Ethical Stone Register – Pilot Scheme Member Interview, Hutton Stone
In this interview, Stone Federation’s Chief Executive, Jane Buxey speaks with Marcus Paine, Managing Director of Hutton Stone, a high-quality British natural stone merchant, to understand their experience during the audit process to achieve the first Ethical Stone Register Tier 2 Verification level.
Stone Federation, creators of the Ethical Stone Register, believes it has a responsibility to the client base, the industry and its members to try to make a difference on the issue of responsible and ethical sourcing practices and aims to get all members started on the journey with room to progress and gain extra recognition for their efforts and investment.
Jane Buxey: Congratulations on achieving your Verification Level – what was the business rationale for you undertaking this process?
Marcus Paine: Thank you. At Hutton Stone we pride ourselves on supplying the finest quality natural and sustainable sandstone to our clients – so for us, this was a really simple choice. We take enormous pride in the projects we supply whatever their size or location and this project allow us to proceed with further confidence that we are doing our best.
JB: Has increasing demand from your clients to demonstrate your sustainability and sourcing credentials driven you to this accreditation?
MP: We are a family business who have a personal relationship with our staff, customers and suppliers and therefore we take our reputation with all our stakeholders very seriously. We want to be a leader in the sector and take every opportunity to lead on “doing the right thing”, for us this was the primary driver.
Beyond our business and in the wider sector, we are beginning to see a rise in demand for this level of surety in supply and origination of product. Price is still “king” but we are keen to differentiate ourselves by putting our money where our mouth is so to speak. To achieve the higher level of Ethical Stone Register, set up by the Stone Federation GB, we realised early on we would need to invest time and resources to formalise our business practices and to provide evidence of our practice.
The process challenged some of our preconceived ideas about accreditation and verification and interestingly we discovered benefits we did not expect, such as identifying inefficiencies in our quality and environmental management systems that translated into real business benefits when addressed – previously we believed this process would ‘cost’ us extra in terms of resources and time.
JB: Very interesting. We now see almost daily coverage of ‘modern slavery’ in the media, did you not consider sustainable procurement as a business opportunity previously or feel it important for you to manage risk in your supply chains?
MP: Being a UK based company and taking pride in being ‘local’, we did not really appreciate ‘modern slavery’ as being a relevant topic to us – that is until we realised that we buy PPE, stationary and other auxiliary products from all sorts of sources, and not just in the UK. Applying a formalised approach to our practices and procedures, that didn’t require major changes, has allowed us to be more strategic in regards to our environmental impacts and overall business growth. It gave us an opportunity to present some of our activities around social and community involvement, increase staff engagement and put in place common-sense initiatives of ‘zero waste’.
JB: Would you say that your customers see sustainability as a green premium affair and would you feel it necessary for you to pass on a ‘green’ premium? Or do you feel the ROI has already paid for itself by identifying opportunities for saving, promoting the current practice and being able to showcase local community investment/involvement for example?
MP: The bottom line for me is “doing the right thing”, which can be enough of an incentive, but I would say in my experience, anything that gives you a cleaner and tidier business operation ultimately provides you with a clearer vision and more efficiency, which has been proven in this pilot study. This has several benefits and promotes positives both within the company and to our customers – all of these things add up to and create a compelling reason both morally and commercially.
JB: Would you say that sustainability/responsible sourcing will pay dividends for future business?
MP: I think there is a growing sense that responsible sourcing is really going to matter more and more to supply businesses. I think we are going to be asked to demonstrate our sustainability credentials increasingly more often, certainly on larger projects, to which our Verification level from the Ethical Stone Register helps greatly.
JB: Where do you see the Ethical Stone Register, responsible sourcing and sustainability for SMEs to be in the next 5 years?
MP: I think the area of responsible sourcing and sustainability is only going to become more and more relevant. I think the ESR should be widely discussed and promoted by the Stone Federation GB as something that the Federation continually stands for. I feel that there are Large Client Groups out there looking to back a scheme like this and I feel that the demand for being able to show your position will simply grow.
Many thanks to Marcus Paine of Hutton Stone. If you would like any more information on ethical and responsible sourcing for your business, visit either www.ethicalstoneregister.co.uk or email email@example.com.