Environmental Matters

At 4imprint we see climate change mitigation and other aspects of environmental stewardship as a fundamental part of our responsibility. We are committed to incorporating environmental matters into our strategic decision-making, to evaluating our environmental performance across all the activities of the Group and to finding appropriate and innovative ways to minimise the environmental impact of our operations.

We support the TCFD’s disclosure framework, and we will adapt our current practices where necessary as we continue to prioritise full compliance over the coming months.

The Board is ultimately responsible for oversight of the Group’s climate-related risks and opportunities. The potential impacts of environment-related risks on 4imprint’s business operations are set out in the risk matrix. The Group’s environmental strategy was a major topic at the Board’s 2020 annual strategy session, culminating in an agreed framework designed to bring together disparate existing initiatives and set the environmental agenda for the Group going forward.

A new Group Environmental Committee composed principally of operational executive team members was formed to manage the development and implementation of the framework.

This Committee will typically meet quarterly, although the initial ‘kick-off’ meetings have been monthly. The framework is split into three primary areas of focus:

  • Climate change
  • Natural resources
  • Products and supply chain

Climate change

An initial materiality assessment guided the Environmental Committee towards climate change mitigation as the most direct and realistic way to demonstrate a real and immediate commitment to a low-carbon future.

A CARBON NEUTRAL BUSINESS

  • We commit to becoming carbon neutral regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at our operational facilities (Scope 1 and Scope 2), and also in respect of impactful elements of Scope 3, such as shipping of our products to customers, no later than December 2022.
  • We will work to achieve external certification of our carbon neutral status by our target date.
  • We will reach our target through prioritising internal carbon reduction initiatives supplemented by other effective environmental stewardship tools as needed.

The Group Environmental Committee has engaged with Natural Capital Partners to assist with the refinement of our detailed carbon reduction plan and to guide us towards achieving their ‘CarbonNeutral®’ certification within our specified timeframe. It is anticipated that a portfolio approach will be taken, combining different initiatives and techniques including:

  • Carbon reduction projects, such as further LED lighting, insulation, and renewable power options such as solar. Over time, the aim is for accumulating internal reductions to result in mitigating future gross emissions.
  • Environmental stewardship tools, such as carbon offset products and/or renewable energy certificates to mitigate residual emissions not covered by carbon reduction investments.
  • Specific programmes that are highly relevant to the nature of our business operations, for example participation from January 2021 onwards in the UPS carbon neutral shipping programme, (Scope 3), which supports emissions reduction projects that help mitigate the impact of the shipment of parcels to our customers.

Across all of the activities and projects aimed at delivering our carbon neutrality goal, we will remain committed to observing the ‘4imprint Compass’ values, particularly accountability and flexibility. We will be careful to ensure relevance to the 4imprint business operations and culture. In addition, our carbon neutrality target and plan will give us a platform to use our influence in our supply chain (Scope 3 downstream) by spreading the message and promoting similar initiatives at our tier 1 suppliers and potentially beyond.

Our GHG reporting for 2020 has been updated in line with the UK Government regulations on Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting introduced in 2019, and emissions have been calculated based on the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard. The emissions data set out below relates to the operations of the Group for the period ended 2 January 2021. Certain 2019 comparatives have been restated to reflect more rigorous and improved data capture and reporting procedures.

 

Unit

2020

2019

Change

GHG emissions

 

 

 

 

Scope 1: Direct emissions from combustion of fuel
 and operation of facilities

Tonnes CO2-e

413

317

30%

Scope 2: Indirect emissions from purchased
 and consumed electricity

Tonnes CO2-e

3,196

2,951

8%

Total Group emissions Scope 1 & 2

Tonnes CO2-e

3,609

3,268

10%

 

 

 

 

 

Proportion of emissions that relate to the UK:

 

 

 

 

– Scope 1

 

0.0%

0.0%

 

– Scope 2

 

0.4%

0.6%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intensity measurements

 

 

 

 

Emissions by Group revenue

Tonnes CO2-e/$m Group revenue

6.4

3.8

70%

Emissions by employee numbers

Tonnes CO2-e/$m ave. employees

3.0

2.9

6%

 

 

 

 

 

Energy consumption

 

 

 

