Mon, May

IR Talks to... Marcus Clifford, regional director, BPIF

The BPIF is looking into the formation of a special interest group for the large-format digital print community. The thinking is that there are gaps in sector information and services that the federation could help fill. Investigating the situation is Marcus Clifford, regional director for the East and South East. I asked him to expand upon the idea, and how wide-format PSPs could help - and benefit.

Firstly, could you clarify what BPIF Communities of Interest are?

The BPIF’s membership is broad and diverse, spanning a huge range of capabilities, which is a strength, especially in ensuring that the print industry is understood and listened to by Government - the BPIF is proud to be able to represent such a strong sector. Complementing this sector-wide approach, we are also aware that we need to play a role in supporting the development of more specialised parts of the industry by introducing more communities of interest. These communities aim to provide a bespoke and personalised opportunity to be part of network that aligns with the specialism of your company or your job role.

The communities will be defined by print industry sectors, or interest. We currently have two successful communities - BPIF Labels and BPIF Cartons - which provide companies operating in particular sectors with a sector specific network and a platform that drives initiatives, training and technology. They also provide companies with the opportunity to strengthen relationships throughout the supply chain, share, develop knowledge and industry understanding, to help business succeed and to promote and develop the sector.


So now you’re considering a community for the large-format sector?

The BPIF is creating a community for wide-format and POS, to provide the sector with a network for likeminded people in the industry to discuss sector focused topics, standards and set best practice for the industry - along with being a platform to promote and develop the sector whilst ensuring it remains sustainable.

In 2021 the group aims to focus on environmental issues that affect the sector and ensure a sustainable circular economy: ‘An economy where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained for as long as possible and the generation of waste minimised.’ (European Commission Emmanuele Maire 2020).

We are currently arranging discussions with manufacturers and the supply chain to establish key topics and areas of focus as part of creating the right agenda. We would welcome PSP input and participation to make it meaningful for the sector.


You have said you don’t want to tread on toes, but offer services/information not currently available to the wide-format community. What gaps have you identified so far?

The 2020 Image Reports Widthwise survey highlighted a desire for environmental credibility in the supply chain but did it identify a sufficient drive towards environmental sustainability across the supply chain.

The Sustainable Green Partnership (http://sgppartnership.org/) sets a standard and goal, and its mantra is: ‘Responsibility by all means, prosperity for all’, linking sustainability with process improvement. I like that.

Those in the UK who are in a position to, and whose function is to ‘enable’ sectors best practice and compliance, set the bar. The BPIF thinks it’s the right time for a coming together on key areas such as sustainability and the environment. Other associations and bodies representing component parts of the large-format and POS sector, consumable suppliers and manufacturers need to work together. We don’t have the time, money or resources to champion and drive such important agendas forward individually, and so collaboration and defined participation and the safeguarding of boundaries seems a sensible way forward.


So this is a call to arms as it were?

It is certainly the time for unity, for collaboration, and for stakeholders to come together as the tide of sustainability and circular waste management will become part of legislation.

Net Zero by 2050 has wide implications for all within the UK print and graphics sectors. The UK packaging sector and all stakeholders are reviewing regulatory reform around the disposal of packaging. Whilst this drives process improvement and efficiencies there will be costs involved and the issue here is who will shoulder the costs? There are major questions to be asked in other sectors too. This is a massive issue and will have a transformational effect on the whole supply chain so we need a coordinated, cohesive and collaborative approach.


Training, lobbying, statistics gathering are all key areas of the BPIF’s offering. Do you think sector specific developments in these areas are pertinent to wide-format?

The BPIF has the largest sector specific training team and is developing further training and development avenues. Skills and training are recognised as key areas to also provide a sustainable future for our sector businesses. There is certainly an opportunity to collaborate and work together here across other sector associations and trade bodies.

Another key issue is for the print industry to have a cohesive voice and lobby at the highest levels. We have a great resource and a parliamentary desk, which gives us such access. We work with other organisations to maximise this lobbying power and make sure we represent as many as possible. Again, we see a great opportunity to work together and collaborate in the wide-format and POS sector. Resources and money are always on short supply so why not come together on key areas to support the whole of print in the best way possible. We have just heard we have been approved as a Kickstart provider for employers. And again this is very relevant for the large-format and point-of-sale sector.


Is there as yet any kind of roadmap for this prospective large-format community?

We are still mapping it. We’re trying to establish dialogue with other bodies, but have had great feedback from many suppliers to the sector and companies within it.

We are focussing on environmental initiatives first, to open up dialogue with the community and with the aim of developing an agenda. I see POPAI has launched an initiative on substrates and the environment and also has an ‘Eco calculator’ to review environmental impact. We too have such tools - there are many benefits to share and focus on in terms of best practice and the most effective tools. Reaching common agreement and  simplifying the  issues and processes should be our aim.

We will develop the roadmap and include other relevant issues as we gain momentum and input from the wide-format sector.


What would you say to readers who think this is just a membership boosting exercise?

We have many, many members who operate solely in the large-format sector now, and also those who have diversified their business models to include this segment. Our aim is to give them greater support and yes, ensures we are delivering relevance to them in an increasingly complex world. This is what we do across our membership now, and greater segmentation of needs is always ongoing.

Only company owners decide what provides value and relevance to their business. If we don’t provide pertinent support we lose members. Some Fespa members are also BPIF members, as is the same with POPAI. Members want relevancy and access to value and together we can create greater value for our respective members.

To what extent are the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit impacting your plans/offering?

We seem to have adapted very well and are thriving in the new delivery environment. Our training team have repositioned itself to a full online offering and apprentice uptake has grown during these times. Our HR and H&S team are delivering integrated support and have developed new tools and services as a result.

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