Sustainability: tomorrow’s must-have for the promotional products industry
Promotional product suppliers and distributors with a focus on sustainability will take the lead in the long run. For years now final users have called for more transparency in terms of manufacturing conditions but also the entire supply chain. 15 companies, products and campaigns have recently been recognised by the 2017 Sustainability Awards 2017 from the PSI, the European Network of the Promotional Products Industry, for their special commitment and sustainable approach. What is it that drives the companies behind these campaigns to be sustainable? There are many reasons ranging from personal attitudes to international corporate strategies.
There is no denying that sustainability is increasing in importance – also for a small industry as is the promotional products sector. “Sustainability is currently one of the key topics. Not only for PF Concept but for the entire industry,” confirms Ralf Oster, CEO of the global promotional product player PF Concept. As the #Infuencer of the Year this company is among this year’s winners of the sustainability awards in the promotional product industry. PF Concept has addressed this issue since 2006 – prompted by ever more frequent enquiries from key accounts. “The core of their questions was, of course, about sustainability. So we took a close look at how big, multi-national brand owners outside our industry go about compliance and sustainability challenges. Based on these experiences we have developed a compliance management system that fits us, our products and our customers’ requirements and re-aligns our complete supply chain in keeping with sustainable and responsible production.”
Sustainability also ranks high on the manufacturers’ list. Here the driver for long-term sustainable activities is often a personal attitude. Like with bag manufacturer Halfar that received not one but two awards for its social commitment and environmental initiatives. Here sustainability is deemed indispensable, both in terms of the promotional product industry and its final customers, and comes out of personal conviction. The Bielefeld-based company has already been acting out of personal conviction for a long time now. “A focus on ecology, social responsibility and economical operations has naturally always accompanied all of our activities; we may have even been somewhat eccentric when it comes to environmental matters. In this area we have been ahead of our times more than once,” explains CEO Kathrin Stühmeyer with pride. In line with the motto “entrepreneurs are enterprising” Halfar strictly follows the sustainability course supporting and encouraging its employees to also act sustainably.
Branded product manufacturers also pick up on the theme. Serving as a role model for industry is double-award winner STABILO, for example. Here the commitment to people and the environment goes back a long way. While initially it was rather confined to production materials such as local timber, this commitment goes much further today. Certified products, a worldwide Social Charter but also the comprehensive reduction of the carbon footprint form part of this standard today. Sustainability has become a “no-brainer” here. “Each division tries to improve even further, to start and push new initiatives,” explains CEO Harry Saffer. To him this subject ranks high on the agenda: “STABILO is committed in every field and thinks far beyond the usual boundaries. Sustainability is a management task for us.”
Awards as both recognition and incentive
Three years ago the PSI created the PSI Sustainability Awards in order to provide the industry with a platform for showcasing its sustainability efforts and recognising its sense of responsibility. “We are thrilled to see that the commitment to social responsibility, economic and ecological operations has already been embedded in our industry for such a long time,” says PSI Managing Director Michael Freter. “We did not have to teach the sector to become sustainable with our awards. The awards rather testify to our industry already being highly committed.” With these Awards the PSI is filling a niche that needed filling for quite a while. “Sustainability in the promotional products industry simply lacked a platform before,” elucidates Kathrin Stühmeyer and adds: “It is true that the influences have come from end users in the industry for a long time and are channelled by distributors to suppliers; but the Awards put in a nutshell which themes are relevant and also which mixture of themes will fall on fertile ground.”
Ralf Oster shares this view: “This issue has kept the sector on its toes for several years now and I think it is appropriate and important for PSI to set an example here and create a framework in which sustainability is defined as an essential economic factor.” He hopes that in this way even more companies will take notice of the significance of this topic and become drivers themselves. “This is the only way for the industry to set genuine benchmarks and care for the future.”
All the winners are proud of their success at the PSI Sustainability Awards 2017. “The nominations and recognitions are, of course, a sign of appreciation for the whole team and an incentive to constantly further develop our committed sustainability strategy,” adds Ralf Oster. Subscribing to this opinion Harry Saffer says: “We are mighty proud that our activities are also reflected by the two awards. Awards like these show that you have really done something right and well, or really well. For us ‘doing’ has always been in the foreground. It is true that the Awards serve as an incentive but they have not been decisive for participants’ commitment to sustainability. We don’t do this to win awards but out of conviction,” Saffer goes on to say.
And this is also the message that all three winners want to convey to the industry. “It is possible and meaningful to implement sustainability and compliance across the entire supply chain,” reaffirms Ralf Oster. Despite all the difficulties he expects long-term success: “Implementation is an investment to start with but definitely not a loss-making venture in the medium term. At the end of the day all of us will benefit from improved working and manufacturing conditions in commercial, societal and personal terms.” Kathrin Stühmeyer launches an appeal: “My message for everyone regardless of the industry: if each and every one does something to foster sustainability within the limits of their possibilities, we will have achieved a lot. Nobody can afford ignorance with regard to this topic. The promotional products industry always faces the burden that products have to look more expensive than they are – and together with industry decision-makers they therefore have a special duty to produce and consult responsibly and use the corresponding materials.”
All winners of the Awards 2017 will also be presented at PSI, the leading European Trade Fair of the Promotional Products Industry, from 9 to 11 January 2018 in Düsseldorf. You can find them at the PSI Institute – Competence Area in Hall 9, Stand M22/40. Registrations for the PSI Sustainability Awards 2018 start on 9 January 2018.
About the PSI
The PSI (Promotional Product Service Institute) has been serving the European promotional products industry and its market participants as a service provider and networking platform for over 50 years now. Its services support the daily work of 6,000 market participants such as manufacturers, importers, finishers, distributors and agencies. Key services include personalised consultation and product research as well as marketing, professional training, industry contacts and online product search solutions. These services enable our member companies to generate new business and grow their profits long-term.
Press Release [doc | 230 kb]
Photo 2: PSI Sustainability Award ceremony: Stefan Schulze-Hausmann, Chairman of the Board at Stiftung Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis, talking to Ralf Oster, CEO of PF Concept International, and Adelfo Marino, Group Operations Director at Brand Addition [jpg | 1,3 mb]
Photo 3: Panel discussion at the PSI Sustainability Awards 2017: (from left to right) Stefan Schulze-Hausmann, Kathrin Stühmeyer, CEO at Halfar System, Harry Saffer, CEO at Schwan-STABILO Promotion Products [jpg | 1,3 mb]