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Listen to the POC Podcast | We talk to Gibsons Games MD, Kate Gibson

Wed 29 Sep 2021 | 03:23 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

Kate Gibson, MD, Gibsons Games

Kate Gibson is the managing director of the British independent, family-owned jigsaw puzzle and board game specialist, Gibsons Games. A company now entering its fourth generation, the story around Gibsons is one of constant evolution; it’s how the firm has managed to maintain its position as a category leader for the past more than 100 years. A forward thinking outfit, driven by an innovative leadership style that places positive mental health and wellbeing at the heart of the products it delivers, Gibsons’ latest endeavour is to take ever-growing strides across its sustainability measures. Products of Change managed to catch some time with the company’s leader, Kate Gibson for a discussion about her personal journey with sustainability, and how this is now being incorporated into the company’s ethos. Engage your eyes and suit up your ears for the latest in Product of Change’s series of podcast discussions. Hello Kate, thank you for taking the time to chat with us this month. To kick us all off, what inspired you as a business to start this journey? We would love to understand more about The Gibson Green Game Plan. What can you tell us? Leading a family business means being a care-taker and leaving the business hopefully in a better place for the next generation, something intrinsically linked to sustainability goals. Gibsons has a strong set of values and we are passionate about creating a company and products that people want to connect with. Our Green Game Plan is important on so many levels; it’s part of ensuring Gibsons is set up for the future, as part of a more sustainable world. Love it. So when you decide to build a more sustainable business, where do you start? It’s about taking a strategic, holistic approach; making it part of every conversation and embedding it in everything you do. For Gibsons this means evaluating our products and processes as well as the environment we operate in, but we also appreciate that it’s not just about us. You need to get your suppliers and partners on board and to work collaboratively to make change. Our Green Gang hold us to account and keep the conversation alive, so a working group with representatives from all departments of the business helps. But every small step really does make a difference, so break it down and have a long-term plan that allows for incremental change. What are some of the key initiatives you have been working on to achieve this? What can you tell us about your perfect puzzle project/forest friendly games/changes at HQ etc? Back in 2018 we had the idea to create our most perfect jigsaw puzzle yet. We always thought that our puzzles were pretty special but we embarked on a year-long research project to ensure that we not only met the needs of our customers but created a more sustainable product. At the beginning of 2020, we launched our new range with boxes that are 29 per cent smaller, have no shrink wrap plastic (only biodegradable seals), as well as featuring vegetable-based inks. At Gibsons HQ, we have made several changes from ensuring our milk is delivered in glass, reusable bottles to having solar panels fitted on our office building. Last year, a neighbour helped us to transform a small piece of wasteland at the side of our building into a thriving area of wildflowers, attracting insects and wildlife. Getting the team out litter picking from time to time also keeps everyone focused on why we are making these changes. Ah brilliant, an office wildlife project! So, over a short period of time you have tackled many areas of the business, what was the easiest and hardest to change? The hardest part has been to make changes to the bag inside of our puzzle boxes. We are still working on alternatives to the plastic bag which is an integral part of the current production process, but we are determined to get there, whether it is a compostable or cardboard bag or in a few years’ time no bag at all, thus removing an element of the process entirely. There is a frustration around wanting to move more quickly but we will get there. A hugely impactful but easy change was to ensure that our company pension scheme invests in sustainable funds. I am confident that each investment we make in this area is not only making a positive impact on the environment but will reap long term rewards for Gibsons, our staff and customers. What has the reaction been from staff, partners and retail? We have received a positive reaction across the board. In fact, removing plastic film from the outside of our jigsaw puzzles has even given the puzzle image and the colours a lift, something key customers identified early on. A win-win! During a recent recruitment drive, I received an incredible amount of feedback from prospective employees, who were drawn to Gibsons due our culture and focus on sustainability. This really matters to todays’ young people and our future leaders. So, looking to the future, then - What’s next for Gibsons on the sustainability front? We need to ensure we remain in learning mode so we can adapt to the latest opportunities in this area. Current priorities include evaluating every game in our range to ensure the contents are as sustainable as possible. We continue to explore/increase additional production opportunities close to home and this year we will become a carbon neutral business.
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