By Robin Parker, General Manager, Church House Westminster
Like many venues, hotels and probably most other businesses, we spend a lot of time thinking about corporate gifts. These are the branded items designed to be a constant subliminal reminder of your company and the high value it places on its clients who are the lucky recipients of these much sought-after items.
In reality, they are usually fairly tacky, unwanted and contain a high percentage of single-use plastic! So, is this really the route we should be going to? There must be a better way? Maybe a sustainable gift is the answer? But can any gift really be completely sustainable? Personally, I think not. Whatever the gift, it still has an element of mass production, packaging, and transportation involved in reaching its final destination.
Without wishing to completely wreck what is probably a very profitable industry, do any of us really know anyone who needs another pen or an A5 notepad with an elastic strap around it? I mention these items as for the last few years these have been our go-to gift items, along with season ticket wallets, nail files, mints, memory sticks, and tote bags. In an attempt to tick the sustainable box our more recent efforts have included collapsible/reusable coffee cups and bamboo pens, but as we do not find ourselves within walking distance of a bamboo forest or rubber plantation one has to question the genuine sustainability of these latest, well-meaning gifts.
So, what do we do? Well, having established, at least in my own mind, that nobody really wants these gifts anyway, why are we continuing to purchase them and inflict them on our most valued clients? I wonder if instead of giving a gift, we make a pledge to charity? This must be a win-win! Firstly, we are not responsible for the production, packaging, and transportation of unnecessary items and secondly, it benefits a good cause.
At Church House, we are working towards our zero-gift policy. I say working towards because we still have stock to get through, which rather than throw away and cause a notepad mountain in Westminster we will try and distribute in a responsible way.
If any of you are wondering if this will really work, we have tried it already. At the end of our gala client dinner earlier in the year, I stood on stage to round off the evening and announced that there would be no goodie bags on departure and that instead, we were donating the money to The British Heart Foundation, the announcement was greeted by a rapturous round of applause, which was certainly not for me! Why not give it a try? Will the world really miss the logoed pen?