Yell originated in 1966 when the General Post Office produced its first classified section, Yellow Pages, in the Brighton telephone directory. After privatisation in the mid 1980s British Telecommunications (BT) owned Yellow Pages until 2001, when it sold the business to venture capitalists. The company, now known as Yell, joined the FTSE100 just after it was floated in 2003.
Yell seeks to be the best information provider between buyers and sellers, regardless of whether it is in print form (i.e. Yellow Pages) or other media. The company has grown through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. The Yell group comprises three divisions: Yell UK, Yellow Book USA and TPI Group which has operations in Spain, Italy and four countries in Latin America. Last year, Yell grew Group revenue by 26%.
Yell’s three divisions have a high degree of autonomy as operating units. There are, however, a few issues that are addressed by the Group. These include strategy, policy and corporate responsibility (CR) – the way Yell refers to its corporate social responsibility programme.
When Yell floated it recognised that there was a need to formalise its CR because it was doing work in this field but not necessarily recording it as such. For Yell, being responsible is about providing its shareholders and other stakeholders, such as customers and suppliers, with confidence that it is a well-managed and responsible company. It sees itself as a long-term business and therefore strives to be fully transparent and accountable for its actions.
The environment is just one part of its approach to being responsible. Yell works alongside key business partners to ensure its impact on the environment is minimised, and maintains a network of environmental representatives throughout the company who are guided by a steering group. Yell currently has five areas of focus for the environment: directory recycling, use of paper, working with partners, managing resources in offices, for example electricity consumption, and climate change.
This case study focuses on one of Yell’s directory recycling initiatives – the “Yellow Woods Challenge”.
The Yellow Woods Challenge originates from a Yellow Pages recycling scheme set up by Yell’s former owners BT and by local authorities to support, promote and increase recycling in 1993. The other driver behind the challenge was the poor rate of paper recycling in the UK, which meant that millions of old editions of Yellow Pages were disposed in landfill sites across the UK.
The Yellow Woods Challenge was launched in 2002 and is Yell’s environmental campaign for schools run in partnership with the Woodland Trust and up to 100 local authorities across the UK. The Challenge aims to recycle old Yellow Pages directories and reduce demand on landfill sites, educate schoolchildren about the importance of recycling and conservation, and build on its relationship with the Woodland Trust and support its efforts in helping keep native woodlands.
A team from Yell Public Relations and Publishing manages the Challenge in partnership with the Woodland Trust and Yell’s PR agencies. Each local authority participating in the Challenge works with local schools, who compete against each other to recycle the most old Yellow Pages directories.
There is a fun, competitive element to the Challenge, as schools that recycle the most directories per pupil win cash prizes and for every pound Yellow Pages awards to schools, it gives a matching pound to the Woodland Trust. For the 2006 Challenge £82,500 was on offer to the schools with an equal amount to support the Trust’s ‘Tree for All’ campaign. This campaign aims to plant 12 million new trees over five years and to involve one million people, especially children, in planting trees across the UK.
The Challenge is supported by educational teaching materials and an informative website which also has interactive environmental games. All materials feature Kirk, the cartoon mascot that was originally chosen by children. These tools help bring recycling to life for pupils.
Prizes are available nationally for UK Recycling Champions – a small, medium and large school – that recycle the highest number of old Yellow Pages directories per pupil in the UK.
There is also an optional sculpture competition where school teams create artistic sculptures out of Yellow Pages directories, using minimal props. The competition helps children to work together as a team with a common aim and teacher feedback suggests it is a good way to introduce 3D artwork into the teaching curriculum. The 2006 Competition will be decided by an online vote and the winner will receive £1,000.
To keep things fresh, and based on feedback received from schools and local authorities, four new categories and prizes have been added to the 2006 UK Challenge Finals – the Merit Awards which reward the most improved school, most promising newcomer, education in action, and community involvement.
Between September 2002 and October 2006, more than 1.3 million old Yellow Pages directories (c. 2,338 tonnes) have been collected by schools and recycled into products including animal bedding, egg boxes, cardboard and loft insulation. In this time more than a million children from 6,000 schools have taken part, and Yell has given £225,000 to schools and the same amount in match funding to the Woodland Trust.
Yell has had to overcome three main challenges. The first is resources. Yell cannot run the Challenge without the full co-operation of the local authorities who liaise with schools, media and local end users of recycled paper.
The diversity of stakeholders involved adds to the second challenge of keeping the Yellow Woods Challenge on-message. To ensure consistency, Yell produces toolkits for recycling officers and teachers, with key messages, jointly branded materials and media templates.
The third challenge has been to keep it fresh. The campaign is now in its fifth year and there is a constant need to innovate to maintain its success. Yell runs an annual consultation with teachers, children and recycling officers. This has been helpful in generating insight and ideas for development by Yell and the Woodland Trust.
The business benefits
Yell has identified three benefits gained from the Challenge. First, it contributes to Yell’s target of 60% recycling of Yellow Pages directories, a key business objective.
It also helps to maintain its annual accreditation to the environmental management standard ISO 14001, as it demonstrates Yell’s commitment to recycling its products at the end of their life cycle.
Finally it produces press coverage that helps promote a positive image of the company. Yell estimates that the 2,235 press cuttings between September 2002 and October 2006 generated by the Challenge are equivalent to £4.5 million of positive million advertising coverage. Press coverage also generates employee interest that adds to satisfaction in working for Yell.
Why is it CR?
Managing a company’s environmental impacts beyond legal requirements is an important component of CR. Engaging with and supporting local communities’ participation to improve social and environmental well-being is another component. The Challenge involves both of them and demonstrates Yell’s commitment to CR and supporting local authorities, schools and a national charity partner.
The Challenge aims to carry on but operate in a slightly different way. This is because in the last three years there has been an increase in the growth of kerb-side recycling. Yell has welcomed this, recognising that Yellow Pages can be recycled in this manner. But as the Challenge is so popular, Yell wants to keep it going and will be looking at ways to keep the Challenge relevant and exciting.
For more information on Yellow Woods Challenge, please see www.yellow-woods.co.uk.
For information on Yell, please contact Geoff Brown by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series, December 2006
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