Sure, most businesses want to be green, but there’s concern it might cost too much money or take up too much time — not only by customers, but also by the partners who work with them. But sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with risk management, brand management and long-term cost savings.
“Most people don’t know what to do so they do nothing,” said Frances Edmonds, director of environmental programs at HP Canada, during a recent tour of the Lavergne recycling facility in Montreal.
HP’s Blue Carpet partner program is now offering resellers two new environmental training programs (listed under the new training category). The company’s largest environmental footprint comes from the products its customers are using, said Edmonds, “which is why we make sure our paper is responsibility sourced and we’re offering them recycled products.”
The first training video is designed for partners who don’t have a sustainability background; it explains why it’s important to customers and how to address their needs and concerns — from buying responsibly to managing products at the end of their useful life. The second training video is an interview with a CIO, explaining why sustainability is important from a customer’s perspective.
After the training videos, the partner takes a quiz and is rewarded with sales incentive dollars (the training is free).
Wasting energy costs money, said Edmonds. Partners can stop wasting energy — in their own business, as well as their customers’ businesses — through a variety of means, from using more energy-efficient products to rationalizing equipment.
Many customers also don’t have a good end-of-life management policy, she added, and typically stick old electronics in a closet somewhere. That’s where recycling programs (and making it easier for the customer to take advantage of those programs) comes in. “The sooner you (make it available) for reuse, the more likely it can be reused and the sooner you can put that plastic back into circulation,” said Edmonds.
Another issue is educating customers about responsibly sourced paper. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) — one of two global organizations that provides standards and certification for responsible forestry management — is not particularly well known or recognized. This is another area where partners can help to get the message out.
“It’s very much related to awareness and education and commitment as a consumer,” said FSC Canada president Francois Dufresne. “In the meantime incentive has to play a role. If (customers) are not making a conscious choice to buy certified product, hopefully it will be more cost-effective in most cases.”
Because, despite talk of the “paperless office,” pulp and paper consumption is actually on the rise. In developing regions, paper is often still the most affordable option for businesses and consumers alike. So the FSC is looking to build more partnerships to create awareness and demand for certified products. “We need to work together to promote responsible forestry,” said Dufresne.
The best sustainability benefits come when you’re already strongly motivated to do it, said Teri Shanahan, vice-president of sustainability for the International Paper Company (IPC), a forest products manufacturer. Becoming more energy-efficient, for example, can lead to long-term cost savings.
“Every time we can eliminate inefficiency, that’s beneficial for the environment,” she said. “We expect our suppliers to become more efficient (and) use recycled content. Paper is the most recycled product that humans use — 60 to 72 per cent depending on where you live.”
And this has long-term cost savings for those suppliers. Wood fibre is expensive whether you want to harvest it out of the forest and put it in a pulp mill or buy market pulp that another producer made (about $900 a ton). Buying recycled fibre is the most cost-effective way to bring wood fibre into a process, said Shanahan.
“Every time paper gets put into a recycle bin, there’s a thriving, active market that’s ready to buy that recovered fibre,” she said.
And recycling, as well as buying products made with recycled materials, can actually help customers in other parts of their business.
“Our customers, particularly enterprise customers, have challenges around utility cost reduction or security of IT systems,” said Annukka Dickens, director of HP’s environmental leadership team in the Americas. “CIOs don’t phrase those challenges as something that relates to sustainability, but they’re very much connected.” Sustainability can be a competitive benefit, she added.
HP’s partnership with Lavergne is based around providing a closed-loop process for recycling inkjet printer cartridges, ensuring the plastic is recycled and put back into HP products. Lavergne recently increased the efficiency of its recycling process, which has led to a 50 per cent increase in plastic yield.
Sustainability is a shared responsibility, from the manufacturers who produce the products to the end-user customers who buy them, said Dickens. But there’s also a role for partners, government, NGOs and other stakeholders to create awareness — which will not only help the environment, but also the customer’s business.