For people and planet
We have been at the cutting edge of sustainability for more than 20 years. We were the first office supplier to certify as carbon neutral in 2004. In 2008 we removed chlorine from our supply chain, both from our cleaning supplies and embedded in plastics like PVC and vinyl. At the back end of the financial crash in 2010, we saw a moment where we could make a significant contribution to environmental policy. We wrote a position paper that posited through relatively small-scale interventions and a long-term energy plan, where UK manufacturing and energy security could be guaranteed. During the drafting process, we gained the support of the late Malcolm Wicks, the then Energy Minister, and it became EDM1221.
Malcolm took our idea and put it in front of Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, Peter Bottomley from the Conservative Party and Bob Russell from the Liberal Democrats, and they went out seeking crossbench support. Our Early Day Motion was signed by big hitters like Zac Goldsmith, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron, John McDonnell, and Glenda Jackson and a host of backbenchers from all sides.
The language of that motion and the ideas in it, are still being used today. There were elements of it in the Liberal Democrat manifesto of 2015. Kier Starmer put UK green manufacturing at the heart of Labours’ industrial policy for the next election – using words we could have written for him.
Our commitment to the environment has never wavered, as today we take on the challenge of single use plastics.
In the rush to global zero, it’s easy to forget that carbon is NOT the only issue. The real problem is that by not including the environment in our decision-making process, we have caused harm on a planetary scale. Carbon is one element of that, but there are other factors. The use of chlorine and dioxins has caused damage to humans, animals and plants alike. At the same time, the everyday use of plastics is the next great environmental disaster.
As an environmental organisation, we aim to protect the whole environment as the evidence emerges, rather than pick one hot topic. To that end, we removed PVC and other materials with embedded chlorine from our catalogue in 2012; since 2008 we have championed using plastic alternatives. Our goal is to eliminate all plastic from our supply chain.
More than half of all the plastic that has ever existed was made after 2007 – 91% has never been recycled.
2022 has been our most successful, year to date. In just 12 months 1.29 million single-use plastics were removed from our supply chain and we made 143,278 plastic free deliveries. We have achieved this by investing in biodegradable alternatives, to change packaging, and by manufacturing our own plastic-free products. Innovation on this scale is only possible when we work in partnership with our customers and can leverage forward purchase orders.
Environmental impact in our supply chain has been the cornerstone of our success and is built on three founding principles:
- Our offering must be made from sustainable materials that do no harm.
- Our supplies are made as close to the point of consumption as possible. We focus on UK manufacturers and Western Europe producers.
- Our supply partners must look after their staff. We deep dive into modern slavery issues, build relationships, and check that we know who we are doing business with.
For the last three years we have added an expressed commitment to diversity and building a social economy into our supply chain. As a result, we have multiplied our social impact and innovation by increasing our supplier diversity. In 2022 our supply chain provided ethical investment opportunities, gave socks to the homeless, removed plastics, supported health care in the UK and around the world, fought to end slavery and protected our environment.
Environmental impact in our supply chain
In the rush to global zero, it’s easy to forget that carbon is NOT the only issue. The real problem is that by not including the environment in our decision-making process, we have caused harm on a planetary scale. Carbon is one element of that, but there are other factors. Using chlorine and dioxins has caused damage to humans, animals and plants alike. Nitrogen fertilisers and the everyday use of plastics are the next great environmental disasters.
We work with a wide variety of suppliers to ensure that we reduce our load on the planet.
Two decades of sustainable procuremenT
We need Net Zero, as a country, as people, and as a planet, but we must use it as a lever to raise communities rather than tear them down. In November 2010, we co-authored Early Day Motion 1221 with the late Malcolm Wicks MP and Caroline Lucas MP. EDM 1221 drew cross-bench support from all parties and called for a new economy based on clean and green manufacturing that all communities could benefit from.
We cannot allow the second age of austerity to derail this opportunity again. The challenge is still here, as are we, to protect the planet and our most vulnerable. To support this aim we have donated over 8,000 hours of consultancy to our supply chains. We have removed 1.29 million single use plastics from the biosphere.
We are justifiably proud of our history as an environmental organisation. As we transition from an economy based on fossil fuels towards net zero, we must learn the lessons of the past. In the last transition – from coal to gas, entire communities were left behind. Nye Bevan, the father of the NHS, famously described Britain as “built on coal and surrounded by fish”, but by the end of the 1980s, the coal and fishing communities were gutted and have never found their way back to anything resembling their former glory.