Written by Susan Weiss

Manager, Xerox Worldwide Customer Business Development

Taking action with Sustainability: Are you part of the cure or part of the disease?

What drives some graphic communications providers to treat environmental sustainability as a pillar of the business, on par with customer satisfaction and financial success? We recently explored that question in a Xerox Business Development Webinar, “What Shade of Green Are You?” moderated by Barb Pellow, a group director at InfoTrends. Two industry experts participated: David P. Podmayersky, sustainability director, EarthColor, and Leigh Pearson, director, Facility, Environmental and Procurement Services, Staples Canada.

Their businesses differ. Parsippany, N.J.-based EarthColor is a national business-to-business firm with more than a dozen offices coast-to-coast and one of the industry’s strongest commitments to environmental sustainability. Staples Canada is a retail, online and delivery chain committed to making more happen for their customers with more products and more ways to shop. The company counts environmental sustainability as a core objective throughout its business.

From the discussion emerged three clear reasons to be passionate about embracing environmental sustainability.

1. Your customers want an environmentally responsible partner. Podmayersky estimates that three quarters of EarthColor clients want an innovative sustainability supply channels partner, and that nearly every quote request they get requires meeting certain environmental standards. “When price-performance and quality are a wash, sustainability can be a meaningful differentiator,” he said, noting that EarthColor’s strong environmental record absolutely helps them get some business it wouldn’t otherwise get.

Further, he said, “A reasonable percentage of our clients engage us on a partnership level, to help them manage the financial, social and environmental impacts of what they are doing.” EarthColor helps them track and communicate their environmental impact with a customer dashboard that reports the water, energy and carbon impact of their programs.

Staples Canada strives to make environmental sustainability an easy choice for its customers, offering an ever-growing stock of more than 3,400 products with at least one “eco” attribute. And it offers in-store recycling of ink and toner, batteries, electronics and writing instruments nationally.

2. Make your operation more efficient and competitive. Many environmentally sustainable practices reduce costs and streamline operations. These include replacing traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, improving insulation, and reducing waste by recycling and printing on demand.

“We’re a measurement-based organization, and that applies to sustainability, as well,” Pearson said. “We track tons collected and diversion rates, and we set targets around how much to collect.” To optimize energy efficiency, they compare energy consumption and cost across stores of similar size and geography.

EarthColor posts bi-annual reports on its Web site tracking its success at meeting its aggressive sustainability targets for carbon emissions, water usage, waste processing and other metrics. Podmayersky: “Companies with commitments to sustainability tend to outperform their peers, and studies have show that ‘meaningful brands’ outperform the market by more than 100 percent—brands like Amazon, Google and Kraft.”

3. Strengthens your brand’s “soul.” Employees take pride working for a company that is driving change in the world, Pearson said. As someone who works for a company that is committed to environmental sustainability, I agree. And the impact reaches far beyond employee morale, shaping the company’s community profile, injecting the brand with meaning or, as Pearson puts it, “soul,” and—most importantly—having a positive impact on the environment.

To drive such large-scale change requires not only doing environmental initiatives well, but communicating the results. “If we don’t drive awareness, we’re not driving change in the world as we want to do,” Pearson said.

To Podmayersky, the issue is stark: “At our current consumption rate, we’re using two-and-a-half earths worth of resources while our population grows to nine and 10 billion from 7 billion today. The over-exploitation of the planet needs to come to end, and we’re either part of the cure or part of the disease.”

To hear a replay of the webinar, please visit http://bit.ly/1eHhSr9.