The Board recognises its obligations to protect the environment and is committed both to achieving required environmental standards across all the activities of the Group and to minimising its environmental impact.
The management teams in both the North American and UK businesses assess and monitor the potential impact of operations on the environment. Sustainability, energy consumption and waste management are key areas of focus.
We are aware that some of the products that we sell are produced using plastics and other potentially non-recyclable materials. These products are common in the promotional products industry, and as such it is currently impractical for 4imprint to put in place a blanket exclusion of such items from the product range. That said, sustainability considerations feature at several levels in our merchandisers’ product decisions:
- Consistent with our corporate purpose, our products are designed to promote our customers’ messages time after time through repeated usage and impressions. In other words, products should be lasting rather than throw-away. Multi-use products such as reusable shopping tote bags are a good example. Only 1.5% of our revenue is from products such as sweets, chocolate and catering supplies that would be considered disposable.
- Our largest product category, apparel, is potentially the most harmful to the environment from a downstream manufacturing perspective due to water consumption and the possibility of poor effluent management. More than 60% of 4imprint’s apparel revenue is sourced from suppliers and brands who are actively involved in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and committed to products with a high sustainability rating.
- The plastic water bottle category is a large and important category. Around 60% of revenue for these products is in the most widely accepted #1 or #2 recycling categories. This includes our own-label reFresh® brand.
The importance of sustainability factors varies from customer to customer, depending on their product or marketing requirements but also on local recycling facilities and regulations. We therefore use several mechanisms to make it easy for customers to segment products from a sustainability or ‘eco’ perspective – for example website search functionality by recycling code, ability to be recycled, produced from organic materials, biodegradability, compostability, and manufacture using recycled materials.
Over the last few years environmental and sustainability initiatives have become much more important in our day-to-day business operations.
In North America printed marketing materials such as catalogues use paper sourced from sustainable forests, conforming to Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) requirements. In the UK our catalogue mailings meet the Royal Mail’s Responsible Mail criteria, based on sourcing paper from recycled/sustainable sources, elimination of polywrap and robust suppression procedures.
Internally, we have a committee on sustainability in the Oshkosh business under the acronym SMART – (Sustainability. Making A Renewable Tomorrow). This initiative has been supported enthusiastically throughout the business, especially in discussion forums on our in-house social media platform. Many projects and ideas have come to fruition, varying in scope and nature, but all with an emphasis on sustainability. Some examples are:
- Full roll-out of a major upgrade in the recycling of waste materials across the business, taking advantage of advanced single stream recycling capability. This has had a beneficial effect in terms of diversion of waste from the landfill: trash pickups from the distribution centre have been halved and landfill waste per employee at the main office significantly reduced.
- Installation of LED lighting at the distribution centre, with the LED fixtures using around 50% less energy than the fluorescent bulbs that they replaced. In the first full year of operation we reduced electricity consumption by 444,000 kWh, even with more equipment and more burn time. LED fixtures are essentially maintenance-free, last around 5 times longer and have a much smaller environmental impact than fluorescent bulbs.
- In April 2018, as part of the ‘Adopt a Highway’ programme, 4imprint adopted a 2 mile stretch of a highway in Oshkosh. Clean-up events have so far removed over 300 lbs of waste from the local environment.
- Also in April 2018 the SMART team offered our team members a choice of a seed packet or a tree seedling to celebrate Earth Day/Arbor Day. Over 600 employees participated in the event.
- In 2018 we launched a recycling project to turn embroidery backing waste product into fuel pellets. We estimate that this initiative will divert around 60,000 lbs of waste from the landfill on an annualised basis.