Production: Asking the Right Questions
Whether you call it "Green Purchasing," "Sustainable Sourcing" or "Environmentally Preferred Procurement," evaluating whether or not suppliers meet your own environmental standards—and creating buyer/supplier relationships that reinforce those standards—drives sustainability through your print and paper supply chains.
Including sustainability elements in the request for proposal (RFP) is a good way to research, track and compare how preferable options are integrated into materials, facilities and handling. Every project bid solicitation offers clients and suppliers an opportunity to articulate environmental expectations and deliverables. After all, aren't you a reflection of your supply chain?
A responsible RFP looks beyond price, quality, availability and functionality—all of which remains critically important—and considers other factors in procurement decisions, including environmental and social aspects. Here are six elements to cover:
1. Corporate Philosophy
Your RFP should ask whether the vendor's organization has a written environmental policy. Is the organization focused on continual environmental performance improvement as evidenced by commitment to a certified environmental management system like ISO 14001:2004? You want to know the company is compliant with regulations and legislation. How does it focus on the performance of its own supply chain? If available, read the company's external report on environmental performance, find out who in the company is responsible for environmental management and review the organization's goals and objectives, including specific targets.
2. Supply Chain Management
It's important to establish clear expectations and requirements for suppliers. Engaging your internal team and key suppliers in routine dialogue fosters better understanding of the challenges related to the lifecycle of the products and services you purchase. When you audit the environmental performance of your suppliers, you can also evaluate social responsibility elements of a business including labor and human rights, human health and safety, charitable giving, biodiversity initiatives and community involvement.
3. Paper and Packaging
Is the company's paper fiber sourced legally from sustainably managed forests? Find out whether the company 1) promotes key credible third-party forest certifications systems and 2) commits to continuous improvement targets regarding the percentage of certified fiber purchased each year. Ask about advocating for and supporting more land certification. Be sure the company complies with the amended U.S. Lacey Act as it pertains to imported wood products, namely: wood fiber, pulp and paper. Ensure that the company has certified chain of custody systems in place.
4. Clean, Responsible
Environmentally responsible production should aim to reduce air emissions, water emissions and use, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Clean production means minimizing solid waste through recycling, composting, and by finding other beneficial uses for byproducts. Also ask what measures are being taken to avoid using hazardous chemicals.
5. Climate Change and
You'll want to know whether the company has a plan to address its impact on climate change. For example, it should have a strong energy strategy that increases energy efficiency and depends less on fossil fuels, more on sustainably managed biofuels. Has the company measured its carbon footprint including facilities, products, transportation and travel? For example, Verso Paper Corp.'s Quinnesec Mill in Michigan will ramp up its use of renewable biomass, resulting in more than 95 percent self-generated onsite electricity by the end of this year.
6. Recycling and Use of Recovered Paper Products
The real benefit of recycling is keeping paper out of landfills. By diverting usable fiber from landfills, we not only reclaim a valuable raw material, but also reduce GHG emissions (methane) that result when landfilled paper products degrade over time.
The ultimate goal of paper recycling should be to increase fiber recovery beyond the current 63.5 percent reported by American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) to the maximum possible in the United States, and then to re-use all fiber recovered in products so the least amount of transporting, cleaning and energy for processing of the post-consumer fiber is needed. In an RFP, decide what type of paper best suits the project with overall environmental impact in mind.
Integrating sustainability goals into business practices and making them routine takes the commitment and engagement of the entire team. Taking this initiative creates learning opportunities for all parties about better ways to buy products and services and to conserve natural resources.
Meta Brophy is the director of publishing operations at Consumer Reports. Monica Garvey is sustainability manager at Verso Paper Corp. Joe Muehlbach is executive director, facilities and environmental policy at Quad Graphics. All are members of the Direct Marketing Association Committee on Environment and Social Responsibility. Reach Brophy at email@example.com, reach Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org and reach Muehlbach at email@example.com.