Friday September 18, 2020

All Together Is Better

March is Guaranteed Irish month. A chance for Irish businesses to showcase and network throughout a host of events and for prospective members to see the benefits of being awarded the Guaranteed Irish seal of approval, writes Fiona Alston

1st March, 2020
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Brid O‘Connell of Guaranteed Irish. This year they are looking supporting businesses in the communities. Picture: Marc O’Sullivan

92% of those surveyed by RedC (consumer omnibus), on behalf of Guaranteed Irish, in February said by buying from firms with a Guaranteed Irish brand they felt they’d be helping the local economy, and of those 76% also saw it linked to reducing their carbon footprint.

“Every March we celebrate all the businesses we represent. We celebrate Ireland in a business landscape where we promote our members, but more importantly, what they do and how they support Ireland and position Ireland as a great place to work and invest in,” said Brid O’Connell, Chief Executive, Guaranteed Irish. “Our job is to sustain and to champion sustainable local enterprise with the global perspective.”

“We’re looking at supporting businesses in the communities this year so that we can help keep those communities alive, that’s really important. Bringing work and employment out to communities and encouraging businesses who are already there - to shine a light on them and get them a little bit of attention. A lot of our members do business with each other, there’s a lot of trading and networking within the member network itself, which is really important.”

The brand has undergone some dramatic changes over the last three or four years and now it not only represents the Irish indigenous but the multinationals which have been attracted to the country and made commitments to provide employment. “It’s also very much about giving the platform to both in equal measure. It is the relationship between the two that’s making our members stronger and do more business with each other.”

Supporting Irish businesses and keeping the supply chain within the 26 counties has to have an impact on the carbon footprint of companies, aligning with the policies of Guaranteed Irish. “If we can buy from our local suppliers here in Ireland, we’re reducing the carbon footprint of travel lines - that’s got to be really important,” said O’Connell. “It’s something we believe in and champion - the reduction of the carbon footprint by supporting local while still looking global.”

“We have a full calendar of events taking place throughout the country this year from panel discussions to roundtable talks, workshops trade shows and more. Our next event takes place at EuroNext Dublin on Wednesday March 4, 2020 as we mark Guaranteed Irish Month and the launch our new media campaign for 2020 by ringing the bell for all businesses operating in Ireland. Companies can register for free via eventbrite.”

Planet Passionate

One of the speakers at Wednesday’s event is Fergal Murphy, General Manager of Kingspan Insulation Ireland.

“Our strategy would be similar [to Guaranteed Irish] in terms of its objectives, “said Murphy. “We are committed to our local community, supporting local jobs - local quality jobs – and local communities where we participate in sponsorship and support of sporting and cultural organisations.”

Kingspan has always been at the forefront of sustainable construction by its very nature, producing an insulation product which is energy saving but it has also been working for several years to achieve Net Zero Energy manufacturing which they hope to successfully reach by the end of this year.

“We attacked that with a three-pronged approach; save more, generate more and buy more.”

Finely tuning their facilities with energy upgrades, lighting and heat recovery and recirculating, they reduced their energy demands while still maintaining the quality of the product they manufacture. On the outside of the facilities they looked at generating onsite renewables where possible with wind turbines and solar panels. “Across the entire footprint of the group we are targeting generating at least 20% renewable energy on site.’’ Their Castleblayney site boast one of the largest rooftop arrays of solar panels in Ireland.

“There was some cost but rewarding in terms of the financial metrics. At the end of the day we are a commercial organisation, we make an energy efficient product, but we also have a responsibility to our shareholders to make changes that make financial sense as well as an environmental and energy sense,” said Murphy.

“This year we launched our Planet Passionate initiative - a ten-year strategy to specifically accelerate the Zero Net Energy future - broken down into four key areas of energy, carbon, circularity and water.”

Among many of their plans lies the task of moving their environmental responsibility up the supply chain to reduce the carbon footprint of their product and they’re also hoping to achieve the goal of all company vehicles to be zero emissions vehicles by 2025.

One project they have been involved in is cleaning up our oceans. In conjunction with the EcoAlf Foundation they’ve been harvesting plastic bottles found in ocean clean ups - “recycled and integrated into the raw material of our product and used in the production of new insulation.”

Other water initiatives include the use of “rainwater harvesting technology. Our target is to recycle 100 million litres of rainwater used in processes and systems by 2030.”

Kingspan Retrofit have also been working with SEAI developing a plan to potentially retrofit half a million homes in the next ten years - “It’s clear that there’s such a low percentage of homes in the country that are A or B rated. When we are working on taking a typical D2 [BER rated] home to a B2 home that’s three tonnes of CO2 per annum saved.” As a SEAI contractor Kingspan not only provide insulation but other solutions such as solar thermal hot water systems – they also facilitate customers with their SEAI grant applications.

