For Anthony Taylor, co-founder of Empine Group, the Low Carbon Innovation Forum has not only helped him make changes inside his own company but has also changed the way it does business in the world at large.
“As a commercial print management company, we knew this was a bit of a hot topic,” Anthony says, explaining why he decided to participate in the six-month programme. “We wanted to get on the back of that and see how we could improve our processes – as well as how to pass that knowledge on to our clients and suppliers.”
He says that he learned a lot more than he thought he was going to on the Forum. “The most shocking thing was the visit to Lancaster City Council’s recycling plant, which really brought home the damage people are doing and the changes that need to be made. But actually the most impactful session was the one introducing the Business Model Canvas. This tool really allowed us to dive down and identify all the little aspects of the business that could be changed: how we deal with suppliers, how they deal with us, how jobs get delivered... and who actually takes responsibility for each of the processes.”
“Say I’m buying a job from a printer down south. What impact does that have on the big picture – on costs and carbon footprint? Where are they getting their paper from? What processes are they using? And is there a way that we can use our buying power to influence them to change things for the better, even though we’re just the customer?”
As a result of the Forum, Empine Group have looked at making many changes, from electric delivery vans and pool cars to an increased environmental aspect to their specialist educational offering, which includes a free print review service. They are looking into sustainable inks, becoming FSC certified, and various options for increasing recycling. These innovations will help them prepare for their own growth as they build up their production facility, and can also be passed on to suppliers.
“But the biggest change is to the offering we put in play,” he says. “Because whereas, when we started, our main motivation was to get the best price for each product on behalf of our clients, now we – and they – are mindful of where the print is coming from.”
He gives an example of how this shift in emphasis is helping to define and differentiate Empine Print in the marketplace. “Not long after one of the sessions, we went down to a client in London and one of their main questions was ‘What’s your environmental policy?’ – and we had been looking at exactly that on the Forum! Nowadays bigger companies have a responsibility to look out for that kind of thing, so if you’re a company that’s offering a better service and you’re also offering this environmental awareness as well, then it definitely sets you apart from other competitors.”
Having derived real benefit from the Low Carbon Innovation Forum, Anthony is now participating in a sister programme, the Lancashire Forum. “Getting the chance to sit down away from the business and assess what you’re doing. It was great on the environmental side, so I could see the benefit of doing the same for the rest of the running of the business,” he says, adding: “We’ve got a good mix of businesses in there, including some with production facilities, so it will be great to learn from them as we grow - and hopefully get it right first time.”
The Low Carbon Innovation Forum, which is part of Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub; is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and is available to eligible ERDF SMEs. For more information, and to apply for your place contact Jane Hunter on 01524 593632 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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