Going green: the rise of eco-friendly stationers

Last week The Times profiled the extraordinary success story of Douglas Miller, the environmentalist who founded the eco-friendly stationers Remarkable after deciding “the most effective thing would be to demonstrate – practically – what can be done with finite resources.”

Consequently, Miller applied for a job at Savewood, a recycling company, and requested running the night shift on the factory floor where he spent two years learning how to process and recycle plastics.

“This was when I had the idea of producing a mass-market item that everybody uses but is made from recycled material.” This “idea” saw Miller set about turning a plastic cup into a pencil by investing £20,000 on experimentation and machinery, and taking the product to market in 1996 under the company name Remarkable.

Miller’s creation was made International Invention of the Year in 1998, which helped boost sales from £30,000 that year to £120,000 in 1999. Remarkable went on to expand its range to include mouse mats and pencil cases made from recycled tyres and the company’s turnover has now reached £3.5m.

Another company that has recognised that eco-friendly stationery is a burgeoning market is Phase Office Supplies.

“Wherever possible, we supply environmentally friendly products – they’re in great demand by most clients,” explains Alan Sames, MD of Phase Office Supplies.

“All our paper is either recycled or contains between 75 and 80 per cent of fibre sourced from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forests. The balance is made up from long-fibre pulp brought in from 100 per cent sustainable forests. This means it carries the highest environmental certification possible.”

Phase Office Supplies also makes sure that no hardwood is used for its office furniture supplies, and all the company’s products are researched, tested and selected by specialist sourcing teams.

“We also use electric vehicles to make our deliveries, and the products are all delivered using reusable Tote boxes instead of cardboard,” says Sames. “Selling eco-friendly products is no longer being seen as a ‘nice to have’. Rather, it’s become an essential means of driving the business forward.”

The figures speak for themselves: the company’s sales jumped from £2.2m in 2003 to £8.4m last year, making them one of the 100 fastest-growing private companies in the UK this year.

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