Episode 004: Interview with Adam Huttly, Red-Inc
We are delighted to be joined by Adam Huttly who is the founder of Red-Inc. Company. Red Inc. is a B Corp certified company and is an office supplies re-seller. Adam founded his company in 2008 based on three principles which are cost, environmental impact, and reducing human effort.
When it came to cost, he saw it as an important factor in the competitive world and decide to be transparent about it. He looked at it from an intelligent perspective away from the norm. Supplying stationery meant he was directly involved with the environment, hence having knowledge on how environmental impact process would assist him in adding value to his customers by being their environmental area consultant. Finally, his third principle was to reduce human effort. He made a business model that worked for the customer, giving them 100% fulfilment.
3 Key Things
Cost is an important factor. In a competitive world, you have to deal with it intelligently.
Have a business model that works for the customer, that is, give them 100% fulfillment.
Find something that adds value to your customers.
What is your business super power?
From the very beginning, our ‘superpower’ has been being a company that is lean and efficient. The company was founded during the time when the world fell into global recession and people were, at the time, looking at raw cost. We had to come up with a solution that was cost effective hence we built a lean business.
How does Red Inc. engage its staff, suppliers and customers with its mission and purpose?
Being a small company, it’s relatively easy since the staff is together with us in our mission hence it’s really easy to engage with them. Being in the B Corp certification, everyone who is active in our business has to be involved in it therefore, it is really easy to engage with them.
What is B Corp and what drove you towards it?
As said earlier, we are a small business trying to make a difference in the industry and B-Corp has really helped us to achieve that. When we began, we were searching for authentication and a way to converse with clients and potential stakeholders about what we do. B Corp really came through for us.
It helped give us credibility about what we do and has enabled us embetter ourselves by assisting us in our areas of weakness. Every year we produce an impact report as a result of being at B-Corp which we share on an online platform and is therefore read by our clients. This way, they get to see what we have done and achieved over the course of the year.
When it comes to running an ethical and sustainable business, what has been your biggest struggle and how have you overcome it?
Upscaling is probably the biggest struggle we have as a small company. In most times, people who we want to talk to are generally busy people and to be honest a conversation about stationery is not quite riveting. Therefore, getting people who take us seriously and not just see us as another stationery company is quite the challenge. However, once they get to see what we have to offer, they are going to know that what we do stands out.
If you could offer one piece of advice to our listeners which could help them with their purpose, what would that be?
I would really advice that people, especially small business owners, do the impact assessment on B Corp. This is because it not only opens them up to a whole new world of information that they never knew existed, but also exposes them to how there should be policies, equality and diversity. It also opens their eyes to what more they should be doing and how much should be done when running a business.
Will: Adam, thanks for that podcast I interviewed before. We started talking about the paper industry and the troubles and turmoil that it’s going through at the moment. And you’ve come up with some ideas of how to change that and make it better. Tell us more, please.
Adam: Well, I don’t know whether single-handedly I can change the paper industry but I’d like to think that we can influence it a little bit. It takes responsibility from everyone so a whole industry needs to be responsible for it. That would be the kind of ideal position to find ourselves in, lead by example for other people to see what we can achieve.
One of the biggest problems is this continually paper prices. The market is in a really strange place. Paper in the UK is too cheap, it’s a heavy product. An average box of 80 gram paper weighs about 12 kgs or something. People want it for nothing and it has to be shipped around so it’s a big problem. It’s a low margin product. It’s almost like one of those ‘how much is your paper’ before anything else happens because it’s high usage.
What’s happening generally is that we’re just seeing continual paper prices from the mills and the reason that is is that the leading pulp suppliers are finding the paper market shrinking. There’s less interest in paper and that’s generally the trend over probably the last 10 years slowly but surely.
And secondly, what’s happening is that the development of 3rd world products – toiletries and facilities – are becoming a really big growing business for them and it’s worth, the pulp is worth more in that sector than it is as plain paper in the UK markets so the price is being driven up.
This has been at the back of our mind for ages. We claim to be a really ethical company, we still sell paper. People still need paper and we help customers reduce their paper usage but ultimately we do still sell paper. Any paper we sell we make sure it’s FSC or PSC accredited but we also felt that there had to be a better solution but the problem with that is that it’s introducing recycle paper. And the UK generally isn’t good at having paper that’s not bright white. This is one of the biggest problems we have is that yes, people like the idea of recycled, perhaps it’s premium in cost, but it’s not bright white. So if you deal with legal firms in particular they like bright white paper.
