The seven-year ditch

We are a leading graduate recruiter and like most we went through the yearly ritual of carefully curating an artillery of branded merchandise. Like everyone else, we always considered this to be a vital aspect of our presence on campus.

In 2013/14, we were producing over 10,000 glossy brochures a year. We were buying the same number of pens and pads of paper. We also produced countless other items such as mugs, umbrellas, oyster card holders and water bottles.

As each milk round season approached, these items would be loaded on to the back of our vans and sent off on a four month tour of the UK.

However, every time we left a law fair the floors would be littered with discarded merchandise. The bins would be overflowing with brochures and leaflets that were no longer wanted. Everything was headed for landfill.

We began to reflect on the influence branded merchandise really had over a candidates’ decision to engage with us. Also, it was increasingly hard to justify the duplication between our printed materials and the content available on our website.

We had a responsibility to come up with a greener, cleaner approach.

The first steps

By 2015/16, we had switched from producing glossy brochures to a printed one-page leaflet which had our key offerings clearly displayed.

We included lots of signposting to our website and even took iPads (when these were shiny and new!) to fairs, so  people could view our videos and engage with our online materials.

We commissioned a report by Greenstone, an award-winning sustainability reporting organisation, to take an in-depth look at the environmental impact of these changes.

The report revealed that by scrapping our brochures we saved a total of 5.7 tonnes of paper and avoided an additional 8.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to planting 141 trees and not charging 1,084,024 mobiles.

Fewer, covetable objects

Over the next few seasons we continued to make significant changes.

We were still investing in some high-quality items, but they weren’t for mass distribution. They were coveted objects to be received on a scheme or won through a competition.

There was no negative impact on our engagement levels or brand profile – just a significant shift in our carbon footprint.

Greenstone reported that between 2017/18 and 2019/20, due to our purchasing decisions, there was a reduction of an additional 3.6 tonnes of CO2. This emissions equate to planting 59 trees or not flying from London to Madrid 33 times.

By 2019/20, we had done away entirely with leaflets. Instead, we were creating bookmarks printed on recycled paper.

Beyond merchandise

We didn’t stop at reviewing merchandise. We also looked at our graduate events in more forensic detail. We made meaningful decisions regarding student and firm representatives’ travel choices, meat-free catering and virtual engagement platforms.

As a result of these we achieved a further reduction in emissions of 9% from 2013/14 to 2019/20. This is a total of 6 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the CO2 emitted by flying from London to New York 13 times.

We realise that there is still a lot more to do. But we’re proud of the progress we’ve made.

The future’s green

Our campaign now is completely different to that of 2013. We have gone from ordering a variety of items in their thousands to investing in just two products.

We’ve scrutinised the supply chain for these products. They come from European manufacturers and have genuinely sustainable credentials.

Our new pens are manufactured using hydro-electric power from renewable raw materials. 100% of production waste is either reused or recycled.

Our new notepads are made exclusively with recycled raw materials, and are also produced with little environmental impact.

The covers are made from 100% recycled leather fibres. The paper is made from the residue of agro-industrial processes (coffee, almonds, hazelnuts, olives etc.) as well as cotton and wool scraps.

Changes such as these have never been more important. We all need to take action and responsibility. Therefore we are proud to be founding partners of the Sustainable Recruitment Alliance.

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