What’s the definition of a green company? Is it a company that produces and sells green products and services for commercial gain or one that has established internal policies of environmental responsibility?
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) a green business is one that results in increased human equity, improved social inclusion and decreased environmental impacts, writes Mark Hiller, GM of Lexmark South Africa.
Lexmark has included these values in their guiding principles. They’ve defined their “green” company vision as a business that includes citizenship and respect for the environment in its values, and translates this into a continuous improvement plan. Their approach is guided by the real issues of their business activity that is both costed and integrated into their business processes.
At Lexmark, because of the nature of their products, they have primarily focused on measuring the environmental impact of the products they manufacture, distribute and sell to customers. Product life cycle analysis is one important part of the environmental aspect of their products.
This must be carried out in accordance with generally accepted practices and current standards and with the help of a recognised, independent agency. This method involves analysing each stage of a product’s life in order to quantify and qualify the impact of the resources, emissions and waste at each step.
The results of this analysis must determine the company’s priorities each year, whether in the field of product development or with regard to its production line, supply chain or commercial offering.
In the specific case of commercial printing, it is the utilisation phase of the equipment that has the greatest impact on the environment, particularly in terms of CO2 emissions.
The vast majority (60% to 80%) of CO2 emissions generated by conventional printing material during a lifetime of five years is due to the paper consumed while using this material.
Based on this observation, a printing specialised company that aims at being greener should be able to offer products and services that enable its customers to minimise the environmental impact associated with the consumption of paper.
Is a green company profitable?
Profitability is a crucial issue for any business manager. Without a harmonised measurement of both economical and other sustainable pillars of performance, it is much harder to clearly support the environment and social responsibility key indicators.
However, a company that is responsible and conscious of its environmental issues is profitable on two sides: internally and externally. Internally, environmental awareness allows the company to reduce its own operating costs, increasing the employees adhesion to the company values, thereby increasing its productivity and profitability.
Externally, embracing environmental responsibility not only helps to develop more value for the company’s existing customers, it also serves to attract new ones.
Another example, as a supplier of printing solutions, Lexmark have had a free process for returning empty toner cartridges in place since the company was founded in 1991. They have put in more resources to facilitate returns direct to their plants, whether for laser cartridges or for the millions of inkjet cartridges that users can return from their homes or small businesses.
As a result, today Lexmark are able to make new cartridges while reusing more materials, which makes manufacturing process more competitive and less resource hungry. Tackling the non-renewable resources is a key priority for them: this is why they already introduced 10% post consumer recycled content in their printer supplies.
They have also implemented internally, throughout the world, all of the good printing practices that they advocate to customers.
Their expertise in these ecological issues and ability to assist companies in implementing these solutions in their businesses have allowed Lexmark to win new customers. Indeed, in order for this print optimisation process to be efficient, profitable and sustainable, it is essential to gain user support.
Technology is only a basis for responsible printing solutions, but if user behaviour does not change, good practice will be very quickly forgotten, stocks of personal printers will grow and investments will not be profitable.
Some examples of how printing behaviour can be changed in companies:
One of every seven printed pages is never read, and goes straight into the waste bin. Paper wastage has started to decrease (from one in five to one in seven pages per employee per day) between 2007 and 2009.
* Both sides of a piece of paper are used in only 10% of cases.
* Less than 2.5% of printed pages in companies are in A3 format, yet the great majority of buyers continue to install equipment capable of printing A3, which has a bigger footprint, uses more electricity and is more expensive.
Accompanying change – the key to success
To promote the “green” company, the issue of behaviour is essential, both in terms of profitability and environmental impact. It is in this matter of accompanying behavioural changes that a company like Lexmark makes the difference. Printing spend represents up to 3% of a company’s turnover and therefore the potential contribution is significant.
This is a new role that has emerged for printer manufacturers in recent years: a role as a provider of services and value, based on technology, equipment, software and specific development, but above all on great expertise in change management.
The “green” company is certainly profitable, provided that it well understands its environmental issues and unswervingly supports its employees through change, ensuring that the natural assets continue to provide the eco-system services, while using better technology.