 

Gas

kWh

2,225,482

1,672,442

33%

Electricity

kWh

4,206,876

3,895,031

8%

Total

kWh

6,432,358

5,567,473

16%

Proportion consumed in UK

 

0.8%

1.2%

 

 

The Group’s GHG Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions increased in 2020 compared to 2019. Various factors contributed to this increase, including: (i) heating costs due to colder winter weather in early 2020; (ii) warmer summer weather, particularly in July and August, meaning increased running of air conditioning units; (iii) major investment in ‘direct to garment’ printers during 2020; and (iv) increased air circulation and filters, in response to COVID-19, placing a heavier burden on air conditioning equipment.

Natural resources

Our physical operations cover office and distribution centre activities. In recent years environment and sustainability initiatives have become an integral part of our daily operations.

Our SMART (Sustainability. Making A Renewable Tomorrow) committee celebrated its third anniversary in September 2020. This initiative has been supported enthusiastically throughout the business, with our in-house social media platform proving to be the ideal forum to engage our team members in SMART initiatives and sustainability discussions. Many projects and ideas have come to fruition, varying in scope and nature, but all with an emphasis on sustainability.

Some examples of SMART activities are:

  • 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 landfill: trash pickups from the distribution centre have been halved and landfill waste per employee at the main office significantly reduced.
  • Lights and water faucets have been fitted with motion sensors and we have switched over to electronic hand towel dispensers. No idea is considered too small, such as replacing plastic drinking straws and stirrers with reusable or recyclable versions.
  • Attention to small details. Many ideas come direct from team members via the in-house social media platform. For example, one initiative was to repurpose used mascara wands by forwarding them to a Wildlife Refuge where they can be cleaned, upcycled and used to clean away oil, bugs, infections, mud and other contaminants from wildlife.
  • Our team remains involved in several other initiatives, including the ‘Adopt a Highway’ programme, (clean-up of waste along an ‘adopted’ stretch of highway), and celebration of Earth Day/Arbor Day by giving our team members a choice of a seed packet or a tree seedling. 2020 was a tougher year for physical participation due to restrictions caused by COVID-19, but we fully intend to resume or extend these activities as soon as circumstances allow.
  • Some of our Oshkosh-based team members are engaged with the Green Masters Program promoted by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (“WSBC”). In 2020 we are pleased to have achieved the ‘Green Professional’ designation for the second year.

The Group Environmental Committee has a clear remit to drive more efficient use of natural resources. Some current and future areas of focus are:

  • Commitment to sustainable forestry practices. In North America, printed marketing materials such as catalogues use paper sourced from sustainable forests, conforming to Forestry Stewardship Council 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 poly wrap and robust suppression procedures.
  • LED lighting. Our Oshkosh distribution centre is fully equipped with LED lighting. LED fixtures use around 50% less energy than the fluorescent bulbs that they replaced. We estimate that our annual energy usage has reduced by over 400,000 kWh, even with more equipment and more burn time, as a result of LED installation. We intend to retro-fit LED fixtures throughout our Oshkosh office facility as a project for 2021.
  • Embroidery backing recycling. One of our most successful initiatives is a recycling project to turn embroidery backing waste product into fuel pellets. As the scale of our embroidery operation has grown, this initiative has gained momentum. Since launch in 2018, we estimate that around 150,000 pounds of waste have been diverted from landfill.
  • A key project in 2020 was a substantial reduction in the poly-bagging of garments prior to shipment from our Oshkosh embroidery and direct to garment printing operation. Previous practice was automatic bagging of all dress shirts and polo shirts. We estimate that over 25,000 pounds of poly bags will be eliminated on an annual basis as a result. Looking ahead, we plan to work with our suppliers to share our experience and customer feedback on this project and work to eliminate as much packaging as possible in our value chain, or at least introduce sustainable options and clear instructions on recycling options, whilst remaining cognisant of the need to protect our customer’s product and imprint during shipment.

Our products

Our product range is very diverse, covering an incredibly wide array of many different materials, substrates, manufacturing processes and imprinting techniques. We are aware that some of the products that we sell are produced using plastics and other potentially non-recyclable materials. However, sustainability considerations are increasingly important at several levels of our supply chain and in the product decisions made by our merchandising teams.

