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All Aboard the Green Express

(August 2008) posted on Wed Aug 27, 2008

Profiting via sustainability programs.

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By Marty McGhie

It's difficult to pick up a magazine or newspaper these days without reading something that addresses the challenges of our environment. And without question, the issue of becoming "green' has become very relevant to our own industry as well. More and more, in our shop we find that our customers are asking us what type of products we can offer that might be more environmentally friendly.

You’d better decide how to address these issues because they certainly are not going away. On the contrary, customer requests for materials that may be deemed sustainable-or renewable or recyclable-will become more and more relevant to your business strategies. So let’s discuss some of the issues that challenge us, and how you might plan for environmentally friendly solutions in your business.

Creating a sustainability program
One of the first things you need to determine is what it means to your business to be "green.' The range of commitment to becoming a sustainable company is enormous and can dictate wide and diverse implications to how you manage your operation.

It might help to begin with a popular definition of sustainability: 'Sustainable developments are those which fulfill present and future needs while [only] using and not harming renewable resources and unique human-environmental systems of a site: [air], water, land, energy, and human ecology and/or those of other [off-site] sustainable systems' (Rosenbaum 1993 and Vieria 1993). Even though this definition is 15-years old, it still remains timeless and is the measure by which companies determine their level of sustainability.

Based on this definition, if you are to decide that your business is going to wear the brand of 'sustainability,' the company-wide efforts to achieve that would have to be far-reaching. For example, you would need to implement resources to use and recycle all possible materials such as packaging goods, boxes, promotional materials, etc. You would need to carry virtually every possible substrate and printing material available as a "green" product offering to your customers. Even your heating, air, and electrical systems should be the most energy-efficient solutions possible. If you own delivery vehicles, they would need to be running on clean fuel.