How green is your supply chain?

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Courtesy of IMSM Ltd

Over the past ten years, protection of the environment has become a household concern and an industrial priority. Concerns about industrial pollution are often linked with the production of industrial waste and high energy usage. However, not just industry but all businesses have an environmental impact – even within the office environment there may be significant emission of greenhouse gases and high usage of finite natural resources. Demonstrating to your supply chain that you have systems and policies in place to manage these issues is increasingly important in maintaining preferred supplier status. IMSM is already helping thousands of businesses to achieve ISO14001 (Environmental Management) and other international standards, with careful systems and procedures, audited externally.

All office managers need to consider their environmental impact – and what adjustments in daily working practices may be made to reduce it. There are numerous measures which will help to reduce greenhouse gases and reduce energy consumption – with the added bonus of significant cost-savings which go straight to the bottom line – and most of these measures are very simple to put in place. Many businesses are now working towards international standard ISO14001 to have a framework for improvements.

Office equipment such as PCs and monitors can be turned off when not needed, for effortless operation, most new models are equipped with power-down facilities, which simply need to be activated for automatic switch off. Equipment life is extended, energy consumption reduced and money saved.

Use of natural daylight can be maximised, and lights switched off whenever they are not needed, installation of motion-sensitive lighting and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps will deliver substantial energy savings.

Excessive use of paper is a crime too many offices are guilty of – and much of it is unnecessary. Reduced paper consumption will result in reduced cost –of the paper itself, the buying and storing processes, and the reduction of storage space required. Many of IMSM’s customers who have already achieved ISO14001 are using these common-sense processes to reduce their impact on the environment:

• documents and emails can be read on screen
• printer preferences can be set to automatically print double sided
• the reverse side of paper could be used for printing drafts or note taking
• documents such as order acknowledgements, sales invoices etc. can be filed electronically
• faxes can be sent electronically
• envelopes can be reused for internal mail
• publications can be limited to one copy, with internal circulation managed centrally
• junk mail can be recycled – or, better still, stopped altogether by removing contact details from non relevant mailing lists
• collection of literature at conferences, seminars and trade shows needs to be strictly relevant
• all external contacts notified that the preference is for electronic forwarding of information

All offices generate a vast amount of rubbish including cardboard, cans, cartridges, IT equipment and furniture, all of which can be recycled. Recycling conserves resources and helps to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, the cost of emptying the rubbish bins is also reduced.

Green considerations need be the focus and responsibility not only of the office practice manager, but also of the purchasing manager. Many significant cost savings can be made in this department too. Energy-efficient and recyclable office equipment, A-rated products and equipment with rechargeable batteries must be specified. This includes computers, copiers, printers, and associated accessories, as well lighting, heating and cooling equipment. Such energy efficient products use up to 60% less electricity than standard equipment, this means a significant saving in use of the earth’s resources - and also for the office pocket.

Every tonne of recycled paper saves 32,000 litres of water – so this can be specified as standard. All awareness raising material can be printed on recycled paper and preference given to promotional products made from recycled, non-hazardous materials. Environmental benefits include conservation of natural resources, reduced reliance on fossil fuels and a reduction in waste sent to landfill.

Travel is another opportunity to ‘go green’. All companies can adopt a green travel policy for work-related travel – and encourage it for the staff’s commute. Preference for walking, cycling, car-pooling and public transport can be stipulated, with single occupancy car journeys avoided. Meetings with external parties can be conducted much more quickly and efficiently using modern telecommunication methods.

Implementing an Environmental Management System is a systematic way to discover and control the effects the company has on the environment, and achieving ISO14001 demonstrates to the supply chain that you are taking the issue seriously. IMSM’s assessors have found substantial cost savings for clients through helping them to use energy more efficiently, and by devising ways to minimise waste and dispose of it more effectively.

Potential benefits to the company are not limited to increased efficiency and productivity, or to substantial cost savings. Employee morale will improve as employees respond to the company’s commitment to act responsibly with regard to society, and market opportunities will expand as customers increasingly focus on suppliers demonstrating a responsible attitude to world issues. A green office makes considerable commercial sense.

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