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Corporate gifts - do we really need another pen?

Robin Parker, general manager at Church House Westminster, discusses how to make corporate gifts more sustainable.

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 reminder of your company and the high value it places on its clients.

In reality, they are usually unwanted gifts and contain a high percentage of single-use plastic. So, is this really the route we should be going down? 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.

Does anyone really need 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 and reusable coffee cups alongside bamboo pens. However, we are not within walking distance of a bamboo forest or rubber plantation which questions the genuine sustainability of these latest gifts.

I wonder if instead of giving a gift, we make a pledge to charity. This would mean that we are not responsible for the production, packaging, and transportation of unnecessary items and secondly, it would benefit 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 will be distributed in a responsible way.

At the end of our gala client dinner last 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.

Why not give it a try?