#58 What does a 'net positive' printer look like, anyway?

Meet Gareth Dinnage, the man at the helm of Seacourt, an Oxford-based printer that has spent the last 20 years slowly turning the entire dirty business of commercial printing on its head. We’ve all got print jobs we need doing – whether its for corporate reports, or marketing literature. But imagine if your printing activity had a positive impact on the planet rather than a negative one. Gareth gives the hows, whys and wherefores.


Show notes

More often than not we like to bring you stories of young, fresh, raw businesses that are based on an idea, a concept, a realisation that there is a better way. 

But we also like to bring you stories of companies that are on something of a journey, to turn their businesses around. And I think there is as much to learn from both sorts of business; and I get as much pleasure talking, writing and storytelling about both types of organisation.

And we have a bit of a gem for you on this week’s show. It falls into the latter camp. It is a business that has been around for 70 years, and it has managed to do what so many companies are trying to do right now: To change.

A notoriously dirty, toxic and wasteful industry, the commercial printing sector – the UK’s fifth largest manufacturing industry which operates in virtually all aspects of the national economy – has had to grapple with a plethora of environmental issues. From printing plates and ink tins, to pallets and packaging there is plenty of potential for generating waste. Then, high volumes of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emanate from the printing process as inks dry, sending colourless and odourless gases into the atmosphere, damaging the ozone layer, not to mention the lungs of print workers. The main oils used in non-vegetable based inks are petroleum-based too. All in all, the industry has not been a friend to the planet.

Gareth Dinnage, managing director, Seacourt

Gareth Dinnage, managing director, Seacourt

Recognising these negative attributes and a growing desire for its customers to respond more positively to their environmental responsibility, Seacourt has long found new ways of printing that do not negatively affect the environment. Back in 1997, it became one of the first commercial printers in the UK to make use of waterless printing technology.

Since then, it has continued to evolve its offering as a truly green printer, achieving stringent environmental management standards, becoming carbon neutral, switching to 100% renewable energy and even installing a wormery to make use of the thousands of teabags thrown into the office bins every year.

Seacourt reduced its VOC emissions by more than 98.5% too. And in October 2009, it became the world’s first zero waste printing company; it has no waste bins on site and sends absolutely nothing to landfill.

I’ll let Gareth, the company's managing director, tell you more about his business, which as you will hear, he does with plenty of vim and vigour.

 

 

Episode #50 - How to solve a problem like the promotional products market

Show notes

I wrote a piece for Virgin.com just before Christmas; a sort of 2016 round up piece. And I used it to have a bit of a rant about the UK version of The Apprentice, the very popular TV show that plays out in the run up to Christmas every year.

"As it reaches fever pitch for the interview stage in the final week of the show, the candidates, at last, reveal their business plans," I wrote. "And we are so often given a cold, stark reality check as to the state of business here in the early part of the 21st century."

What annoyed me the most was not the eventual winner Alana and her cake-making business.

It was more her fellow finalist, Courtney who needed Lord Sugar £250,000 money to kick start his novelty gift company. 

"In the place of innovative, creative, smart, circular, low carbon, or social enterprise models, is a collection of drab and dreary, business-as-usual ideas all vying for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment.

"In fact, if you trawl through the list of past winners – from Ricky Martin’s recruitment agency and Mark Wright’s SEO firm, to Joseph Valente’s plumbing business and Leah Totton’s cosmetic clinic – evidence of sustainable business thinking is very thin on the ground."

I put the novelty products business in the same category as promotional items and marketing merchandise – essentially, mass produced stuff that people don’t really need.

When I was a kid, I would visit the NEC in Birmingham every year with my Dad for the national Motor Show exhibition: a chance for all the big car manufacturers to get together to show off the new models that would be dominating the car show rooms and forecourts for the next 12 months.

My Dad loved it. We’d spend hours trawling between the hundreds of different stands. While he’d pour over the latest models, my brother and I would busy ourselves by grabbing as much free merchandise that was being given out on each stand as our free plastic carrier bags would hold. T-shirts, bags, posters, badges, pens – you name it, car companies would give away an endless amount of stuff emblazoned with their logos in the hope that their brands would ingrain themselves on the memories of anybody that had swung by their stand during the three-day event.

This was back in the 1980s and 1990s. Of course, it is a practice that still goes on today. At your office, on your desk, there is probably some promotional pens, mugs and business card holders. The purpose of these items is to remind you of the company whose name or logo they bear.

But do you actually use these things? Probably not. On average, we get rid of most promotional products within six months, even the ones that we find interesting at first.

As more and more consumers consider the social and environmental costs associated with manufacturing and disposal of products, the promotional items and novelty goods market is one that is changing quickly.

