Transitioning towards being an ethical, eco friendly company should not be hard. The preconception that “sustainable is expensive” is a bias that should be eliminated in today’s economy. This is the philosophy Solution Group, a distributor of branded merchandise for multinational companies, has adopted in the last two years. Its efforts, expensive at first, have proven to be incredible assets towards the positioning of what the company stands for and the recognition from its clients have given positive results in becoming their preferred suppliers. Here are the main initiatives Solution Group has sponsored, and how they have been effective in changing their image as a company.
Employee Retention Rate
Solution Group fairly pays all of its employees. It gives them a chance to grow professionally and rewards hard, effective work with bonuses and benefits. Once an employee is fully trained and independent, Solution Group lays the right conditions to retain its workforce. For this reason they have 100% employee retention rate over a period of 5 years. Resignations are rare because wages and conditions standards are above average. This saves them time and money in the long run as the company runs itself without the need of constant intervention from senior positions.
Rather than buying computers, printers and cars, Solution Group has started renting all of their technological assets. This allows them to update the technology and transportation force every two years therefore having the most power efficient machines on the market. This works also for the cars and vans used for sales people and logistics. Cars usually run with hybrid or GPL engines and are used for a maximum of four years, allowing them to always be up to date with efficient carbon fuel emission systems. The items they return are utilized by companies who want to use cheaper technology, hence reinforcing a circular economy.
Good Practices Inside the Company
Solution Group tries to limit single use plastics. Being an Italian company, there is a whole lot of coffee consumed in their offices, and adopting paper cups instead of plastic ones, have proven to save tons of plastics every year. Moreover, they discourage the use of bubble wrap for their shipments and only use paper scotch tape. Obviously, there are recycling bins and clear instructions on how to use less energy and water. These may seem like small insignificant things, however, if every company in the world would adapt these practices, we would be saving an infinite amount of energy, plastic and drastically reduce carbon emissions.
Fair Trade License
Solution Group delivers many cotton based items. Cotton is usually perceived as an eco friendly material, however, in recent years the working conditions of cotton fields, as well as the amount of water necessary for the plantations, have been under a lot of scrutiny and scandals. For this reason Solution Group decided to import mostly Fair Trade cotton from India. Fair Trade is a certification body that audits the whole supply chain. From the field, to the factory to the distributor. It ensures that employees are paid a fair wage and working and environmental standards are kept well above average.
For every €5000 purchased from Solution Group, they plant 100 trees with ForestNation in Tanzania. Not only are they giving part of their revenues towards a noble cause, but with this system they also offset part of their carbon emissions from their productions. The customer receives a certificate with a full reporting on the positive outcomes derived from their work. They advertise the CO2 emissions absorbed, the O2 emitted, the working hours created and the hectares of land reforested on the product itself, adding value to the item distributed.
Read the full case study about this initiative here.
Using NGOs for Reworks
Many times companies like Solution Group need to repack or rebrand items they are selling. Sometimes they buy the item from a supplier, and the packaging somewhere else. The two components are then put together by a separate workforce in a dedicated facility. In recent years, where possible, Solution Group has been using local NGOs that employ disabled personnel for simple reworking tasks. This allows people with disabilities to have a purpose and feel professionally fulfilled. The item sold can then advertise the initiative with phrases like “packaged by [name of NGO]”.
Now imagine a simple branded cotton pouch with an elegant paper sleeve. The sleeve advertises the Forest Nation initiative, it specifies it was packed by an NGO and it utilized fair trade cotton. The branded pouch has now a story. The story of a simple item that respected and empowered people on a professional and humane level. There is no better added value than telling such a story for a product.
Private Label – nudo nature made
In 2020 Solution Group launched its own private label nudo nature made: Body care accessories and cosmetics that utilizes only natural raw materials, are 100% vegan and plastic free. The brand is sold in retail through various chains and independent shops. Solution Group used its expertise in manufacturing accessories and promotional items for the cosmetic industry and put it to good use by creating a totally new concept and brand, focused on ethics and responsible practices to try and penetrate other markets.
Compliance and Certifications
How can a company like Solution Group display all of its practices and initiatives and let them be known to clients? There are certification bodies in place. Solution Group is ISO 14001 certified. This is a management system with a clear environmental policy. Moreover, they’ve obtained SA 8000 certification which proves their good practices in ethics and working conditions. Last but not least, their Ecovadis evaluation scorecard is Gold. Ecovadis assesses companies based on 4 pillars: environment, labor and human rights, ethics and sustainable procurement. Their effort towards CSR is therefore proven by all these external certification bodies which have assessed them thoroughly. Any of their customer can find them in the certifications databases which vouch for the veracity of their statements.
Promotion of Sustainable Products to Customers
One thing they have adapted in recent years is the “sustainable alternative”. For every project and brief they receive they try to fulfill the request with eco friendly alternatives. Items with sustainable materials are preferred compared to their plastic counterparts and where possible, productions are shifted to Europe or Turkey where labor laws are stricter than China or India. This has proven to be easier after Covid where China imports have been extremely complicated with high transportation costs and long delivery times. Moreover, on their personal shop shop.solutiongroup.it there is a whole section of eco friendly and certified products advertised in the homepage.
Solution Group has a pool of suppliers in different countries that range from China, to India, to Turkey, Poland and finally Italy. This means that the attention required towards selecting the right partners is extremely important. For this reason Solution Group assesses its suppliers with questionnaires. The main topics addressed are if the suppliers have an environmental policy in place, waste management strategy, ethical and human rights laws applied to the work force and so on. Where possible, they have certification bodies such as SGS or Intertek to audit productions to ensure that what is declared on these questionnaires is actually true.
These are just a few practices any company can adopt to try and make a difference in a capitalist system where growth and turnover is what unfortunately drives most companies. The system is built so that any organization will somehow influence our ecosystem, however, it is possible to mitigate this influence through a series of initiatives that can improve humanity’s well being on an ethical and professional level as well as an environmental one. Solution Group, like many others, is trying their best in offsetting carbon emissions and treating everyone with respect and dignity without giving up huge amounts of profits. There is no reason why most enterprises shouldn’t adopt at least some of these plans to further improve their practices. Will your company be the next?