Office stationery doesn’t have to cost the earth

Running this week from 23-29 April, National Stationery Week brings together lovers of paper, pens and handwriting from all over the UK, however, many spectators will be sceptical about the environmental impact of increasing paper use in the office.

Office stationery doesn’t have to cost the earth

While the digitalisation of some businesses processes is inevitable, stationery will always have an important role in the workplace and technological advances in the fields of paper pulp recycling and materials science are providing facilities managers with a greater number of eco-friendly options than ever before.

With employers placing an increasing emphasis on employee wellbeing, catering to individual working preferences is becoming a key area of focus for many businesses. While some workers may be happy typing notes and making lists on laptops, tablets or other electronic devices, many still prefer to scribble down their thoughts using a pen and notepad. Additionally, hard copy documents often form an important part of everyday business processes, for example, the requirement for employers to keep a signed copy of workers’ employment contracts and the need to send and receive documents through the post.

While stationery with environmental attributes is nothing new, the quality and appearance of products such as recycled paper when compared to traditional items has limited its popularity. For example, in past years, the look and feel of recycled paper has been perceived as dull and less professional compared to virgin paperstock, discouraging many businesses from using it in order to meet eco-friendly objectives.

Recent developments in the fields of pulp recycling and materials science mean that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the two, and quality is therefore no longer an excuse for businesses not to engage with the green agenda. When choosing paper products, organisations should also look out for items which are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified – an assurance that paper products have been sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Another way in which organisations can reduce the environmental impact of stationery purchases is by opting for higher quality products with a longer lifespan. For example, rather than purchasing large numbers of single use pens, choosing refillable pens, while initially more expensive, may prove more cost-efficient in the long-term as well as producing lower amounts of plastic waste. With a wide range of desktop products available made wholly or partly from recycled materials, it is also worth organisations discussing these when taking on a new supplier.

It is important to remember that the eco-friendliness of a business’ approach to stationery supplies extends beyond the actual purchasing process. In this sense, instilling a ‘green’ office culture is key, from reminding employees to print documents only when absolutely necessary, and to print double-sided wherever possible, to providing facilities for recycling unwanted documents. With new GDPR legislation imminent, ensuring information is disposed of in a secure manner will also be essential.

When looking to form a new supplier relationship, businesses should clearly set out their environmental objectives to potential procurement partners, and choose a vendor willing to support them in achieving these. As well as suggesting the most appropriate eco-friendly products, good suppliers should be able to provide sustainability advice based on the organisation’s individual needs. Choosing a single-sourcing provider for stationery and other areas of office products can also prove an effective means of boosting a firm’s eco-credentials, reducing numbers of product deliveries required and consequently the business’ carbon footprint.

It goes without saying that engaging with the green agenda is an increasingly important priority for many businesses, and advancements in stationery product development mean that going paperless is no longer necessarily the hallmark of a green office. By choosing a like-minded supplier and investing in the latest products, businesses can green-up their stationery purchasing whilst catering for the needs of a diverse workforce.

Kim Armstrong, stationery product specialist, Office Depot UK & Ireland

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