Following the paper trail

Karen Prendergast of BM TRADA talks to PaperCo's health, safety & environment manager, Nigel Jennings, about achieving registration to Phase 3 of BS 8555.

The Paper Company, known familiarly as PaperCo, achieved registration to Phase 3 of BS 8555 with BM TRADA Certification within only 14 months of embarking on the process, working within the DTI-funded Project Acorn as a self-funded participant. This article will explore the reasons why the phased approach suited the company so well.

The statistics speak for themselves. PaperCo employs more than 1,000 people in the UK and Ireland. It has an annual turnover of some £320M and sells around 300,000 tonnes of quality paper a year to printers, business stationery suppliers, government agencies, institutions and corporates. It is among the top four in its field.

Yet PaperCo has grown by acquisition and now encompasses eight regional and specialist businesses operating from 27 locations. It cannot be treated as a single entity, however large. When it came to developing an Environmental Management System (EMS), the challenge for PaperCo’s health, safety & environment manager, Nigel Jennings, who headed up the process, was to find a route to certification to which all parts of the business could subscribe, enabling them to move forward at the same pace.

The individual businesses within the group have always been above reproach on health and safety. They have been mindful of environmental issues, too, but Mr Jennings is the first to admit that the policies have been fragmented and not generic in approach. The company was keen to redress that. It was felt, too, that improving environmental management would produce business advantages, as well as enabling the company to offer more to its customers.

PaperCo’s aims were very much in line with its owners, the Australian paper giant, PaperlinX, who bought the company last year. “As a paper manufacturer as well as a merchant, PaperlinX has a very strong commitment to the environment. It holds ISO 14001 certification and has a clear vision for the future”, says Mr Jennings.
For PaperCo, however, its geographic spread made heading straight for 14001 rather daunting. “To target 14001 would have taken us forward too far, too fast, given the nature of our business, which is low risk in many aspects of environmental management. The idea of adopting the phased approach to an EMS as set down in BS 8555 seemed eminently sensible and something to which the whole management team, from the top down, could subscribe”.

The next step was to call in environmental consultant White Young Green (WYG), who was quick to identify the support which the Acorn approach could bring to the company. As WYG’s Matthias Gelber explained, BS 8555 is a guidance standard. “The Acorn approach provided a complete and cost-effective support package, including training and central support, which fitted perfectly with PaperCo’s multi-site locations and enabled them to focus on the key issues”.

A technical health, safety & environment team, headed up by Mr Jennings, was formed, to liaise with staff at each individual site and identify training needs. As Mr Gelber stressed, “One should not underestimate the power of taking people with you on a journey they can all understand. And the fact that each phase of BS 8555 can bring its own recognition is another important factor”.
PaperCo’s watchword was ‘keep it simple’. “We set out to establish objectives that were specific and achievable and above all owned at a local level,” said Mr Jennings. So, when it came to auditing the EMS, Alan Gower, EMS/H&S scheme manager at BM TRADA was pleased to congratulate PaperCo on a system that was “fundamentally sound and enthusiastically supported. It exhibited clear top management commitment, which is vital to its success”.

It was also evident that the groundwork had been carefully done. PaperCo’s EMS was based on a methodical schedule of eco-mapping, identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which each location could target, establishing procedures and assessing ‘hot spots’. For example, at the start there was very little recycling at PaperCo – everything went to landfill. “One of our targets was to reduce waste to landfill as a proportion of product tonnes shipped to customers. We now recycle white paper, mobile phones, toner cartridges and warehouse waste”, says Mr Jennings.

PaperCo operates a fleet of 300 commercial vehicles, so reducing water/land contamination from vehicle washing (and verifying which locations need local authority permission), plus reducing emissions from diesel storage and filling, were important issues. Following the analysis, PaperCo decided to close down all but three of its 14 diesel fuelling facilities. Cost savings have definitely accrued.

Complying with the huge raft of legislation the industry must face was fundamental at every stage. PaperCo now has a comprehensive register of all waste management and environmental legislation affecting the organisation as a whole, or sites individually. Mr Jennings says: “Although our EMS will not by itself ensure that we comply with relevant legislation, it will go a long way to helping us achieve that”.

Another important facet of the EMS was supplier evaluation. “We have written to all of our suppliers with a view to giving them an environmental ‘score’. We are confident that most of the companies we deal with are on a very sound environmental footing themselves, but where we identify weaknesses we will express concern”.
And what next? PaperCo has established a system that reduces business risks, improves use of resources and has enhanced the environmental profile of the company both internally and externally. Nigel Jennings would say, however, that Phase 3 of BS 8555 is not the end of the journey. “PaperCo’s aim was never just the certificate on the wall. Through Project Acorn and BS 8555 we have established robust systems that will grow with our business”.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie