Productivity

Are business Christmas gifts going to waste?

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Environmental conservation groups urge you to re-think your choice of business gifts this year. What options other than the stock standard promotional present can you send to clients and partners?

Jon Dee, environmental activist and founder of DoSomething! said that companies risk damaging their reputations if they send token gifts that probably won’t even be used. Some corporate gifts given around the Christmas period, simply no longer made any sense. He suggests more philanthropic means of impressing clients.

“People still send diaries with logos on them in a world of smartphones – it’s highly unlikely that they will ever get used. If anything, it shows a lack of imagination from the company about how they relate to their customer base,” believes Jon. 

Christmas corporate gifts waste

Gift givers need to think outside the box

Companies may have to foster better relations with their clients and other stakeholders by donating to charities on their behalf.

"It has a lot more value to it, it has no environmental impact and it has very positive social benefits,” says Jon. 

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman, Tristan Knowles, agreed that companies should consider more socially conscious means to promote their brand.

“Rather than sending squeeze-balls, I think we should start to see more progressive organisations send vouchers notifying them that a goat has been sent to a village in Africa on their behalf,” suggests Tristan.

Are corporate Christmas gifts a waste?

It’s not clear what proportion of corporate gifts produced end up in landfill from Australia’s $1.36 billion promotional product industry. However, a study commissioned by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities completed in 2013 found that Australia produces around 12.5 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste each year. About 46 per cent is recovered for recycling with the remaining seven million tonnes ending up in the ground.

The study also found that non-food retail waste reaching landfill from had reached one million tonnes per year.

William Kestin, chief executive of the Australasian Promotional Products Association (APPA) said that industry was conscious of its civic responsibility to minimise waste but disputed suggestions that most executive gifts end up in the ground.

“The reach and the recall of promotional products suggests that people do hold on to corporate products and gifts for a longer period of time than most people anticipate so less ends up in landfill than people automatically perceive,” says William.

The APPA recently surveyed executives who had received a corporate gift, revealing that 50 per cent of them used it daily and 55 per cent report hanging on to the gift for more than a year. More than 75 per cent recalled the name of the product the gift was intended to advertise. 

Are experiences more coveted than items?

Many companies were still paying for gifts that their stakeholders neither wanted nor needed says Tamara DiMattina, creator of start-up that champions experiences over product consumption. The New Joneses sells tickets, massages and day trips rather than conventional physical executive gratuities.

“We promote new form of consumption – a lifestyle that’s better for us, our wallets, our people and planet. All our reading shows that greater, more lasting happiness comes from experiences over things,” says Tamara.

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