4. Does the Company Sponsor Environmental Research?
Another telling measure of how much a company cares about sustainability is
whether it invests in research on the subject. Xerox, for example, likes
to point to its funding of environmentally related research at various
universities around the world.
One project, at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse,
N.Y., is looking at ways to create
biodegradable plastics from sources such as trees, switchgrass and corn
stalks. The eventual results of research like this could eliminate both
the need to use oil for plastics and the problem of non-degradable plastics
clogging the oceans and landfills. Most large companies fund
research. Ask the companies you buy from if they have a program to fund
research aimed at sustainability issues in particular.
5. What Has the Company Done Internally for Sustainability?
More and more companies are taking steps to increase their energy
efficiency, reduce their carbon footprint and minimize the waste going to
landfills. Find out what, if anything, the companies you deal with have
done. (And consider doing some of these things in your own company.)
Possibilities range from simple things such as programming lighting systems in
existing facilities to match work schedules all the way to designing new
buildings from the ground up-or retrofitting old buildings-to be as energy-efficient
6. What Has the Company Done with Its Products and Packaging?
It's also worth asking what steps a company is taking to increase energy
efficiency, reduce the carbon footprint and minimize the waste going to
landfills from its products. It's certainly a plus if the model you buy
has, say, an Energy Star rating. But it's even better if the manufacturer
is committed to having all of its future products earn the same rating.
Also ask if the manufacturer has made an effort to minimize package size and
weight as well as increase the percentage of both recycled and recyclable
material in the packaging and the products. Smaller size and lower weight
let more products ship in the same physical space and with less energy cost per
product. And, of course, the more material that gets recycled, the less is
left over to go into a landfill.