Damien McCann, Director of Sales and Marketing at Viatel. Picture Conor McCabe Photography

Consumer demands

Aside from companies having a corporate responsibility to the environment they also need to meet those responsibilities on the demands of the consumers – a point that Innovate Solutions, Business Development Director, Aidan Murphy discussed at the Future Trends in the Irish Food and Pharma Sector in Cork last week. “The changing landscape, from a research and insights perspective, is that consumers are not afraid to give opinions these days,” said Aidan Murphy. “The Gen Z is far less trusting than the Millennial generation, perhaps because they’re more informed through everything that’s happening on social media. What we’re doing for our clients is that we are harnessing consumer opinions and insights through our regular surveys, we’ve got a 15,000+ database. We run focus groups, competitor benchmark testing, product reformulation and NPD testing, we run home user tests at large scale, and this allows us to feedback the consumers propensity to purchase particular products.”

Environmental issues are a concern to consumers not just in the manufacturing of the product but the afterlife of the product and packaging.

“From a green perspective we run focus group for companies whereby the consumers have feedback that they probably wouldn’t purchase a particular product because they couldn’t recycle the packaging. They are the kind of key insights that larger companies need to hear in order to start making changes because when it affects sales, well, they’re going to sit up and listen,” said Murphy.“From a community perspective food and beverage production is about sugar and sodium reduction in particular. Taste is still king - it must live up to taste expectations because if it doesn’t, then it’ll fail. 70 - 80% of food and beverage products launched fail at some stage or another.”

The Cork event was about leveraging Guaranteed Irish to meet your green, community and business goals. “What we’re looking to do with it is spread the word. We’re an Irish owned and Irish based company. Like any other business, we’re looking to expand our services to the food and beverage companies in Ireland and the networking opportunities at Guaranteed Irish and their events really allow to facilitate that.”

Remote working

Another member of Guaranteed Irish is, cloud and connectivity services, tech company Viatel. They are an indigenous company serving both local and multinational companies in Ireland.

“When you look at the Guaranteed Irish philosophies, they are very much a parallel to what we believe in ourselves,” said Damien McCann, Director of Sales & Marketing at Viatel. “Providing sustainable jobs here in Ireland, it’s very important for ourselves. We employ 120 people, at the moment, across our Blanchardstown and Dundalk offices. They’re all highly skilled positions in terms of a mix of engineering, network engineers, cloud professionals, network architects, sales and marketing. That’s one key element for ourselves in terms of giving back, the second philosophy then is very much around the community and giving back to community.” Viatel supports both the Laura Lynn Foundation and Barnardos. They also immerse themselves in the education of the TU Dublin students with their Graduate Alignment Programme at the Blanchardstown Campus which is on the same campus as Viatel’s data centre. “We align internships and often they become full time employees.”

McCann is on the board of Guaranteed Irish - helping them become more successful and more impactful around the technology sector and helping them grow within that technology sector.

“We work with a lot of US multinationals that are landing here. We work closely with the IDA with those US companies coming into Ireland like HubSpot, Workday, Prometric and Radio Systems helping with their telecoms and infrastructure requirements here in Ireland. We’re very much in favour of the multinationals the benefits that they bring the country as well – multinationals have had a very positive impact on our business and helped us grow the business.”

From an environmental perspective Viatel have been conscious of how they provide power to their facility and owning their own data centre means that they are in control of the energy saving not only from a cost point of view but “as a policy perspective in terms of our environmental footprint and impact of the footprint.”

One particular area that they have embraced is taking cars off the roads by reducing the daily commutes of their employees.

“We’ve been very much early adapters of the working remote policies we allow our employees. We don’t necessarily want to be dragging our employees, from every area of the country, to Dublin to sit in an office all day when people have perfectly good broadband connections at home and office space. They don’t need to be on the M50 or taking that toll to and from work, it doesn’t make sense. That’s a small policy that we have which makes an impact as 60-70% of employees work from home at this stage. We don’t see any negative impact of people working remotely. It’s a win-win situation for the company and for the employees’ work life balance, they can get things done at home and get the job done as well in terms of delivering the key roles that they have within the business, it’s been embraced very positively across the board.”

Another date for your diary is the Guaranteed Irish Tech Forum in Dublin on 16th April. The first of its kind where the Irish tech sector will be well represented for a breakfast of networking and discussion.

For details, visit www.guaranteedirish.ie

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