We’ve been working on a solution for a long time and now we’re really lucky. We’ve got a miller in Germany who will supply us direct with paper. It’s recycled, it’s a good color it’s not too bad at all in the brightness of it but when you look at statistics behind it it uses 72% less electricity, its uses 83% less water, and has a 53% reduction in emissions in its production. Surely as a culture and as far as we have to think that that’s the priority, the fact that it’s not quite as bright as anything else, these are the key issues. So we’re going to look behind just this bright white paper, really.
Will: This is brilliant. I’m going to go straight to cut the chase, cost.
Adam: Yeah. The great thing is this particular paper we’re going to be selling is 68% post-consumer waste which means it’s not affected by the price of pulp paper which means it’s in line with pulp paper. So there’s no premium for it. It’s going to sound pretty bad but it’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved and ultimately there’s no deforestation.
We understand that deforestation is done in a correct fashion nowadays but two weeks ago Green peas cut their ties with APP (Asia Pulp and Paper) because they’ve sort of befriended them. They needed Green Peas on site and then Green Peas found out that subsidiaries of them were still doing illegal logging and that’s pretty poor because I think the paper market makes about 37% of deforestation in the world. We’re optimistic this is a good solution but we still have a long way to go because we’ve got to change people’s mindset from having bright white paper to something that’s not quite white. A really good thing to do is we’ve been speaking to our clients about it. We go in and have this open discussion with them. We want their feedback, we want know why they bought it, and when it really comes to it most of them can get past that thing. A really easy question is to say to them every time you load a rim of paper into your printer just think about it. Think about the origins, think about the source, and think about the logistics involved to get that to you. It’s really thought provoking and it’s helped us give us some of the answers.
Will: Okay, so being recycle paper how many times is it able to be recycled? To those that don’t understand the whole process of paper one of the last parts of the chain are your egg boxes. Which is why they look the way they are because they literally are the last part, last way of recycling paper.
This recycled paper, how many times can it be recycled and reused etcetera?
Adam: Well, usually recycled paper has—it can be 7 times. We give an average stat which is good, but we do still need to be selling pulp. We just to need to change the dynamic of the pulp versus recycled. It’s like anything in life, we have to make sure the price is competitive but actually the value of the paper are looked upon much more seriously than just, ‘’Oh, it’s just a box of paper it’s got to be cheap, cheap, cheap.’’ It has a massive impact on everything paper. We’ve got the duty of care, haven’t we? Of selling products and selling the right products and getting them from the right sources.
Will: We’re just putting a proposal for a company and they have something to do with plastic drums – I don’t want to go into more detail than that – but one of the things that I am looking at or we as a team, we’re looking at the cost of cleaning the drums versus cost of new drums but we’re also going to look at environmental cost as well and bring that into their equation in order for them to be able to educate their customers and say, ‘’there are two different types of costs. There’s environment cost but there’s also the actual cost.’’ And which one holds more dearly to you and can one outweigh the other because it is cost-prohibitive to go down reusing that. It may not be bringing another different type of cost and what that cost will be in the future and how we will determine that will be market driven but I do think it’s conversation that is absolutely needed to be had at this moment. So that’s brilliant if you’re going through that. That’s awesome.
Adam: I think you have to treat your customers with the intelligence that they deserve and the problem is is that I don’t think we are engaging enough with our customers. This is the conversation you have to go in and see them and sit down with them and say these are the facts of power only. Once you’ve empowered someone with all the raw facts they can make a much better decision. And yes, I do get that the priority isn’t always environmental, but we can get that lovely mix of we’ve considered the environmental impact and we’ve considered the cost you’re going to come out better off, I think.
Will: Yeah, brilliant. Thank you very much for that. That’s really, really insightful and we will put some notes up on our website on the back of this. Thank you.
Have you got anything on your website that we can point people towards on this particular subject?
Adam: Well, on the current website we’ve got a paper calculator. What it does is it tells you that if you put in – it’s a real time calculator for information and it tells you if you buy X amount of rims of pulp paper what that means in the way of changing it into recycled. That will move on to our new website. It’s not ready yet but it will move on there as well. So that’s a really good things but I’m happy to provide any information to people directly if they want to learn more about it. It’s a big topic and I haven’t got all the answers, I definitely realized that, but I think we’re trying to take the right steps.
Will: Brilliant. It sounds like you’re up so that’s great. Thank you so much, Adam.
Adam: That’s right. Thanks, Will.
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