Trends in sustainable office accessories
Consumers are sensitized to the issue of sustainability: what do they expect from paper, writing and office products in this respect? What are companies doing to meet these expectations? TOP FAIR spoke to Daniel Buchholzer, C.O.O. and Authorised Signatory with ExaClair GmbH, the German subsidiary of the Exacompta Clairefontaine Group.
: For a sustainable product to be received enthusiastically by consumers, what are the essential requirements?
The right materials, design, lifestyle signaling and pricing policy – these four components are of critical importance to the success of a sustainable product. But in addition – and this is essential – recognised certification is required. This combination is necessary for today’s needs.
: Which projects and measures exemplify your company’s commitment to sustainability
In this company we have for decades been pioneers in sustainable products, by which I mean products certified as sustainable. Since last year, we have also been ClimatePartner partners with our 1928 series of office accessories, a climate-neutral range. Incidentally, one third of our office accessories are already Blue Angel-certified and manufactured from post-consumer materials. A few figures: for a Big Box drawer and storage box, the emissions for the Blue Angel PCR-PS version (post-consumer recycled plastic) amount to only 0.724 kg CO² per kg of plastic compared to 3.741 kg for Virgin-PS Natural (new plastic). The saving in 2019 for this series is in fact equivalent to 3.3 million fewer kilometres driven. Since May this year, the Falken brand’s Recycling and Recycolor folders, which are both FSC- and Blue Angel-certified, have also become ClimatePartner partners. The Falken brand has been part of the Exacompta-Clairefontaine Group since 2019.
: When do consumers opt for recycled materials and when do they prefer the virgin (new) varieties?
In the case of plastic, the recycled and non-recycled varieties are of the same high quality, so consumers decide according to their own lights – a matter of lifestyle preferences and taste. For products made from cardboard and paper, however, the question of what the product is to be used for plays an important role. A notebook with snow-white paper, for example, has added value in the eyes of many people if they intend to put it to some creative purpose, such as hand lettering, which is why our Rhodia and Clairefontaine notebooks and pads are so popular. For such purposes, products with recycled paper are less often used. But such considerations are less relevant in the case of things like file covers.
: How do you appraise materials in terms of both emotional impact and functionality?
Emotions are best awakened in customers through sensory perception: through their holding them in their hands and feeling the materials. The physical sensation produced, for example, by touching a pencil case from the Cuirisé series, made from real lamb’s leather using vegetable tanning with extracts of mimosa and quebracho or one of our cork pouches, has an emotional aspect. Our stationery products, such as the Jeans & Cocoa series or products made from cardboard with a special layer of vegetable oil, not only trigger emotions when they are touched but also exude quality, as these materials, though produced in an ecologically sensitive manner, have all the same advantages as plastic ones. The best example of this is the Eterneco series, which is 100% cardboard (obtained from wood residues), and yet, thanks to a special oil coating, is as robust and water-repellent as plastic. We also have Forever® PP plastic products in our range, which are made from post-consumer materials, recycled and produced in an environmentally friendly way. A poster is available for Forever® PP to draw attention to these virtues in retail outlets, as is one for the Eterneco series, for which a banner, shelf-stopper and display are also available.
: What other criteria are playing an important role currently in your product design?
The longevity of products is an especially high priority in our production processes. A customer who is satisfied with our products is a loyal customer, which is a win-win for all concerned: end-users, resellers, manufacturers. The downside of longevity, obviously, is that it reduces demand, but the satisfaction of our customers compensates for this. A further plus is lower energy consumption, which benefits the environment. Optimizing production is a continuous, daily process.
: Which current trends are you following particularly closely?
Design plays a major role in the manufacturing of sustainable products. The Eterneco range, for example, has no superfluous labels out of respect for ecological concerns and in the interests of natural design. That is why the labelling is integrated. Natural colours, such as kraft colours, but also bold hues and pastel shades are in vogue. The consumer has been sensitised to the topic of sustainability in recent years, displaying responsibility that is also reflected in purchasing behaviour. Whether or not products are certified therefore plays a key role in purchasing decisions.
Daniel Buchholzer …
… was born in France and has been active in the industry since 1981. He started out in Germany with Quo Vadis in Kehl am Rhein, a company specializing in diaries and annual calendars. This brand is also distributed by ExaClair GmbH in Cologne (which until 2011was known as Brause), where since 1999 he has held the posts of Chief Operating Officer and Authorized Signatory.