Chris Pateman.

Sustainable event ticks all the boxes

Published:  28 April, 2010

The Builders’ Merchants Federation’s Sustainable Conference was host to a packed hall of merchants eager to learn about their options for entering the 21st Century’s next big thing. Lisa Arcangeli reports.

“Sustainability is another step on the journey which the industry is taking,” said Chris Pateman, managing director of the Builders’ Merchants Federation.

Speaking about the Federation’s recent Sustainable Conference, which took place at the end of last month in Solihull, Mr Pateman went on to comment that this particular market is developing very fast. “We are almost feeling our way as to how the merchant industry can take the best advantage of the new opportunities that are emerging.

“From the BMF’s point of view, it is forcing us to engage with a whole raft of stakeholders which historically we would never have got involved with, like, for instance, the energy companies.”

It was ‘awe-inspiring’ to see the marketing power that these organisations are throwing at consumers, he said.

“We don’t mind if the consumer says ‘I’ll have an npower engineer to come and fit my boiler instead of a British Gas engineer’. What matters to us is that the engineer is buying that boiler from a builders’ or plumbers’ merchant,” Mr Pateman said.

Alumasc’s managing director Paul Hetherington and Unimer’s managing director Howard Grant see the lighter side of renewables.

He was also concerned that many of the historical relationships in the marketplace are at risk of being under threat because of these new entrants and new dynamics. “As an industry, we all need to work very hard to make sure we keep control of this market.” Sustainable products is an ideal market for the builders’ merchant, but it would not be the first time the industry has lost out to competitors.

“We had over 100 merchants at the Sustainable Conference,” Mr Pateman pointed out. He confessed to being surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction from delegates to the BMF’s announcement about its tailored training course Understanding Renewable Energy Products, which was launched at the conference.

“To ask merchants to put their hands into their pockets for training at the present time is not easy and to have 30 people put their hands up on the back of a single presentation, well, I’m really encouraged by that,” he said.

On this occasion, BMF is “smack on line”, working at a pace that is right for its members, he commented. “Everybody is being asked questions about sustainable products now,” he added. “And, they don’t know where to go to find the answers. The BMF is the where you go and I’m glad the members understand this.”


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