Story | 05/21/2015 14:05:00

Leadership through Label Life

UPM Raflatac’s Label Life Awards create supplier engagement, learning and long-lasting partnership.

It’s a bright blue sky day in Poland as guests arrive at the modern UPM Raflatac Wroclaw factory in the west of the country. Today representatives from Dow Chemical, Dynasol, Munksjö and Ricoh Industrie France will present their case on why they should be judged the winner of the inaugural Label Life Awards.

Sami Poukka

Sami Poukka

When UPM Raflatac decided to organise a competition recognising their suppliers’ good environmental and social performance, a strong responsibility agenda was already built into the company DNA. The Label Life awards have enabled Raflatac to externally promote this work as well as encourage learning amongst its suppliers.

The business has already achieved tremendous success in delivering widespread improvements in all strands of responsibility: social, environmental and economic. For Vice President of Sourcing, Sami Poukka, that isn’t enough. In his opening speech to the guests he reinforced that UPM Raflatac looks carefully both at its own supply chain and that of its suppliers – and not only tier one suppliers. “We aim to understand the risks throughout the whole supply chain.”

Prized partners in sustainability

For businesses operating in a global economy, differing legislation, cultures and business needs can lead to wide gaps in expectations between suppliers and customers. This is not true of UPM Raflatac, however, as the company works consistently to reinforce its principles across the entire supply chain.

By expanding the Label Life sustainability initiative – which has been in place for a number of years – among its suppliers, UPM Raflatac is able to deliver transparent responsibility to its customers and employees, bringing mutual understanding and stronger partnership to the work it does with suppliers and stakeholders.

“The Label Life Awards are a natural step in our responsibility roadmap. We wanted to reward those who have been working with us on sustainability initiatives,” says Poukka.

“We really want to learn more from our suppliers and develop longer-term projects to mutually benefit us both. It is extremely important that we find the right players with whom we can work, who share our vision.”

Robert Taylor, Director for Stakeholder Relations at UPM Raflatac and Chairman of the Label Life Awards Jury, underlines the vision behind Label Life: “We’ve got a lot of work going on in this area internally. The point now is to promote responsibility even further among our suppliers and other stakeholders throughout our supply chain. We really want to encourage them to take the next step and achieve true mutual partnership in our work.”

He adds: “A good supplier for UPM Raflatac considers not just its environmental performance but its social performance and naturally its economic performance. Equally important for our business is product safety as well. These awards are an example of good leadership and sharing of feedback to our suppliers.”

There is a growing need to keep sustainability at the forefront of the business, he affirms: “There’s a direct link to cost-efficiency. It doesn’t matter if it’s waste, energy, water or raw materials, the lower the impact, the better the economic performance.”

Inspiring business to do more

Ensuring fair judging by peers, UPM Raflatac invited external expert judges to take part, including the Head of Conservation for WWF Poland, Piotr Nieznanski. UPM Raflatac and WWF Poland together operate a joint conservation project to protect the Oder River Valley as part of WWF Poland’s Rivers for Life initiative.

“We have had a close cooperation for several years with UPM Raflatac. This Label Life initiative is very important, inspiring business to make changes for sustainability. I saw from the presentations that many factories are changing their processes and approach to responsibility and I really hope to see these changes rolled out in other factories in other countries,” comments Nieznanski.

“The importance of events like today is in the multiplication of the positive effects for the environment. The challenge remains for businesses to ensure that environmental protection is possible as a part of everyday life,” he adds.

Fellow expert judge Hanna-Leena Pesonen, Professor in Corporate Environmental Management and Dean of the University of Jyväskylä, undersigns Nieznanski’s positive outlook on the awards: “Personally it has been really wonderful to see the leading companies presenting their cases to us, but on a more general note it’s also important for different companies to meet their peers and share their good ideas and experiences.”

Pesonen adds that more and more companies are undertaking responsibility projects on a voluntary basis without any legislative prompts. “They simply see it is as the way to do business nowadays – and today’s awards confirm that.”

Sitting alongside the esteemed external judges were UPM specialists representing sourcing, environment and Human Resources. The companies that were invited to participate had to comply with UPM Raflatac’s responsible sourcing framework, including their Supplier Code and processes. They also had to achieve a good score in the UPM Raflatac 2014 global Responsibility Survey to ensure good overall CSR performance.

From a shortlist of over 70 companies, four finalists presented their projects to the jury before facing a tough round of questioning from the expert jury panel. With a broad subject range, the jury had a hard time making their decision.

Big on biodiversity

Ricoh Industrie France were chosen the winners with their Vie et Couleurs (Life and Colours) initiative, which highlights biodiversity as a key factor in reducing the impact of their Colmar production site in Eastern France. In an area of natural beauty, Ricoh wished to continue their strong record of sympathetic building design and do what they could on their home base with the help of employees.

Vie et Couleurs delivered a wide-scale landscape management plan to which every employee can contribute. The lawns are no longer mown in 30% of their green spaces and wild flowers have been planted to increase wildlife diversity. In the eight years since the inception of the scheme, employees have installed nesting boxes, planted rare fruit trees and hedges and brought in a volunteer beekeeper to establish a beehive on the site. The project is self-funding in total due to the savings on green space maintenance costs – reduction of mowing alone has brought a 30% cost saving.

Employees, their families and the wider community are regularly encouraged to volunteer to maintain the green spaces, and Ricoh has worked with several NGOs to develop the educational and technical skills required to further expand the project.

Meeting the judging criteria of uniqueness, stakeholder engagement and inspiration, Ricoh Industrie France’s initiative impressed the judges the most, especially in having gained such great stakeholder engagement from the start. The jury further noted that this type of initiative is often difficult to manage on a long-term basis.

Elodie Heintzmann, Environment Manager for Ricoh Industrie France said: “It is great recognition for all the efforts we have been making over the years. The support from our top management has been paramount to this success. I learned a lot and the exchange of ideas was also great.”

Echoing his colleague, Franck Révillion, Business Area Manager for Ricoh Industrie France added: “Ricoh has always been sensitive to the question of the environment. The Life and Colours project has been in the making for nearly eight years. The win was unexpected for us as the competition was very tough. All the projects were really interesting and diverse, so it’s a great benchmark.”

Elodie concluded: “The event has been a huge learning experience for us – not only through participating but also in discovering how our peers in similar industries are tackling responsibility. We will certainly be taking home a great number of ideas and hope to enter again in 2016.”

Main image: Ricoh Industrie France; Franck Révillion and Elodie Heintzmann

Photos: Bartek


Will Stone