Environmental Sustainability – The Four-Pronged Approach

Guest post by Catherine Reeves, Manager, EHS&S Communications, Xerox Corporation

Having been in this field for the last ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend sustainability-themed seminars and workshops, read white paper after white paper, and listened to sustainability experts in various forums. Internally, my company required all employees to complete Lean Six Sigma training to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of work processes.

In processing all the knowledge these learning activities imparted on me and my personal experience in applying the lessons, I believe there are four factors essential for succeeding in sustainability. I call it the “four-pronged” approach.”

These are the four factors listed in sequential order:

  1. Prioritize your efforts based upon your spend.  Specifically look at all spend categories other than fixed costs. These would be things such as printing supplies, postage, waste disposal and electricity. Chart the spend by month and year. Target your sustainability effort on the highest spend items. Are there are items that also have associated negatives? An example would be electricity spend if you have energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, and also considering that electricity rates are forecast to increase in years to come.
  1. Understand what drives your spend. This action is not to be taken lightly and may require some footwork, speaking directly to employees, or cascading an online survey to them. You might even uncover some “quick wins.” In working with our clients to assess their workplaces as part of an MPS optimization effort, we sometimes find the majority of their workers are still printing single sides rather than duplexing. The solution: simply turning the device default to “duplex.” Quick win! This change alone can cut paper use in half, significantly reducing their costs for supplies and recycling, and freeing up the device.
  1. Find similar stories. Search the web for sustainability success stories about endeavors similar to your own. Why reinvent the wheel?  Save your energy, time and money for implementing the solutions.
  1. Replicate and communicate. Chances are that the solution can be implemented on another floor in your building or another site of your company. Share your story with others internally and start the annuity stream of sustainability savings. It’s equally important to share your success story externally, so others can benefit as you may have from published sustainability success stories. In addition, your sustainability success sends a message to stakeholders that your business integrates sustainability into everyday processes.

Once you’ve completed this process, do the same for fixed spend items mentioned in the first point. The same four-pronged approach will work, but you may be slowed by contract terms and other inflexibilities associated with the fixed category of spend. The four-prong approach succeeds because it instills discipline, creativity and flexibility in your effort to be more sustainable, and isn’t that what sustainability is all about?

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  1. […] Environmental Sustainability – The Four-Pronged Approach. Four essential factors will determine if your sustainability efforts will succeed. Start with “spend” categories such as printing, postage or waste disposal. This approach can also work with fixed costs, but progress will be slower because of contract terms or other inflexible realities. However, adopting this process will instill discipline, creativity as well as flexibility. […]

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