As business leaders navigate changing economic conditions and government regulations, they are realizing more and more that sustainability is no longer the job of one person, or even one department. Businesses are investing in “green” across the organization, and the buy-in starts in the boardroom.
That's how it works at Staples Advantage , a company that provides office products and services to businesses across Canada. Their Fifty Green program helps to minimize the packaging of an order, as well as the emissions from delivery trucks. Customers participating must ensure their orders are more than $50. If not, a $5 charge is applied, with half of the proceeds donated to Tree Canada—a not-for-profit organization that plants trees in Canada's communities.
The idea was not even born in the sustainability department. It came from the marketing team, when they sat down to brainstorm how to reduce the operational and environmental costs of small orders.
“Fifty Green fits with the business plan because it offers a triple win,” says Scott D'Cunha, the director of marketing for Staples Advantage. “It's good for customers because they find it easier to manage fewer deliveries and invoices; it's good for Staples because we're reducing the high costs associated with small orders; and it's good for the environment because we're reducing packaging and truck emissions, which is very significant when you're a distribution company. All this adds up to simply being good for business.”
Results from a 2010 Ernst & Young survey showed that 82 per cent of Canadian executives believe that a response to climate change is imperative and at that time were planning to increase spending for climate change initiatives.
More than 90 per cent of executives surveyed globally indicated that climate change governance rests with C-suite executives or board members. This statistic reflects the growing strategic importance of green initiatives for organizations who understand that climate change is not just a risk area but also an opportunity to reduce costs, increase revenue and gain competitive advantage.
For Staples Advantage, Fifty Green is doing what it should.
“Within two years of launching the program, our supply chain team recognized that they could reduce the number of trucks on the road and still meet customer commitments, just because of this initiative,” D'Cunha says. “Within three years we reduced the number of small orders by half. And the fact that we have funded the planting of 100,000 trees with Tree Canada to offset the environmental costs of small orders shows that we are really committed to sustainability, something our customers want to see in their partners.”
Scott Lesnet is Environmental Manager for HNI Corporation, the second-largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. They are the parent company for brands like HON and Allsteel, available in Canada through Staples Advantage. He says he's worked in the sustainability field for 30 years, and has always been able to demonstrate that environmental responsibility lowers costs.
“All the major furniture manufacturers are doing the same kinds of things to reduce their environmental impact,” he says. “Why? Because it just makes good sense.”
D'Cunha agrees, and advises that you can find innovative ways to leverage sustainability to meet your business goals.
“Businesses, in general, aim to accomplish the same thing—to make money. Sustainability is a key enabler—not an obstacle—to achieving that goal. By embracing that reality, you can attain both commercial success and a sense of contentment, knowing that you are making the world a better place.”