Sustainability superheroes

Simon Creasey
Monday, June 30, 2014

Some choose themselves. Some are chosen by others. But it’s not how a business goes about appointing its own green champion that matters. What matters is that every business has an individual in place whose role it is to continually drive good environmental practices and make sure that the company is heading in the right direction to hit its green aims and objectives.

But what sort of person is best placed to fulfil this role and what attributes do they need to succeed? We spoke to a number of green crusaders from a variety of different UK printing businesses to get the lowdown.

womersleyJacqui Womersley

Company The Practical Printer (Leicester)

Job title Director

The mission Womersley is responsible for all of the company’s environmental initiatives except a few “technical areas” of recycling. “As a joint director, I consider environmental best practice to be our joint responsibility,” she explains. Although Womersley doesn’t consider herself a green crusader as such, she has three children and would “like to leave the world to them in good condition”. As a result, she’s a keen recycler at home, uses a green energy supplier and drives a hybrid.  

The alias “My main role within the business is sales and marketing, and I consider my environmental responsibilities to be integral to those,” says Womersley. “We’re very passionate about minimising our impact and we believe that print could be one of the truly sustainable industries.”

The result Since issuing its first environmental policy, The Practical Printer has transferred to green electricity, reduced its paper waste by 2% and in 2002 became one of the first members of the printing industry to become a carbon neutral company. In terms of future targets, Womersley aims to further reduce the company’s solvent consumption and reduce the generation of general and special waste. As for the key to achieving future environmental successes, she says that you need to have “perseverance, and a deeply held belief that it is the right thing to do”.

sargentLee Sargent

Company Calverts (London) 

Job title Environmental manager

The mission Sargent has overall responsibility for managing and maintaining the company’s environmental management system, which at Calverts is done to the requirements of ISO 14001. He took over this role in 2012 after one of the founding members of Calverts, Nicola Palmer, retired. “She was instrumental in getting us to where we are today as she not only gained us our ISO 14001 certification in 2011, but she was there right from 1977 banging the drum when environmentally friendly print was not in the mainstream and recycled paper was thought of as something only hippies used,” says Sargent. At home Sargent is a keen recycler and he hates waste. “I’m also interested in ecology, conservation and sustainable ways of doing business so the role seemed ideal for me. It’s been a steep learning curve, but the whole area of sustainability and the wider circular economy are really interesting and fit in very well with the ethical way that Calverts, which is a co-operative, does business.”

The alias The company has three main environmental objectives – reducing carbon emissions, reducing impact of paper use on natural resources and improving resource efficiency and recycling. Sargent also has to ensure legal compliance and the prevention of pollution by the company – as a result he strives for continual improvement. “On a day-to-day level that means monitoring our energy use and looking for any efficiencies, plus ensuring waste is properly collected and recycled,” he explains. “If this is not possible I have to ensure it is accounted for and treated in the correct manner by our approved contractors. I also educate our workforce and customers on any environmental issues that may affect us or initiatives that we may be championing, including the use of FSC or fully recycled papers.” Sargent has to balance these aims with his other work commitments. “I am also an estimator and I get involved in sales, production and a bit of marketing. I would say environmental considerations are always at the forefront at Calverts so the roles blend and mix well. However, for some of the more detailed environmental work such as report writing or analysing energy data, I find setting aside some quiet time to do this works better than trying to juggle with my other roles, as you need to concentrate.”

The result Sargent has picked up where Nicola Palmer left off. He’s managed to persuade the company to invest in new T5 lighting in the pressroom and office, replacing older less efficient fittings. Calverts has also invested in a new reverse osmosis unit that controls the water quality used on the its litho press, ensuring greater consistency. “We didn’t go for the cheapest model as we wanted results, and so far our readings indicate we have on average managed to halve water usage since installation,” says Sargent. As for what words of encouragement he would offer other like-minded individuals, he says: “Don’t be daunted. Get stuck in and enjoy it. It’s a whole new world to discover. And try and keep the jargon speak to a minimum. People respond better to simple measures and words.”

knowlesRichard Knowles

Company BCQ Group (Milton Keynes)

Job title Chairman

The mission Although Barry Curryer, the company’s operations director, has day-to-day responsibility for ensuring that BCQ complies with the various environmental standards that the company holds, Knowles says that “attitude and ethos are driven from the top, with absolute buy-in from the board of directors and managers to enable best environmental practice to be ingrained into every part of the business.” 

He says: “We do not set out to be crusaders, but do try to engender a healthy green company-wide ethos with our working practices and activities”. 

BCQ also likes to play an active role in the local area, says Knowles. “We are lucky enough to live and work in a beautiful part of the country and BCQ likes to be seen to do its bit for the local community. We sponsor numerous ‘green’ initiatives from hanging baskets in the town centre to helping clear out the local osier beds and river banks,” he explains. “We have planted hundreds of indigenous trees around our site and have actively encouraged wildlife by installing bat and owl boxes and allowing ‘wild’ environments to flourish in undisturbed wooded areas.”

The alias According to Knowles, the company aims to “minimise the impact on our surroundings wherever practically possible” while remaining “commercially sensible”. Given his over-arching role of chairman he is well placed to make sure these dual aspirations are met. 