Recognising that it is a market that is not going away any time soon, our guest business this week is determined to find a way to use the industry as communications tool, to get people excited about sustainability, and to create products that are useful, even after their traditional lifecycle.

Meet Michael Stausholm (below), the founder and CEO of Sprout, a promotional products business with a difference.

For more on Sprout, visit the wesbite: sproutworld.com.

This time you will learn:

  1. how Sprout has grown from a €700,000 business to a €2.5 million one in the space of just two years
  2. how Michael wants to make sustainability easier to understand using pencils
  3. how three young MIT students came up with the idea for Sprout pencils
  4. why the pencil is designed to slow people down (and why that's a good thing)
  5. why 80% of Sprout's revenues come from corporates looking to send messages about sustainability to their customers and staff
  6. about Sprout's other product offerings, like paper
  7. why people are the most important contributor to Sprout's success
  8. why grabbing just 1% of the global pencil market would be good news for the planet
  9. why and how Sprout can call companies like Disney, Ikea and Toyota its loyal customers

Episode #47 - The fashion brand run by knitting grandmothers

Show notes

In the US, where the number of senior citizens in the workforce has nearly tripled since the 1970s, older workers are also increasingly working full-time instead of part-time. Seniors now working full-time are more common than those working part-time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of those working who are older than 65 will reach 23% by 2022. In the last decade, the average age of the US labour force has increased by about five years.

Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with this; working lives are being extended as life expectancy rises and public health improves.

And employers are starting to value older workers more.

In the UK, Barclays and National Express have both recently announced apprenticeship schemes designed to cater for older workers and to broaden the age diversity of their workforces.

The National Express scheme aims to recruit people for whom age and extended career breaks can pose a barrier to finding employment, including the over-50s and women coming back to work after having kids.

Company’s are starting to realise the value of having a diverse workforce, reflecting as it does their broad customer base and the wide range of skills and experience on offer.

No better is that being realised than at the DIY store B&Q, which has long championed employing older staff that have the real knowledge about doing stuff round the house that the new generation just can’t be bothered with.

Fast food chain McDonald's and pub chain JD Wetherspoons are two other notable companies now getting in on the act in encouraging older people to apply for jobs.

But imagine a company whose sole reason for existing is to give jobs to older people.

This week, Vikki Knowles meets Faustine Badrichani, the co-founder of Wooln, a New York-based business making high-end beanie hats and other knitted goods, entirely handmade by older ladies in the community.

If you want to find out more, head to www.wooln-ny.com.

Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau, co-founders of Wooln (Credi:  Aude Adrien)  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.8px Arial; color: #232323; -webkit-text-stroke: #232323}
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Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau, co-founders of Wooln (Credi: Aude Adrien)

Faustine and  Margaux with the grandmas (Credit: La Femme Collective)

Faustine and Margaux with the grandmas (Credit: La Femme Collective)

Wooln's grandmas working on a new pattern together

Wooln's grandmas working on a new pattern together

From the new Wooln collection (Credit:  eakphoto)

From the new Wooln collection (Credit: eakphoto)


Also, this week...

Gareth Kane

Gareth Kane

I know we have many sustainability practitioners listening to the show – those working within businesses whose task it is to rally the troops, set goals, make improvements, sell the concept of sustainability to the board, and so on.

Well, we have a special segment of the show just for you this week.

Gareth Kane gives you his 10 Worst Sustainability Ideas – and how you can learn from them.

Episode #45 - Got something serious to say? Make it funny

Show notes

Now, we all love Ted Talks, don’t we?

Have a think about the ones you like the most. Yes, they probably contain the most thought provoking content. Maybe it's the personality of the speaker. Perhaps it's all about the topic. Or the tone.

But there’s probably something else your favourite Ted Talk almost certainly did.

It made you laugh.

Stand up and improv mentor, Belina Raffy

Stand up and improv mentor, Belina Raffy

In our information age full of ideas, concepts, stories and imaginings – brought to you in a plethora of ways, mediums and formats – how do you make your ideas stick?

Well, according to this week's guest on the show, comedy doesn’t just make people laugh. It makes them think.

Belinda Raffy works with people with a passion for something – a need to communicate that passion – to help them be funny, to use comedy or improvisation to circumvent ingrained perspectives and challenge business as usual thinking. It is something that, let’s face it, we all need to do in our quest to tell people that there is a better way of doing things – whether that’s running a business, or living your life.

Have a listen to our chat this week, which is interspersed with comedy snippets from Adam Woodhall, Hilary Woof and Mark Dilworth, people that have taken part in Belina’s Sustainable Stand Up course.

And if you're interested in working on your funny, check out sustainablestandup.com.

At the end of Belina's six week show, participants must take to the stage.

At the end of Belina's six week show, participants must take to the stage.

Belina and friends

Belina and friends