- Photobox Group - 12 Nov 2015

Going Green with Sticky9

It’s predicted that by 2020 Millennials will account for $1.4 trillion of annual spending in America alone. So it’s no surprise that the retail market is focusing their attentions on understanding what it is that the Millennial customer – people born between 1980 and 2000 – actually wants.

We spoke with Angela Crouch, Commercial Director of Sticky9, to hear her theory and discuss Sticky9’s recent green initiative.

First of all, what’s your theory on Millennials?
Millennials are very savvy consumers and they’re demanding more from the companies they support. Research shows that Millennial customers are more likely to spend with companies with eco-credentials. It’s a great differentiator – and for a business of our size and within the Group, we felt it was right for us.

So when the Group asked us if we’d like to test out a partnership with Climate Partner – a very reputable company offering B2B offsetting solutions – we jumped at the chance. The hope is that we’ll prove it can be scaled to more of the brands under the PhotoBox umbrella.

Offsetting – the compensation and neutralisation of emissions – can cover lots of elements of the business and production. How far did you decide to go?
We offset every Sticky9 product we make, for both the production and the transport – it was really important to include transport too, as we sell to customers in 175 countries. The cost can range from one euro to ten euros, depending on which product, the materials it’s made out of and how far it’s being sent.

That’s quite a lot to commit to. Was it hard to get going?
We’re very much still a start-up so we like to operate in a lean way, in every way. We’re a small team and we can’t really operate like other larger brands in the Group. We have to get things out of the door quickly, so although Climate Partners did have some larger industrial solutions and APIs so you can integrate your systems with theirs, we chose a faster path. We were keen to put it in front of our customers as soon as possible to gauge their reaction. We simplified the process and once we had chosen which way to go, implementation was very quick – just two months. 

Which offset programme did you go for?
Climate Partner gave us a whole list of projects and they were all very respectable so we found it hard to pick. We really wanted to focus on one project, rather than spreading the money, so we all sat down and thought about it. With a global audience we wanted a place that everyone could identify with and would meaningful for them. We chose a forest protection project in Kenya’s Savannah as it had a bit of everything – it had investment in the diversity of the area, support of local communities and infrastructure. And of course the elephants. Who doesn’t love elephants?

You chose to keep your prices the same – hard decision to make?
We were determined to make it work. We did look at whether we could pass the cost on to the customer from a commercial point of view, but in the end we chose to absorb it ourselves. We wanted to be transparent about it and it didn’t feel right to pass it onto our customers. We felt it should be part of the brand essence and who we are. It was the right thing to do.

As the Commercial Director, was that decision tricky when it came to managing the bottom line?
There’s no question that it impacts our gross margin. It does. But we felt it was something worth doing and in the long term it was a great way to create brand advocacy. It was a project that we hope will create a higher profile for us moving forward.

And…has it had the impact you’d hoped for?
The first phase of feedback was fantastic. We put a post up and one of our customers said ‘well done for being so brave’. They understood we were doing something different and they were proud of what we’d done. Honestly, we were delighted with the reaction. We haven’t pushed it aggressively as we didn’t want it to be something we constantly shouted about. We communicated about it in the way we’d have like to be communicated to, so you can find it on our packaging, on our website and as you check out, but it’s not too over the top.

Is this your first time setting up a carbon neutral programme?
It’s something I’m personally very passionate about. I studied zoology at university, so I’ve always had an interest in ecology. Later I went on to work on recycling-focused and sustainability projects alongside companies like Tesco, Dixons and PC World and charities like the British Heart Foundation. So I’m really pleased that I got the opportunity to be the first to bring a project like this to the PhotoBox Group.

No wonder you managed to get it going in two months. Any tips for businesses hoping to do something similar?
You have to think longer term and understand that customer needs are changing. From there you just take it one step at a time, look at what can be done and try and make one project successful before you move on to the next. Once you’re in the thick of it, remember that customers appreciate transparency – that’s something we practiced at Sticky9, and it’s certainly paid off for us.

You can see how much Angela and the Sticky9 team have raised through their programme on the Climate Partner website and read more about the project on their blog.