A collaboration of execs from the greeting cards industry will be at Brand Licensing Europe this month to take part in the Sustainability Activation, run in partnership with Products of Change. We spoke to some of them ahead of the event, which takes place from 17 to 19 November at ExCeL London.

Amanda Fergusson is CEO of the Greeting Card Association (GCA), the independent trade organisation for the card industry, which is wholly owned by its members, bringing together all parties with an interest in greeting cards, embracing publishers, retailers, suppliers and individuals working in the industry.

Claire Bates is marketing manager at Danilo. Created nearly 45 years ago, Danilo is a leading supplier of officially licensed calendars, diaries, greeting cards and gift wrap supplying retailers across the globe.

Steve Plackett is managing director of Carousel Calendars, the biggest calendar publisher and distributor in the UK.

Chris Shaw is head of safety & sustainability at UK Greetings, which creates greeting cards, gift dressings and social expression products for big events, special occasions and those ‘saw-this-and-thought-of-you’ moments of life. It is one of the largest direct to retail publishers and, as a major greetings card publisher, is committed to doing everything to support the United Nations-led push for a fairer, sustainable future for all.

Why have you joined forces with fellow greetings card businesses for the BLE Sustainability Activation in partnership with Products of Change?

Amanda Fergusson: A key part of the GCA’s role is to provide information to members enabling them to make decisions about their business. We were delighted to welcome Helena, founder of Products of Change, to speak at our recent annual conference and Danilo, UK Greetings and Belly Button are active GCA members.

Claire Bates: As individual companies and as an industry it’s fantastic to see how much support is being put behind the sustainability movement. Joining together means that we are delivering a much stronger message and demonstrating that we are committed to a sustainable future. 

Steve Plackett: A few years ago, when we developed our plastic-free packaging solution to calendars, we decided to share our innovation in order to help move the whole industry along, rather than to protect it and keep it as a competitive advantage. We have sent samples of our plastic-free calendars to most major UK calendar publishers as well as several American publishers over the past three years, and it has helped move other companies quicker. We are also the category manager for Tesco for calendars and after a successful year last year, with just our own plastic-free calendars, we then spoke to the other UK publishers to ensure all the Tesco range was plastic-free packaged (it’s just gone into depot now).

Chris Shaw: To lead, inspire and share best practice.

What is being done in the industry to make it more sustainable?

Amanda Fergusson: There has been a huge shift in the industry away from plastic, with many cards now being supplied ‘naked’ or with a paper clasp connecting the card and envelope.

Claire Bates: Both the greetings card and calendar industries recognise the importance of sustainability and have already taken major steps towards incorporating the consideration of the environment into its practices. The removal of damaging components such as glitter and cello wrapping have been addressed on greeting cards within a short space of time. Plastic-free alternatives for calendars are now commonplace in the market. 

Steve Plackett: The industry focus, at the moment, is on plastic reduction but it has to move to focus on reducing carbon emissions. We have been focusing on reducing our scope 3 emissions and talking to other publishers and our manufacturers. If we don’t reduce our scope 3, we won’t be able to do our part in keeping warming to below 1.5 degrees.

Chris Shaw: Continuing the reduction of single-use plastics. Ensuring that paper and board continues to be sustainably sourced, but with a focus on building circularity into our products; utilising more recycled content material and reviewing finishes in order ensure end of life recyclability. 

UK Greetings’ cards are now choosing carbon balanced paper, supporting world land trust in their efforts to protect the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats.  Our commitment was one of the largest made to date under the programme, and in our first year we will fund the protection of 635 acres of threatened habitat in the Khe Nuoc Trong region of Vietnam.

What will visitors to Brand Licensing Europe see when they visit you in the Sustainability Activation?

Claire Bates: They will see the great progress we are making in reducing plastics, becoming more recyclable and designing our products with reuse in mind. This is demonstrated by the slim and deluxe calendar formats, as well as our new eco card range, which will all be displayed at the show.

Steve Plackett: They will see our innovative solution on our products, but I hope to be there for a day and would be happy to talk to anybody about plastics and carbon emissions in our trade.

Chris Shaw: Greetings cards mark special moments in people’s lives and many of our cards are kept and enjoyed for years. Our aim is to offer our customers cards that bring joy and respect the environment. This means optimising every stage of our products’ life – from re-thinking our designs and using more sustainable materials encouraging people to reuse their cards creatively and finally ensuring that cards can be widely and easily recycled. Ultimately, our goal is for all our products to be sustainable and fully recyclable, helping to conserve natural resources.

What impact do you hope this collaboration will have on other brands, manufacturers and retailers?

Amanda Fergusson: This is a good opportunity to showcase the work that is being done in the greeting card industry to reduce our environmental footprint.

Claire Bates: That it is hugely beneficial to join together on this issue and share best practices, so that we can all help each other to be kinder to the planet.  We are at the start of the sustainability journey, but we have already shown how quickly we can move to make change.  Hopefully our actions so far will inspire others to follow.

Steve Plackett: Collaboration increases the speed of change – simple as that.

Chris Shaw: We hope to inspire others to adopt the circular model and accept the carbon balanced paper programme as an enhancement to sustainable sourcing of paper and board.

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