Manager helps employer save 6.3 tonnes of plastic a year – all after being inspired by his EMBA

Gavin Robinson pictured alongside his company logo and holding one of Bulldog Tools' products and the new company packaging © Gavin Robinson

An Operations Manager has helped transform his employer’s sustainability credentials thanks to Lancaster’s Executive MBA programme - leading to a centuries-old business to pledge it will be 100% plastic free by the end of 2023.

Since enrolling on Lancaster University Management School’s (LUMS) Executive MBA (EMBA) programme in 2022, 45-year-old Gavin Robinson, from Wigan, has helped his employer save 6.3 tonnes of plastic a year.

Gavin, an Operations Manager, has worked at Wigan-based garden and contractor tool manufacturer, Rollins Bulldog Tools, for the last 19 years. Since 1780, Bulldog Tools have been manufacturing and supplying high quality British made tools to domestic customers in the UK as well as exporting to Europe and countries as far away as South America and New Zealand.

Gavin is following in his father’s footsteps – who also worked for the organisation for 50 years - so feels real ties to his employer. After rising through the ranks of the company and gaining valuable hands-on and professional experience, Gavin felt he wanted to push himself to gain a “real qualification” that would force him out of his comfort zone – so he turned to Lancaster’s Executive MBA (EMBA) programme.

Now, thirteen months in, he is halfway through his studies – and it has already led to drastic changes to his real-life working environment.

“The EMBA has been transformational both for me and for my employer,” Gavin explains. “Going into the programme, I thought I knew most things about business - but it has been a real eye-opener.”

While Gavin says he has loved every minute of the EMBA so far, it was during the Business Ethics and Sustainability module specifically, that he had his ‘lightbulb moment’.

“You are asked to come to the module with an idea for a project that can create impact, and I was struggling to think of what I could do at first,” says Gavin. “But during a session it dawned on me how much plastic we were throwing away as a business due to protective packaging required for transporting our tools, which led me to start thinking seriously about waste and a completely new packaging solution - recyclable bags.”

Gavin took his new packaging idea to Bulldog’s Directors and marketing team, who quickly got on board and helped turn his vision into reality.

“I may have driven the change but my Directors have really got on board, which has been incredible and means we are now leading the way in our sector,” Gavin explains. “My ideas were brought to life by the marketing team who designed new, fully-recyclable packaging with bio-degradable ink, and these are in full production now.

“Our company is small and uses international suppliers, so it hasn’t been totally straightforward. It was important to us to completely refresh our sustainability commitments and to ensure we lived and breathed our values – so our suppliers had to be fully on board,” he continues.

“There is a short-term cost to the business to implement change like this, and it means that our tools have to be transported differently for example, but when you look at the environmental benefits and carbon savings it delivers, it’s a no-brainer.

“Manufacturing and distributing tools has an environmental cost, so Bulldog tools are designed and built to last for years with a lifetime guarantee, which means they don’t need to be replaced very often. We also offer spare parts wherever possible so that handles, screws, rivets, heads, etc can be replaced and tools don’t need to be thrown away if damaged.”

Gavin says that while the company still has a lot to do, it makes him feel proud to think of the impact his studies have had on the business, and on him personally and professionally.

He has even been invited to speak to LUMS’ Masters students about his experiences in Operations Management – something he says he would never have dreamed of doing before:

“Lancaster has given me some confidence, I think, and while I hated the idea of public speaking at first and being completely out of my comfort zone in front of students, I got a lovely email afterwards saying that some of the students I’d spoken to had shown a real interest in pursuing their career in Operations after hearing me speak”, said Gavin. “So, I think I’ll feel differently when I go back next time.”

LUMS’ Dr Alison Stowell delivers the EMBA’s Business Ethics and Sustainability Module. She said: “It is a huge privilege to work with EMBA students like Gavin. I get an enormous sense of pride and gratification to witness the ripple effects that learning and peer-debate has, and the real-life impact this can create in organisations, changing practices for the better.

“The transformation that Gavin has been able to drive in such a short space of time is truly admirable – and I look forward to being part of the rest of his EMBA journey.”

Lancaster University Management School’s Executive MBA is a two-year programme tailored to the demands of working professionals, focusing on capability, capacity and knowledge for career progression. Taught by specialists from the world-class faculty, LUMS’ programme is delivered with a blend of online learning using your workplace as the context and face-to-face workshops.

To find out more about Lancaster’s Executive MBA, visit: or MBA - Lancaster University Ghana.

For more information about Bulldog Tools, please visit

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