Leaders Forum: Rob Graham, Tork Professional Hygiene

INCLEAN chats to Rob Graham, general manager, Tork Professional Hygiene.

How was 2019 for Tork Professional Hygiene? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

It has been a very exciting year for Tork with a $23 million investment at our Kawerau site in New Zealand – we installed a new state-of-the-art machine and decommissioned four old converting lines.

The investment will deliver enhanced efficiencies, improved product quality, waste reduction and ensure continued reliable local supply of Tork products in Australia and New Zealand.

We launched our latest innovation – Tork PeakServe. It is a patented hand towel dispensing system designed for high-traffic washrooms. PeakServe provides 250 percent more hand towels to avoid run outs and cuts refill time in half.

We’ve also completed new installs of Tork EasyCube which is the world’s leading facility management software for data-driven cleaning. It empowers cleaning teams with new and smarter ways of working by delivering information that allows cleaners to work more efficiently.

Whilst overall economic conditions have been challenging in 2019, Tork continued to be the leading professional hygiene brand globally and has experienced another year of high growth on our differentiated products, such as, Tork SmartOne which reduces toilet paper consumption by up to 40 percent.

What will be the immediate focus for Tork Professional Hygiene in Australia in 2020?

Product innovation and sustainability will continue to be the focus for Tork in 2020. We have our strongest pipeline of new product launches into the market which are designed to improve hygiene and cleaning efficiencies as well as reduce waste.

We are working to extend our sustainability offering and are currently exploring various end of life options and strategies around encouraging hand towel composting to reduce climate impact.

Through life cycle analysis, we uncovered that composting hand towels with commercial composters instead of disposing in landfill reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for Tork Professional Hygiene in Australia looking ahead to 2020?

When it comes to sustainability trying to decipher what is accurate and what is not can be difficult. For example, just because a product is recyclable or made of bamboo doesn’t necessarily mean it is better for the environment, so it is vital to fact check. Tork sees this as an opportunity and will continue to provide transparent full life cycle information.

Did you notice any changes in customer behaviour in 2019? How have you adapted the offering to meet these changes in 2020?

There has been a shift in purchasing behaviour with more customers wanting to make more sustainable choices and many organisations are setting goals around climate change and waste reduction.

We have a long history of leadership in this area. Our Kawerau manufacturing site replaced gas-fired steam production with naturally occurring geothermal steam through a partnership with local Iwi and Ngata Tuwharatoa Geothermal Assets and as a result we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent.

We also provide complete transparency on climate impact with Environmental Products Declarations (EPDs). EPDs are independently verified reports on life cycle analysis which have calculated that Tork products are produced with between 64 to 76 per cent renewable energy at Kawerau as a result of using of geothermal steam. We currently have 12 published EPDs.

To address waste concerns, we have reduced our packaging by 20 percent on our new converting line which is equivalent to 143 tonnes per year. We are working to decrease the amount of virgin material in packaging and have made a commitment to have 100 percent recyclable packaging by 2025.

What do you expect will be the big trends of 2020?

We see a major opportunity heading into 2020 with an acceleration of new technology adoption in the cleaning industry. To date there has been a slow transition of old traditional manual methods to new digital solutions.

Tork EasyCube is a great solution that provides real-time data, enabling cleaners to act on what’s needed, when and where. It also improves quality and increases productivity.

There is also a growing expectation from customers of transparency on the environmental impact from ‘cradle to grave’. Tork is working with our customers and suppliers on improving sustainability outcomes throughout the entire supply chain.

What is one issue you think the industry should be urgently discussing in 2020?

To create a sustainable life away from home, organisations need to embrace ways to reduce their impact on climate change, ensure ethical sourcing in procurement, reduce waste and work towards circularity.

Sustainability is good for business and research has found a 55 per cent increase in employee morale for companies with strong sustainability programs[1] and up to 19 per cent higher ratings from investors for top performers in sustainability[2].

Professional hygiene is a necessity and maintaining the health and well-being of staff and customers is crucial. Tork can help you satisfy these needs without compromising on sustainability.

Is there one key message you would like to share with the industry?

Tork encourages thinking ahead. As washrooms typically only receive a makeover every 10 or so years, it is important to plan out your washroom design and product choices.

Rather than just replacing like for like, it is a great opportunity to source new products that will enhance cleaning efficiency, reduce your environmental impact, elevate the look of your organisation, improve employee wellbeing with quality hygiene solutions and make a better impression on your washroom visitors.

The Tork range of professional hygiene products is designed to meet these expectations, so you can focus on what matters most to your business.

[1] Harvard Business Review, A Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability, 2016.

[2] BCG, Moving beyond Corporate Social Responsibility, 2018.

Read INCLEAN’s inaugural Industry Leaders Forum Report in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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