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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

Of course the list goes on, but you see my point: You cannot merely declare your business as one that is sustainable to the environment by offering a few green products. And, importantly, at the end of the day, creating a business that is friendlier to our environment must make fiscal sense to be successful.

At this point, none of us have customers who are demanding that we become 100-percent sustainable. A more likely approach may be to create a 'program' of green products that are in alignment with the needs of your customers. Begin by identifying the type of products that your customers are interested in purchasing. Consult with them about the products they currently buy from you and discuss alternative materials that will meet their needs-aesthetically and environmentally.

For a while, it seemed the customer requests for green products in our industry were ahead of the availability of products from our suppliers. However, I have been both impressed and pleased about the progress of our industry suppliers in developing a more diversified selection of green products to offer our customers. While there is still a long way to go, I am confident that we are firmly planted on the technological and developmental curve for printable, environmentally friendly products. Now, more often than not, our shop is able to come up with solutions for our customers who are requesting these types of graphics.

Shunning the shotgun approach
Earlier, I mentioned the need for a program of sustainability to be fiscally responsible. This can be challenging. In our industry, managing inventory levels with production requirements and cash flow is already a significant challenge. Now, when you add a suite of green products to offer your customers, the difficulties increase. Merely choosing to stock a full suite of green products in the event that one of your customers might request something along those lines will drain your financial resources and will be a strategic mistake. Yet many of us approach it that way.

In our company, when customers began requesting options for more environmentally friendly products, we took sort of a shotgun approach: Order as many material options that were out there and then see what might work. We soon realized, however, that this wasn’t the best approach.