Simone Hindmarch, co-founder of Commercial, talks about their sustainability journey, the process of applying for a Queen's Award in Sustainable Development and the benefits of winning one.
Back in 2006 I attended one of Al Gore’s infamous ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ lectures. Little did I know that it would mark a turning point for the business I’d set up 15 years earlier with my brother Arthur and his uni friend Alastair Adams.
Responsible business has always been central to what we do – it’s embedded in our family values. But in the early days, we didn’t proactively manage the environmental impact of our growing enterprise. This all changed when Al Gore’s global warming campaign spurred us to take action. We launched an environmental programme, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 75% in 3 years. Achieving this required collaboration right across the business. Our activity gathered momentum, and over time, we became increasingly sophisticated and strategic in our efforts to operate sustainably: it became part of our DNA.
It hasn’t always been easy. But our decision to keep raising the bar on sustainability, tackling difficult issues as well as the quick hits, has been good for the business. Today, our staff are more engaged and energised than ever before, generating a positive ripple effect when they take workplace behaviours home. Customers challenge us to push boundaries, and in turn we help them operate more sustainably. In a very crowded market, it has resulted in competitive differentiation. And it underpins strong, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers as we encourage them to interrogate their own ethical and environmental credentials.
In 2014, we took our sustainability strategy to a new level with the launch of a social enterprise, Commercial Foundation, to help disadvantaged young people develop workplace skills. By then, sustainability had become so integral to business as usual, that we didn’t consider entering the Queen’s Awards. We only entered after an external supplier suggested we have a go in 2017.
A Queen’s Award winner
The Queen’s Award win has become another important milestone on Commercial’s sustainability journey, underlining and giving credence to everything we’ve achieved. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and appreciate how the combined efforts of so many people can make a tangible difference. This will galvanise us to achieve more. And from a business perspective, I hope it will amplify our credibility and differentiate us both as an employer and as a corporate partner.
Commercial by nature
Everyone in the business has played a part in this success, and we’ll certainly enjoy the moment. But the work doesn’t stop here. As the business continues to grow and evolve, our objectives and challenges also shift. We are delighted to win and will wear the Queen’s Awards emblem with pride. However, the ‘Commercial By Nature’ ethos shared by all our employees means that we never rest on our laurels: we’re already looking ahead to the next 5 years and beyond.
Top tip for future entrants
If you’re planning to enter the 2019 Queen’s Awards, don’t delay! It takes time, effort and inter-department collaboration to gather the information and evidence for a strong entry.
We are an independent provider of business services. From office supplies to IT services, managed print services to outsourced print, office interiors to technologies. If an office needs it, Commercial does it.