Demanding Change – A Case for Sustainability among Builder’s Merchants

Increasing demand for sustainability in the fixings industry.

In the last few years, there has been an observable shift in the attitudes of consumers. ROYD has seen that the demand for sustainability has been customer driven. Through increased awareness of environmental issues and more offerings coming to market, consumers are frequently choosing sustainable options over alternatives even if there is a price differential. This trend has continued despite undeniably tough times economically.

When it comes to our regional stockists and the national builder’s merchant chains, we see the same thing. Larger firms have shown great interest in our own Zero100 campaign. It features as a key talking point whenever we enter discussions with new partners. This is because many branches are feeling pressure from both their customers and their higher-ups. This two-sided push has made a big difference in most merchants’ outlooks.

Meeting Challenges Head On

The ROYD Team has learned firsthand what challenges come with overhauling a company’s entire operational process to accommodate being more sustainable. It has taken almost two years to reach the stage the company is at now. There are others in this sector also making this transition.

A common issue faced by many is the sustainability of the packaging. Screws are mostly sold in either cardboard boxes or storage tubs. While cardboard is widely recycled, companies that prioritise aesthetics often mix plastic and cardboard. This results in packaging that either needs to be separated by the end-user before recycling or, at worst, cannot be recycled at all. While plastic tubs should be recognised as the storage units they are intended to be, not to be discarded as waste on first use.

However, the first issue that comes to mind for most companies when discussing sustainability is cost. Battling rising costs and maintaining business continuity at a time of great economic and international uncertainty is a massive challenge. It is difficult to strike such a balance, but good planning and commitment can see a reduction in long-term costs.

What else can the average builder’s merchant do?

There is plenty of universal advice that could apply to all merchants. Simple changes such as low-energy bulbs for stores and displays, reducing plastic usage, and limiting overall wastage will help offset the risk of increased sourcing costs.

Next, one must consider the carbon footprint stemming from logistics and deliveries. While ROYD and other companies have electrical delivery vehicles planned, action must happen now. Other industries necessitate a Just-in-Time approach to stock control, requiring regular orders to keep shelves stocked. That is not the case in the fixings industry. We propose that stockists, with the capability to hold stock, order a larger quantity of goods but less frequently. A reduction in the frequency of orders means fewer trucks are needed on the road, therefore, helping both the merchant and supplier lower their carbon footprint.

Furthermore, I encourage open dialogue with customers, most consumers want to be more environmentally friendly in how they work and shop. As outlined prior, transparency is key when talking with customers. This is especially true in the fixings industry where customers are often professional tradespeople. Polls have shown that across both the US and UK, 88% of consumers would like brands to help them be more sustainable day to day. Consumers want to have that conversation. Individual merchants may believe they are limited in how much their actions will benefit the bigger picture, that is why nurturing these conversations in the wider community is so important.

Benefits to you

Society’s core values are shifting. Many will try to only speak to the environmental benefits when discussing becoming sustainable, but there are real business benefits too. Larger firms are already chasing the reputation gains which come hand-in-hand with being sustainable, hence the desire to source alternative products. A good reputation draws in both customers and better talent to the workforce who might be put off by firms viewed as unethical.

A good reputation does not only bring external benefits. Employees in a company working towards the morally right thing can work with a clear, motivated mindset. We have seen it at ROYD, with the team pulling together to get the Zero100 campaign off the ground. The collaboration was felt across the company with every department being involved.

Key Takeaways

The world is changing fast and it can be hard to keep up. Sustainability requires careful thought and commitment at every stage of a business’s processes. Starting with their suppliers, being maintained in stores, and finally passing over to the consumer. It is a group effort; however, thought and market leaders have a duty to pave the way for others to follow.