Given all the issues swarming about the modern print provider’s operation—the economy, the Internet, the jump to digital, staffing, government regulations, the U.S. Post Office—developing a sustainability policy is probably not at the top of your to-do list. You might want to rethink that...
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A comprehensive sustainability policy looks at the impact of everything a business operation does. It’s all about using resources wisely, and those resources can refer to technology, transportation or your staff.
When you’re ready to embark on a sustainability path, take a close look at your business operation, discerning where there are likely to be the most impactful opportunities from both an environmental and financial standpoint, advises Close.
Make sure to discuss what you are planning to do with your employees—not just management, but also those on the shop floor. In order to achieve success with the plan they’ll need to be on board. Also, down in the trenches is often where you’ll find your best ideas—your employees see firsthand how resources can be better put to use.
Instead of mapping out goals for sustainability—as it is a journey and one that may never be completed—companies should focus on areas for continuous improvement, says Kinter. In fact, development and implementation of an annual continuous improvement project is at the heart of the SGP program.
Projects can be undertaken to reduce such resource sappers, energy usage and water usage, for example. SGIA recommends that facilities conduct an energy audit as well as a comprehensive environmental, safety and health audit. “These three audit programs can assist companies in identifying possible areas for improvement which in turn leads to a more sustainable operation,” says Kinter.
“Likely areas for a printing company to make sustainable improvements are electricity use in buildings or processes, chemical use (such as inks, laminates and adhesives,) packaging use and waste,” says Close. “Sustainable sourcing of paper is also in itself a huge impact driver on the environment. A high-level measurement of the magnitude of these activities, the potential for modification and the costs related to managing them will help you prioritize.”
However, business owners need to understand that sustainability is not simply a checklist, says Kinter. “Integrating sustainable business practices represents a commitment to truly begin operating and incorporating different business practices that will ultimately provide a strong return on investment.”
The ROI for companies that participate in sustainability practices cuts a wide swath. Ultimately what you are doing is uncovering the most efficient operating practices across all aspects of your business, which reduces long-term consumption of energy, water, packaging and chemicals.
“You’ll derive more business value from what you spend to create revenue,” says Close. “Simply put, your money works harder for you when what you buy is used rather than wasted.”
Plus, in times of economic turmoil, if some of your cost bases become smaller, you have a pricing buffer to get you through tight times, adds Close.
While your core business model may not change under a sustainable plan, the numbers used for various cost and capital investment line items will be affected, explains Close.
A generic business plan may allocate electricity expense using a benchmark kWh/ft2 at an average local utility-provided rate of X for an operation; a sustainable business plan will have a side-analysis reflecting a range of options for the source of electricity, including self-generated (such as with solar panels) and also a range of electricity demands associated with different production equipment, lighting, heating, and cooling choices, says Close.
“While the side analysis will still be illustrative, the thought processes behind different choices and the variation in investment, operating costs, maintenance/TCO, insurance, and other cost drivers will shed light on the most ‘responsible’ choice overall for the environment and your shareholders,” she says.
Top-line opportunities exist too. Implementing a sustainable program allows you to deliver the lowest impact solution for customers. It also helps your customers look good; your sustainable business practices “pay it forward” and enable your customers to do the same with confidence, notes Close.