Leading Spicers with sustainability

Spicers is being kept busy. Following its launch as part of an ownership transition with Kokusai Pulp & Paper (KPP), Spicers CEO David Martin is taking the company on a new strategy and direction, with sustainability at the heart of it.

“We’ve grown for the first time in many years; it’s across the board. We’ve targeted our products, so our product ranges have become smaller but more targeted to what is most relevant for our customers,” he mentioned.

Martin said the company has refined its product range to bring to market products that provide better solutions to customers’ challenges and deliver more on sustainability.

For example, the media supply specialists displayed its high-end specialty graphic materials, including Re-Board, 3M Window and Graphic films, Ace Outdoor, Yupo, Palboard, Digitac and Corflute to PrintEx 19.

“With 3M Di-noc, you can deliver a look of marble or woodgrain to almost any surface. It’s a product that’s rocketing in demand. The sustainability message is key with Re-Board. It’s completely recyclable and there is an amazing level of structural integrity to the product,” he said.

“So, what this allows us to do is target architecture as well as print – so pop-up stores, etc. At the moment, you can serve the market with what you have but at Spicers, we’re always looking for what gives businesses a better outcome.

“The drive for us is to reduce reliance on products using fossil fuels. There is a fibre based and compostable approach to our range selection and we know it is a more sustainable source, unlike fossil fuels.”

However, Martin said there are some applications in the market that can’t be covered with fibre-based products, such as clear packaging (water bottles). For these sort of applications, he said businesses need to be very specific with what they expect from those products and how they can be used sustainably.

“You have things like coffee cups that could be phased out if people use keep cups. But the problem with keep cups are that they’re not all glass – there are some plastic ones out there and once again, that’s fossil fuels,” Martin said.

“What we’ve done, to better this situation is work on a product that has a coating, making it impervious to water and fully recyclable. We’ve been trialling the product and will be bringing it to market shortly.

“Obviously switching from coffee cups to keep cups affect a number of businesses. So, with this solution they can still offer single-use cups, but in an environmentally sustainable way.

“There are also some coffee cups in the market where they require industrial composting – that’s not a neat solution as they need to be collected separately and then go through an industrial process. Not everyone has that knowledge of where to put the cup because of its various materials.”

As such, Martin said there needs to be in place an extremely simple collection system. “It’s the same with plastics that are numbered – you don’t know where the different ones (the two, the three and the five that you find at the bottom of plastics) go,” he mentioned. “Paper has been through negative press cycle that plastics is about to go through.

So, if we can get back to fibre packaging, we know that it is recyclable and we’re a step closer to being the right answer.

“We have a key strength in that our value chain is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and so the perception of sourcing control is now a complete non-issue.”

To further drive the value of sustainability, Martin suggested that industry education around the topic of sustainability be stressed upon in Australia.

“It may take some new legislation to promote recycling and sustainability and infrastructure that needs to support the sustainability message,” Martin stated.

“The governments have some work to do – it will take some work from them in terms of the way that products are collected. We’re currently putting glass with plastics and paper all in one blue bin but that eventually goes into landfill.

“Even when we talk about glass, you can’t mix green with clear or brown glass, for example. They need to be separated.

“If you understand what’s happening upstream, then the consumer has to be inconvenienced just a little bit to streamline the process and make it easier across the entire chain.

“There is no way we can become more efficient in recycling and allow the consumer to have the same level of personal convenience, yet it’s the right thing to do. End of street collection, separated glass, plastics and fibre, that’s more efficient yet a little less convenient.”

As for the industry, he said that the drive towards sustainability is there, but it’s now about the capability of other factors to support it.

Moving forward

One thing that Martin is driving internally is to find ways for Spicers to help customers find the next step in their growth ambitions.

“For example, with customers that are in sign and display, we’re encouraging them to enter into architecture and interior design. It’s the new ideas that we bring in, along with our product set,” he said.

“The big question for our customers is – what’s next for your business? And it’s obviously going to be a different answer for most. We want to help take customers somewhere where their business will grow.

“So, if they’re not growing in a certain sector, we will try and help them diversify in a manner which best suits them, and we hope to serve their needs as they grow.

“The market is also diversifying, so when we internally train our people we make sure that they have cross disciplinary training.

“So, for example, if they’re trained on paper, we ensure that they’re also trained in packaging or labels. We’ve taken on new approaches, but the underlying message is us doing what’s right for our customers.”

The company is also in the midst of strategising the next best move for the business.

“We delisted in the middle of July and the capital injection for us, from our new owners, will be put towards investment into the business,” he said.

“There hasn’t been much cash available to the business over the past three years. The idea behind that was to get the business to a point where it was providing an acceptable return. Now, we’re looking forward to what we can do with this capital injection, mainly focused on productivity opportunities and new growth inventory.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the business related to our new products and we’re looking forward to what we can bring to the table, for the industry as a whole.”

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