The whole package23 Apr 2014
By embedding sustainability at the outset, London Bio Packaging has become successful, transformational and profitable
Armed with an MSc in Sustainability and Business from Imperial College, and passionate about ethical business, Marcus Hill founded London Bio Packaging in 2005 with a vision ‘to give environmental, social and economic concerns equal consideration’. It’s this vision that led to it being chosen to supply all the food and drink packaging at the Olympic Games in 2012 – supplying over 50 different food businesses across 100’s of venues. “We supplied in excess of 120 million pieces of compostable and recyclable packaging, ensuring it was all composted or recycled after use,” says Marcus. “It was a real privilege for us to play our part in making it all happen.”
The way that vision has been embedded into every business decision, and the commercial success achieved as a result, helped London Bio Packaging triumph over finalists including Anglian Water, Veolia and Kingspan to win the 2013 ICAEW Sustainable Business Award. Alex Evans, Programme Director of the National Business Awards, caught up with Marcus to talk about what set his business apart and why sustainability makes commercial sense.
What is most innovative about London Bio Packaging and its business model – and why has it been so successful?
LBP’s innovations have been a) the development of two sustainable packaging brands, Sustain (plant based and compostable) and Revive (recycled and recyclable); and b) a ‘closed loop service’ to ensure end customers are able to implement a sustainable solution to their resource consumption and waste management.
We have been successful because we were the first company in Europe to put together our unique range of compostable and recycled packaging products for the food to go sector; we provide customers with closed loop solutions, not just products; and we help customers to improve their own brands and give them a competitive edge.
How and why has London Bio Packaging embedded sustainability – and why is its approach exemplary?
LBP has embedded sustainability by putting it at the heart of our business model from the outset. When the company was founded, our aim was to supply sustainable products and services - and to ensure the day-to-day operations of the company were as sustainable as possible. To support these triple bottom line principles, we established a sustainability policy as a core document and, as the company grew, we put in place the environmental management system ISO14001. This system allows us to manage and continually improve our approach to sustainability. Today our vision is ‘to deliver sustainability, to add value to our customers’.
We’re exemplary because few businesses of our size, or in our industry, place sustainability at the core of their business model; have developed unique sustainable products and services; are certified to ISO14001 to reduce their environmental impact.
Why is sustainable business important to UK plc?
The old linear economy model of extract, make, dispose relies on large amounts of resources and energy. As such it’s becoming increasingly unsuitable for business and society. Establishing a ‘circular economy’ will mean more innovative, creative, positive, healthy and sustainable businesses. And this of course will also improve society as a whole.
What one piece of advice would you give to a) any UK start up and b) any large organisation looking to embed sustainable business principles?
For start ups you have the great opportunity to embed sustainability and circular economic models into your business model from the start. So do it! For large organisations, have the vision and courage to understand that sustainability is crucial to your medium to long term prosperity. Make a CEO/ board level push to become leaders in sustainability. For both small and large businesses alike it will make you more innovative, creative and competitive.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before launching your business?
Ha! A hard question. One thought is that I would say: ‘it’s going to work, be bold and go for it - grow it faster!’, but then some of the tentative careful growth was probably what we needed.
What growth milestones are most important to you and why?
Financial because its money that means we can grow and improve our environmental and social bottom lines too.
What impact has your NBA win had on your business - and how do you plan to make the most of this recognition going forward?
It has been great to have some national recognition. We plan to continue shouting about winning the award to all our stakeholders.
What unexpected benefit came out of the judging process or participation in the NBAs?
I guess winning the award was unexpected! We connected with some interesting other organisations at the ceremony including Veolia and the Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The National Business Awards are now open and the deadline for entries is 23rd May. To find out more about the ICAEW Sustainable Business Award, and how to enter, visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk.