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 as possible.
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.