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, wherever possible, be lasting rather than throwaway and we see increasing evidence of this trend towards utility, longevity and meaning in our customers’ product choices.

We are also very conscious of the requirement to adapt to the changing needs of our customers by helping them find the ‘perfect product’ – and this ‘perfect product’ increasingly comes with sustainable characteristics. We have many opportunities to make sustainability improvements across all product categories; however, our priority is to identify and deliver a number of projects each year that are realistic, measurable and will make a difference. These initiatives are driven with reference to one or both of the following themes:

  • Curate and educate: We aim to provide our customers with a curated, easy to access range of products with sustainable characteristics, allowing them to make informed decisions over the items they purchase. This will include:
    • Partnering with our suppliers on sustainability initiatives in the supply chain
    • Publicising products or brands with strong sustainability credentials
    • Working with our suppliers to increase the availability of legitimate ‘eco-friendly’ options and highlighting those products to our customers
    • Being vigilant and disciplined in rejecting products with false ‘eco’ claims
    • Educating our customers through placing emphasis on items that will be used many times over during a long product lifetime
  • The 3 R’s: We will be guided by these environmentally friendly principles as we assess and evolve our product range:
    • Reduce: Less raw material, packaging, waste, scrap and pollution
    • Reuse: Find ways for products not utilised or at the end of their useful life to be repurposed or returned into the product stream to avoid landfill
    • Recycle: Inclusion, where possible, of recyclable products and products manufactured from recycled content, along with information on what and how to recycle

Our ongoing product and supply chain sustainability initiatives can be broken down into four key, but overlapping areas, with some highlights summarised as follows:

  • Customer-facing communication: Communicating accurate product attributes to customers, whilst meeting best practice and regulatory requirements:

Web copy

  • Standardise web copy for materials and recycling/disposal; move from recycling code to resin code tag
  • Reverify existing ‘eco’ products or claims; identify sustainable items not flagged as such
  • Add material tags where appropriate, e.g. sustainable cotton, recycled content, biobased plastics, certified forestry programmes
  • Deepen merchandising category knowledge accordingly; emphasis on veracity of claims

Web architecture

  • Update product search pages and filters as well as product detail pages and info pages to help customers find products that are aligned with their objectives and better communicate sustainable features and benefits to customers
  • Highlight products, suppliers and brands with sustainable features
  • Description or link to sustainability perspectives, material content, environmental programmes, all tagged or searchable by attribute

Marketing

  • When and why are sustainable products promoted over other non-sustainable options
  • Ability to promote material attributes, certification bodies etc
  • Sustainable items highlighted in catalogues, emails, sample mailings
  • Product: Working to better understand product materials and environmental impact, increasing genuine sustainable options:

Materials

  • Improve understanding of all materials in terms of environmental impact; enhance training and technical knowledge across supply chain and merchandising activities
  • Identify products to promote and problem areas to avoid; lean on suppliers where appropriate
  • Seek out expert advice and identify sustainability collaborations and verification bodies

Private label

  • Enhance sustainability credentials of our own private label brands
  • Consult with suppliers to look back into the supply chain for opportunities

Verification

  • Establish acceptable verification standards for key materials and claims
  • Ongoing research, both independently and involving suppliers
  • Packaging: Removing excess packaging and moving to more sustainable materials where feasible, always ensuring that customer expectations are met for safe and undamaged product delivery:

Materials

  • Study/research common packaging used by suppliers for core categories
  • Understand environmental impact in context of functionality

Plan development

  • Start with several smaller case studies
  • Put together a wider plan across the supply chain during 2021
  • Suppliers: Gaining a better understanding of our suppliers’ views on sustainability issues in their businesses, and where we can collaborate on product development:

Product

  • Understand the appetite of suppliers for expanding their range of sustainable products, and identify projects and programmes where we can work together to lead in this area
  • Research supplier capability and knowledge on materials and verification

Carbon footprint

  • Develop an opinion on framing up an approach to Scope 3 downstream GHG emissions, using our commitment and experience to help facilitate productive discussion and action
  • Engage with supplier senior management

Scrap

  • Review on a supplier-by-supplier basis
  • Opportunities in handling, tracking or disposal