A conversation with Rick Bellamy and Bjorn van Hamond about RPI's commitment to a sustainable company.
The online meeting started in a usual way: with some small talk about the weather. But as we were discussing excessive rainfall in Western Europe and droughts causing forest fires on the West Coast of the US, we quickly realized that the weather is no longer a subject for small talk - it has become an urgent call for action.
In the interview that followed, Rick Bellamy, CEO, and Bjorn van Hamond, Manager of Supply Chain & Innovation, talk about RPI’s response to that call.
What do we mean when we talk about sustainability at RPI?
It is a change in our behavior as an organization. A change in the decision-making process that recognizes our responsibilities towards future generations and the planet, to our clients, partners, and employees. It is a structured continuous improvement program based on measurable data and actionable goals.
How do you drive that change from within your respective functions at RPI?
Rick: Sustainability and environmental responsibility are some of the most urgent challenges in front of us right now. We cannot limit our response to micro changes in our personal lives. Business leaders can affect systematic, more impactful changes. I believe it is my responsibility to drive that change by elevating the importance of sustainability across the company and the overall industry.
Bjorn: Innovation and an efficient supply chain play a big part in becoming a more sustainable company. We can do our best, but we are only as sustainable as our supply chain. I work with a lot of partners, suppliers, vendors. I connect with my colleagues across the company. I am also responsible for growing our prInternet Distribution Platform. I research, contact, and establish partnerships with independent print facilities across the globe so that our clients can print and ship their products locally.
It is about making real connections.
I believe that sustainability efforts should not be limited to one function, department, or even a company, but involve our partners and suppliers as well.
Bjorn van Hamond
Summarize and evaluate where we are with sustainability right now.
Rick: Eight years ago, we were the first in the industry to get certified by the Sustainable Green Partnership. We did it because we recognized the importance of sustainability from a human and industry perspective. We wanted to understand and reduce our environmental impact, and we needed to debunk myths about the print industry, for example, that it contributes to deforestation or uses poisonous inks.
The project ran for a couple of years. We implemented some improvements, introduced efficient lighting and heating system, boosted our waste recycling rate to 98%, but ultimately it fell off. Right now, we are in the process of renewal.
Bjorn: Even though we no longer have the official certification, the project helped reinforce sustainability thinking within our company. We are well past the point where we would be debating its importance. And a lot happened in the meantime at RPI. With the acquisition of Eindhoven, Atlanta, and Rochester, our focus shifted to turning four separate print facilities into a global organization, also in terms of sustainability.
Bjorn: We significantly reduced waste and saved energy by improving the efficiency of our operations.
We have been expanding our prInternet Distribution Platform to print and ship locally.
We are improving our supply chain to source locally and reduce the amount of traffic to our facility.
At Eindhoven this year, we managed to decrease the frequency of deliveries by 36%.
And currently, we are in the process of removing plastic from all four facilities.
Rick: If we compare it to climbing a mountain, we are heading up to base camp. The hardest part is ahead, and it will become steeper and more demanding as we move on. We have a long way to the top, but we are long gone from the parking lot.
Is sustainability the primary motivation behind operational excellence, prInternet, or an efficient supply chain?
Rick: Maybe not, but I think that is ok. That is what I mean when I talk about changing behavior. As a business leader, you need to show that sustainability and business are not mutually exclusive but can lead to a healthy and profitable company.
Are we developing our prInternet platform to specifically reduce our carbon footprint? No, there are all kinds of business benefits as well. And reducing our carbon footprint is a massive one. Are we sourcing locally to specifically reduce our carbon footprint? For a big part, yes, but a short supply chain proved to be a huge advantage during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. If we were exclusively cost-focused, we would have probably made other choices.
Rick: Sustainability is one factor in a multi-factored approach to the decision-making process. It is about the importance you assign to each factor.
Is sustainability a more urgent matter now?
Bjorn: I think it has always been an urgent matter, but it was less commonly recognized. Ten years ago, nobody asked about our sustainability policy. Now, all the clients ask questions about our environmental impact, materials, inks, and recycling. It is very nice to get these questions and see how businesses around you strive to become more sustainable. We all learn from each other.
The plans for this year and beyond?
Rick: We know that producing locally through prInternet, as well as locally sourced materials, reduces our overall carbon footprint. What we do not know is how much. Currently, we are collecting data across the four facilities to establish the baseline. To understand our environmental impact and identify the areas where change is most impactful.
Bjorn: We are in the process of removing plastic from all four facilities. Expanding prInternet and improving our supply chain are ongoing projects. By the end of September, we will know our baseline from all four facilities, which will help us define long-term goals and policies.
Envirometer is a tool developed in the Netherlands that allows us to generate our company's carbon footprint based on provided energy and traffic data. With the tool, we will be able to define our environmental goals and indicators and track improvements. Our facilities are currently entering data into Environmeter. By the end of September 2021, our current carbon footprint should be complete. This baseline will help us establish our long-term strategy and goals.Official Envirometer website