What does Red-Inc do?
Red-Inc is an office supplies company, founded in 2008. I created the company with an ambition to be more ethical and sustainable whilst still offering excellent levels of service. It’s been a long process!
What made you decide to become more sustainable as a business?
Sustainability, purpose and nature are passions of mine, and as the founder of Red-Inc it’s always been on my radar. From day one we provided recycling for our clients, and education on delivery emissions and ways they could operate more efficiently. That put us well ahead of the curve now that sustainability has become a priority for many businesses. Sustainability has only been a mainstream business activity for a few years, so when we started, we were in a bit of a small bubble.
How has it impacted the business?
In the last few years, we’ve seen more growth than ever before. We understand concepts like scope emissions and offer a wide range of schemes to offset client’s purchases. We consider the whole lifecycle of the products we sell too and offer comprehensive reporting on impact and emissions.
By staying true to our ambition of operating a sustainable business, we’ve been in the right place at right time and have the right tools to support our new and existing customers. In 2019-2020 we saw record growth, and it would have been higher if it wasn’t for Covid. A significant event was to be awarded a Big Four consultancy stationery contract. The consultancy drilled us for information about every level of our business; they didn’t take our word for it, and it was a rigorous process. We were by far the smallest business in the tender.
What steps have you taken to become more sustainable?
We’ve evolved, taking on each new sustainable challenge as we go; from providing customers with recycling solutions to the latest focus which is helping them to achieve their net zero ambitions. For us, it isn’t about ticking boxes, but how we think through problems.
For example, our thought process around how businesses in the UK are fixated on using virgin, bright-white bleached paper when countries like Germany are happy with more resource-efficient, off-white, recycled paper. We’ve developed a strategy that enables us to go to clients, educate them, and help change their mindset using data.
There’s a traditional economic model of “pile it high and sell it cheap.” But you can’t take this approach if you want to be sustainable. We educate our customers about what raw materials go into their stationery, from the finite resources of our planet. Paper comes from trees that are vital to the health of our planet, as such we believe they shouldn’t be sold at the cheapest price possible. We offer an offsetting scheme where we plant a tree for every box of paper purchased and protect an acre of rainforest for every two boxes purchased.
We became a B Corp in 2017 and haven’t looked back. Being a B Corp opened the floodgates for us to keep pushing and innovating for a better world.
It’s all about understanding our impact and how we can be better. It’s not just about the environment; it’s about how we operate as a business. We’ve always paid our employees a living wage, we give staff three paid volunteering days a year, and we understand they are a source of strength for our business.
What is your advice for other businesses?
People often associate sustainability with additional costs and resources. But some of the easiest actions to achieve can still make a difference; like finding green champions within your own business, engaging them and giving them responsibilities to enable and promote change. It’s all about collaboration.
There’s plenty of help out there, for example, you can look at the B Impact Assessment (BIA), it’s a free resource, even to non-members. This will be eye opening for small businesses, giving them an idea of the length and breadth of improvements that are possible within individual businesses and how to achieve them.
Ideas like carbon offsetting and environmental management weren’t as readily available when we started. Now, there’s so much support – the SME Climate Hub, Business Declares network, Race to Zero – these are all really good resources which can help small businesses on their way. My best advice is to just get started.
What do you think of your journey to sustainability, how worthwhile was it?
It’s been incredibly worthwhile. It’s given us growth, credibility, differentiation, and allowed us to win one of the biggest tenders in our industry!
We’re a passionate group of people, we don’t have a sales team and we’re not in it to win a quick sale. We open up transparent conversations about sustainability, cost and logistics that others in our industry haven’t. We have huge respect for our customers and their ambitions.
It’s all very well talking hypothetically about doing being ‘green’ etc., but being a company that has done it, and can show how our sustainable model of operating actually works, is invaluable. We don’t shy away from saying we need to make money, but our priority is people, planet and profit, looking at each area with equal focus.
We’re one of the few companies who’ve already been “recertified” as a B Corp. Our reputation for providing excellent service and premium sustainability solutions are why people seek us out to work with.