The result The company achieved ISO 14001 in 1999. It was one of the first printing companies in the UK to receive this accreditation and it has steadily developed and honed its environmental strategy from there. The company’s latest initiative is to reduce power consumption. “We are currently evaluating the use of solar panels and LED lighting and  have recently replaced our air handling/air-conditioning units for a much more energy efficient, intelligent, heat-pump system, that we are confident will reduce our total power consumption by up to 8%,” says Knowles. The company’s newest Heidelberg XL presses, with reduced makereadies, have enabled BCQ to reduce paper consumption by more than 2%, which equates to approximately 40 tonnes of paper saved every year. As Knowles says: “Little things make a big difference.”

sellTim Sell

Company Crossprint (Isle of Wight)

Job title Managing director

The mission When Tim Sell started his career in the printing industry he was still working with letterpress Heidelberg Platens and Rotaprint Litho print machines. That was in 1981 when the IBM ‘golfball’ was the latest technology to revolutionise the pre-press studios. Since then, Sell, who moved to the Isle of Wight in 2003 to take over as managing director of Crossprint, has been “committed to embracing ‘change’ at all the significant points along the timeline of print history”. 

The alias In the decade or so that he’s been in charge, the company has “changed considerably for the better, mostly engineered through his [Sell’s] positive and forward thinking attitude towards the environment,” says Brian Marriott, design consultant at Crossprint. Sell manages to juggle his day-to-day responsibilities as chairman with driving continuous environmental improvements throughout the business. His role at the top of the company enables him to make decisions that have had a dramatic impact on the company’s business and environmental performance. For instance, in 2004 Sell steered the company through a successful relocation to a purpose-built factory to give it greater efficiency of production. He also convinced his board to invest in new machinery to the value of £1.9m, which enabled the company to reduce its energy consumption and impact on the environment.

The result After a drive to educate customers about the benefits of recycled paper, 36% of Crossprint’s sales are today printed on recycled stock. The company generates 90% of its own power needs thanks to the installation of 168 solar panels that cover its roof, which gives it an Energy Performance Certification rating of A. Paper waste has been reduced thanks to Crossprint specifying sheet sizes to its paper merchants that suit its machines. It’s also achieved ISO 9001 for its quality management. These efforts have not gone unnoticed, with industry recognition coming from Ricoh, which in August last year awarded Crossprint the honour of being the first of its clients in the UK to be 100% carbon neutral. Plus the company is also one of only 16 certified printers in the UK recognised as a licensed carbon balanced publication printer by the World Land Trust. Sell’s advice to companies looking to follow suit is they need to be 100% committed to a green ethos within the company and that this commitment should be embraced by all employees with rewards offered for new ideas that are adopted.

marshallGary Marshall

Company Polestar (UK wide)

Job title Group risk manager

The mission Marshall says that his role entails overseeing all of Polestar’s environmental affair issues – from regulatory compliance through to standards, ethics and sustainability. He works closely with the company’s business units to “make sure they’re getting on with what they need to be getting on with” and also to make sure that they have the support that they need to achieve their targets. His role has evolved somewhat since he joined the business 16 years ago where the approach was very “broad brush”. However, when the government’s Climate Change Agreement came into force it helped Marshall and the company to focus on and fine-tune its approach to the environment, and that approach continues to this day. 

The alias “The only thing that stops me being an absolute zealot is a lack of time,” says Marshall. “The reason for that is that in a large printing company like Polestar the risk manager has to deal with a lot of different things at different times and this means that you have to constantly focus on making sure that certain projects hit their deadlines. This leaves you with less time to be a zealot.”

The result Polestar has achieved a number of noteworthy milestones under Marshall’s stewardship, but the thing that he’s particularly proud of is the fact that the printer was the first in the industry to come up with a calculation for carbon and was the first to enter the government’s Climate Change Agreement. He’s also proud of the relationship that the company has developed with the WWF. “We’re 10 years into that relationship and we certainly see ourselves as significant contributors to the debate around how green paper is,” says Marshall. As for what advice he would offer companies looking to appoint their own green crusaders, he says that it’s vitally important that you appoint the right person and that person may not be someone who immediately springs to mind as a champion. “It may be somebody who is more driven by administration, but enjoys the concept of trying to develop environmental policy,” says Marshall. “They must have an underlying passion for the idea that the company can improve its environmental credentials.” 

How to appoint a green crusader

taylorClare Taylor, from environmental consultancy Clare Taylor Consulting, offers her top tips on selecting a green champion.

“Green crusaders tend to be self-selecting rather than ‘elected’ – to take on a role that can be quite daunting, you need the conviction and enthusiasm to be inherent in a person. In a nutshell, a green crusader needs to be really interested in the environment. They should be self-motivated, good with people, have an eye for detail and be disciplined at measuring things, analysing things and keeping records – effective improvements and savings need that behind them. They also need to have the full and very visible support of the senior management. If it’s obvious that something is truly important to management, staff are far more likely to get actively involved, whereas if the green champion is perceived to be doing it on their own, they are likely to be ignored by busy people who just want to get on with their day job.”


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