Before you decide that your company’s current efforts to address sustainability are good enough to address the declining environmental concerns of consumers, it is important to remember that most print service providers do not serve consumers directly and that major corporations, leading nonprofits, and key government agencies are actually expecting more rather than less of their suppliers in terms of measurable environmental impact reductions and substantiation of green marketing claims. In fact, they are increasingly requiring suppliers to be more and more rigorous in measuring, managing, and reporting their environmental impact due to fossil fuel and water usage, in addition to reducing their packaging and their solid waste output. Some are also creating “sustainability scorecards” that lay out the initiatives they expect their suppliers to undertake and also provide the metrics for evaluation of continuous performance improvement. For example, The Procter & Gamble Company is moving into the second implementation stage of its Environmental Sustainability Supplier Scorecard (http://www.pg.com/en_US/sustainability/index.shtml).
Deployed about a year ago to nearly 400 strategic suppliers and agencies, the scorecard measures energy use, water use, waste disposal, and greenhouse gas emissions on a year-by-year basis. For 2011, the roster of participating suppliers and agencies will be increased to about 600 companies. Also, the results of the scorecard will now be incorporated into supplier performance ratings, and will therefore impact a supplier’s opportunity for future business. According to P&G, suppliers and agencies will be evaluated and given a score from 1-5, and those showing outstanding sustainability performance (5/5) will be publicly recognized and rewarded. For those suppliers and agencies that do not score well, the scorecard results will form the basis for joint sustainability improvement plans and will then be used to measure progress over time.
In addition to sustainable supply chain scorecards being developed by companies like P&G, General Mills, Ford, IKEA, and others, there are several broadly supported and well funded initiatives like The Sustainability Consortium (www.sustainabilityconsortium.org) that have focused on the development of tools and metrics for quantifying the environmental performance of all of the companies and products in their extended supply chains. Because many of these scorecards are in the public domain, a growing number of non-profits, government agencies, and smaller companies are beginning to adopt them and employ them as the basis for their vendor qualification criteria. The Walmart scorecard asks for information on sourcing policies, third party certifications, and community involvement, so it should come as no surprise if you see such requirements becoming more prevalent elsewhere.
Another reason why third party certifications like SGP are important is that the FTC is clamping down on unsubstantiated green claims as well as on claims that are based on questionable certifications and seals of approval. State and local attorneys general are also stepping up enforcement actions. In addition, there has been a significant increase in the number of complaints being brought by competitors via the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (http://www.nadreview.org/). In one respect this may be good news for printers who will be able to challenge the unsubstantiated green claims of companies that claim that going paperless and eliminating printing is “good for the environment” or “saves trees.” On the other hand, it will also mean that printers using questionable certifications or making unsubstantiated green claims will also be at risk.
Until now ad hoc efforts to green the printing industry may have been good enough, but the challenges presented by the growing pressure for sustainable supply chains and the vagaries of consumer opinion call for more rigorous frameworks and metrics for the greening of the printing industry. While consumer opinions about the meaning and importance of green can and do vary and vacillate, the meaning and importance of sustainable supply chain performance is increasingly being clarified and intensified. As you plan ahead for 2012, consider the opportunities for your company to reduce its costs and improve its ability to compete by qualifying for SGP certification. Think of it as the “Greening 2.0” of print.