Eco Views From Sainsbury’s, Waterstones And House of Cards

“Two years ago we had no idea we would all be here talking about this, but Blue Planet made the nation really wake up to urgency of reducing plastic waste,” stated Adam Osborne, Woodmansterne’s director of operations and IT, who was on the panel at a dedicated environmental discussion at the recent GCA Centenary AGM and Conference. “The thought of going unwrapped was very scary at first, but now we wish we had done it sooner!” admitted Adam, who has been instrumental in driving the development of Woodmansterne’s Close Seal label which holds the card with the envelope.

Fellow panelists included Sainsbury’s buyer Carly Pearson, Waterstones’ buyer Hazel Walker, House of Cards’ co-owner Miles Robinson and The Art File’s md Ged Mace.

“The packed room as well as engagement prior to and during the discussion reflects how high up the agenda the environmental issues are for those in the greeting card industry. It is vital that we share our views, experiences, and solutions in order that myths are debunked, concerns are taken on board and progress is made,” said Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA.

Above: Sainbury’s Carly Pearson with The Art File’s Ged Mace at the recent GCA Centenary AGM and Conference.
Above: Sainbury’s Carly Pearson with The Art File’s Ged Mace at the recent GCA Centenary AGM and Conference.

As Sainsbury’s Carly Pearson quantified, the grocer’s decision to ‘go naked’ from April 1 (on all cards other than those which require extra protection) has resulted in “77 tonnes of plastic being saved,” with the added bonus of resulting in increased sales.

“We have seen the average selling price of cards increase and experienced minimal damaged stock,” revealed Carly. The addition of Point of Sale reminding shoppers to remember to pick up the appropriate envelope has also gone down well with Sainsbury’s customers.

“We are now exploring non-plastic options for card packs and working with UKG on alternatives for FSDUs to reduce waste,” added Carly.

Hazel Walker, senior buyer of Waterstones shared that its more “cautious, measured approach” on the environmental front was progressing well.

“Now, 20% of our new card designs are being supplied naked or with a paper clasp,” said Hazel who expects this percentage to grow for the retailer.

Above: As a publisher Woodmansterne has led the way with its Smart Seal.
Above: As a publisher Woodmansterne has led the way with its Smart Seal.

Having recently undertaken a survey among its customers and staff of its six stores, Miles Robinson, co-owner of House of Cards, made no bones about what he sees as a “no brainer” – to go 100% unwrapped. The Home Counties retail group favours a ‘nested’ approach, with the envelope slotted inside the card preferring this to the card clasp option which has resulted in some damages in House of Cards “as some shoppers break the seal to look inside the card,” according to Miles.

Ged Mace, managing director of The Art File explained how the publisher has taken the decision that from the beginning of December, all of its new ranges will be going ‘nested’ as a matter of course, unless there is a need for additional protection. In the case of the latter, the publisher will continue to feature the wording ‘I am wrapped for a reason’.

Above: Woodmansterne’s Adam Osborne highlighted how large the symbol would have to be to highlight that a product is compostable.
Above: Woodmansterne’s Adam Osborne highlighted how large the symbol would have to be to highlight that a product is compostable.

“It will take us a year or so to work through our back catalogue of ranges,” said Ged.

Following the panelists sharing their views Amanda tasked those in the audience as well as the speakers to answer pre-submitted questions which covered glitter (a breakthrough on fully plastic-free flitter is expected in nine months); independent retailers’ reticence to move to unwrapped for practical reasons (multi-pocketing of designs) as well as whether foiled cards can be recycled (yes they can, as long as foil does not equate for more than 25% of the cards’ coverage).

The GCA has undertaken to update the Environmental Guidelines that are hosted on ithe association’s website.

Top: The Environmental panel at the GCA Centenary AGM and Conference. (Left-right) Amanda Fergusson (GCA), Ged Mace (The Art File), Hazel Walker (Waterstones). Carly Pearson (Sainsbury’s), Adam Osborne (Woodmansterne) and Miles Robinson (House of Cards).

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