business-to-consumer market is very price sensitive and customers don’t always see the premium of certifications.”

But even within the B2B sector there are sceptics. Some, he says, reckon carbon neutral print is substandard. Others find it hard “getting their heads around offsetting” and the fact that emissions from their own businesses end up in the atmosphere all over the world.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be environmentally friendly in the printing sector – and a feeling it is always going to cost more. For us there is no question: this is the only way we print – in a way that will have no negative effect on the environment, or the quality of the finished product. And when people realise it won’t cost them any more and that you are as competitive as non-carbon-neutral printers, then you are in business.” 


VITAL STATISTICS

BrunelPrint

Location Bristol 

Inspection host Commercial print director John Tugman

Size Staff: 70; turnover £6m 

Established 1844

Products Calendars, diaries and promotional gifts for the B2B market, personalised direct mail, invitations and brochures and large-format display materials such as signage

Kit Three HP Indigos, two Heidelberg Speedmasters, Roland wide-format kit and finishing equipment including a Motioncutter laser finisher

Inspection focus Becoming carbon neutral 


TOP TIPS

Understand your carbon footprint Check out carbon calculators such as the those from the National Energy Foundation (www.nef.org.uk/service/tools-resources/tools/simple-carbon-calculator) or from the government (www.gov.uk/government/publications/small-business-user-guide-guidance-on-how-to-measure-and-report-your-greenhouse-gas-emissions) 

Explain why and how First challenge is often explaining to suppliers and customers why a carbon neutral target is being set and why the supply chain should become involved too

Win them over Some staff, customers and suppliers may regard carbon neutrality as a philanthropic add-on rather than a legitimate efficiency drive, so spell out the business case

Use an expert Environmental auditing is rigorous and can be “alien” to some printers, says Tugman, so use an expert for squeezing out facts, filleting data, recording and analysing

Keep going It is important to ensure achieving carbon neutralitiy is not a one-off task: print companies need to recalculate and update their total emissions each year

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