Thoughts on the sustainability movement: Going Green versus Green Washing
By Jodie Maclellan on September 30th, 2010
Sustainability is a key priority for many of our customers who are looking for ways to improve their earth-friendly quotient. As a “green advocate,” I’m always on the lookout for tools, processes and programs that can help them achieve their green goals. Whether it’s adopting cool innovations like bamboo USBs, switching to FSC-certified or recycled papers, or strategies for diverting products and output from the waste stream, there are plenty of ways to help reverse negative environmental impacts.
Clearly, many companies are taking sustainability seriously and looking for ways to do business in more environmentally responsible ways. More and more manufacturers and business partners are offering programs and solutions to help them do just that. And in most cases, those programs and initiatives are launched in good faith.
That said, as the sustainability movement gathers steam, the risk of “green-washing” is always a concern. So it’s important to invest due diligence in making sure the products you buy and the programs you subscribe to are legitimately green. When evaluating sustainability claims, the same principle applies to “going green” that applies to commerce in general – buyer beware. It’s important to look beyond the hype, to steer clear of unsubstantiated claims and demand credible proof of sustainability from prospective technology partners.
Want to be sure a potential partner really is green? Challenge them to demonstrate truly green manufacturing processes. How are they heating and cooling their production facilities? How do they deal with waste? Is sustainability designed into the products? Do the printers support recycled papers? Are they energy-efficient – or better still – ENERGY STAR certified? Do they emit ozone – and if so, how much? What about heat and noise? Has the technology partner taken steps to reduce the use of toxic materials? Because if there are no toxic materials in the device, there won’t be any toxins entering landfills. Are the products manufactured using bio-friendly or recycled materials? Does the vendor offer any programs to help you achieve your goals of becoming carbon-neutral? Or programs to keep products from landfills?
These are all key considerations if you want to make an informed and responsible purchasing decision. By all means, choose a partner that reduces, recycles and re-uses materials. Ask if they have sustainable processes for handling waste and emissions and transporting materials. And ask for evidence that sustainability is being incorporated into strategic planning cycles. A prospective partner may not satisfy every criterion, but it’s safe to say that if they meet several, you’re in good hands.
For example, Océ has a dedicated Asset Recovery Facility and has implemented programs to keep products from entering the waste stream prematurely. Through remanufacturing policies, Océ sent only six percent of industrial waste to landfills and reused or recycled 89 percent. Océ has also developed an online eco-calculator and launched the Eco-Start program, which gives customers a huge head start in achieving carbon-neutral operation by planting trees to offset new products’ energy emissions for a year.
Beyond ensuring that the production device you’re considering buying is manufactured in a environmentally responsible manner and built to reduce environmental impact, there are things print providers can do right now to make a difference. These include:
- Reduce, re-use, recycle & promote two-sided printing within your organization
- Whenever possible, use recycled papers
- Understand the chain of custody associated with paper and use virgin fiber sourced from well-managed/sustainable forests or pulp farms
(FSC-certified or Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified)
- Only engage with vendors and partners who can demonstrate that they maintain green business practices.
- Explore ways to become more carbon-neutral and request an energy audit to calculate your carbon footprint
- Look for vendors who offer programs that offset carbon or energy emissions produced by their production devices.
- Determine if you’re compliant with regulatory agency guidelines
- Promote two-sided printing
- Discuss “green” and digital print-on-demand options with your customers
And don’t forget to track, report, market, promote and publicize your green efforts.