Sustainability and environmental concerns are a priority for schoolchildren and schools alike – and dealers are there to help schools to purchase the right products.
Environmental issues have climbed the news agenda in recent years, and young people today are more concerned about climate change than their predecessors. Indeed, 54% of students see climate breakdown as the second biggest threat to the UK, just behind the quality of the NHS, according to a September 2020 study by the University of Winchester.
This means that schools, colleges and universities need to be alive to young people’s concerns. As Lawrence Savage, marketing manager at ExaClair, notes, “With the UK government recently pledging £1 billion to build new schools, and a further £560 million for repairs and upgrades to accommodate the growing pupil population – an estimated 640 new schools are needed in England – many governing bodies are seeing this as an opportunity to invest in green schools and thus help the UK meet its commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”
Lawrence adds that a growing number of schools are now taking part in eco-friendly projects that involve not just pupils, but other elements of their local communities, so it is important that educational establishments continue to focus upon green equipment and supplies.
“The Carbon Trust has outlined the main components that can contribute to energy reductions, with heating, lighting and water usage naturally at the top of the list,” he says. “However, by installing other sustainable equipment around the school, they can promote sustainability across various locations, including canteens, break time areas and classrooms.
“In terms of stationery, notebooks that feature recycled paper, as well as writing instruments made from recycled and recyclable materials, are popular; pencil cases and other organisational products made from sustainable materials also do well. In addition, demand has also been increasing for green cleaning products and reusable water bottles, particularly during the pandemic.”
Lawrence points out that there have been many innovations in relation to sustainable products over the past few years and, with this in mind, suppliers should now be offering office equipment that adheres to environmentally-orientated standards. “By highlighting these specific environmental credentials, dealers can help educate their customers, guiding them towards suitable product recommendations.”
Education is key
Brad Goldsmith, marketing services manager at Premier Paper Group, agrees that education is key. “Fortunately, now, more than ever, there is a wealth of information regarding products, their environmental credentials and traceability available on the internet, as well as through suppliers,” he says. “It’s vital that suppliers make this information as readily available as possible to help customers such as schools make well-informed decisions, ensuring that their product mix meets their CSR standards.
“Dealers play an important role in the supply chain. By ensuring that they offer the best choice of products and services, based on their customers’ requirements, as well as sharing important information such as environmental credentials, they are, in turn, enabling their clients to make educated and informed decisions on their paper purchases.”
Brad notes that most brands of paper today are sourced from sustainable manufacturers, where trees are treated more like crops, and rotated, with many more being planted by the mill. “Most of today’s paper is produced to high environmental standards and carry certifications such as FSC®, PEFC, ECF, TCF, EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan and many more,” he says. “There are also growing efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions from paper manufacturing and distribution processes, and also the use of PVC-based plastics in the packaging.
“Brands such as Woodland Trust Printer Paper and Multicopy are popular; both are produced using pulp from sustainably managed forests at integrated paper mills, and carry many impressive environmental credentials. The Evolution brand of copier is also a top contender among schools due to its recycled content.
“However, the most popular is the carbon capture programme – Premier’s environmental marketing initiative that allows paper users to mitigate CO2 emissions from the production and distribution of their paper and to directly support the work of the Woodland Trust, enabling them to create and maintain native woodland here in the UK.”
However, when it comes to consumables such as stationery, competitive pricing is often more important than environmental concerns, as schools continue under huge financial pressures due to COVID lockdowns and budget cuts.
“Many teachers and parents, as individuals, are more concerned about buying green products than it actually being a school’s policy to do so,” says Lianne Fletcher, marketing manager of Maped Helix. “In contrast, many dealers are insisting on green product documentation from their suppliers – so much so that several are refusing to consider selecting items that cannot be proven to be ‘green’.
“The challenge for dealers is to get schools to do the same and demonstrate that green products are already available and affordable without the ‘eco cost premium’. Manufacturers are striving to eradicate single use plastics from their products, and minimise packaging. Products have been developed using ‘greener’ materials for easier recycling, materials from sustainable sources, and from recycled materials. This has become a feature of the stationery market.
“As a manufacturer of stationery products Maped Helix is committed to producing greener products for schools. One example has been the success of our bulk teacher’s pack of Helix 30cm rulers which are made entirely from recycled plastic.
“Dealers that list and offer such products to schools will be at the heart of this green revolution.”