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Chuck Our Sustainability Plan Sustainability Plan


Making Sustainability a Key Business Performance Metric

CRMsearch measures corporate sustainability as part of our monthly performance reviews. In this blog post I'm going to share our green plan - in an effort to both promote sustainability benefits to other companies as well as solicit feedback which can improve our plan over time.

A greener workplace means a lighter ecological footprint, a healthier and more productive place to work, and good news for the bottom line. To reap the rewards, green business must exceed minimal standards in order to reduce pollution and waste, increase recycling, and conserve natural resources like water, energy, and raw materials. Green businesses have an underlying principle to protect and conserve the environment by adapting their business practices.

Step 1, Establish Our Emissions Baseline

The first step of any long term mission is to determine the baseline from which to measure future performance. CRMsearch is a decentralized organization, with staff working in both small office environments and home offices. We've used a carbon footprint model from the DOE in order to determine our CO2 consumption. We've also calculated this metric per employee in order to scale the model as our company grows. Each of the below metrics is a per employee average expressed annually in pounds of CO2 discharged.

Transportation from daily office automobile commute:
Transportation from business travel on airline flights:
Office electrical consumption:
Office natural gas consumption:
Total waste:
Recycled newspaper:
Recycled glass:
Recycled plastic:
Recycled aluminum:
Total waste emissions after recycling:
Total emissions:

Step 2, Implement Sustainability Measures

The following measures are the business choices we've made to go green, save green and reduce our ecological impact.

  • Office operations:
    • Reduce office waste. About 9% of all disposed paper is office paper. Of this amount, 58% comes from commercial businesses, making business a chief culprit in paper waste. In the U.S., pulp and paper production is the third largest producer of air, water, and land pollution. By reducing paper waste, a business can significantly reduce environmental impact - and costs. To this end, our company positions recycling bins at each desk, programs printers to print on both sides of the paper, uses a utility to convert faxes to electronic attachments, eliminates fax cover sheets where possible, reuses file folders, recirculates old envelopes or outdated letter head for interoffice hardcopy communications and distributes documents via email instead of print. We also keep electronics out of the trash, and either donate or recycle them at the end of their useful lives. E-waste contains mercury and other toxins and is a growing environmental problem.
    • Reduce energy consumption. In addition to powering down equipment when not in use, we have implemented smart power strips that sense when equipment is off and cuts "phantom" or "vampire" energy use. We have also adjusted our IT procurement policy to favor equipment manufacturers which produce energy efficient equipment.
    • Reduce disposables. In the break room, we have switched to reusable cups, plates, and utensils that staff can wash and reuse. Where disposables are necessary, we have switched to recyclable and biodegradable kitchen items made from unwaxed paper or wheat and corn polymers. We avoid buying single servings of anything such as coffee, creamers, and sweeteners to reduce excess packaging waste. We rely on filtered tap water instead of bottled water, as bottled water is hundreds of times more expensive than tap and has a high container waste impact. We provide a dishwasher to encourage employees to wash and reuse dishes and provide a fridge and microwave to encourage employees to bring food from home thereby reducing the waste of take out.
    • Reduce business travel. Business travel has a huge environmental impact. Greenhouse gasses emitted for long distance travel, meetings and conventions generate 730,000 tons of waste annually. The airline industry is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. Passenger planes account for nearly 3% of the earth's total carbon emissions. Of all domestic air travel, about 18% is business related. To achieve this goal, we shall judiciously evaluate events which require airline travel as well as use video conferencing technology.
    • Promote telecommuting. For every gallon of gas burned, an estimated 20 pounds of carbon is released into the atmosphere. With an average gas mileage of 23 miles per gallon, and an average, round trip office commute of about 40 minutes per day, Americans release 40 pounds of carbon going to and from work. By providing and promoting alternatives to driving for our employees, we can significantly reduce this carbon emission, increase staff productivity, lower our impact associated with office space, lessen employee stress and achieve fewer employee sick days.
  • Business processes:
    • SaaS saves. Our company is a big believer in software as a service applications. SaaS business systems achieve economies of scale from shared services and centralized processing facilities. Smart data center operators go further by taking advantage of highly virtualized servers, optimal power distribution, cooling efficiencies, advanced hardware and green IT practices. By subscribing to SaaS CRM, ERP and lead management business systems, and not implementing redundant and under-utilized on-premise equipment, we are lowering IT energy consumption and emissions.
    • Online billing. We shall request our vendors to only forward electronic documents for payable transactions and reserve hardcopy invoices for clients which request them.
    • Relaxed dress. We have adopted a professional casual dress style that reduces dry cleaning. This saves money and cuts down on toxic chemical waste.
    • We only procure recycled paper. Over the last two decades, recycled paper has achieved the brightness and smoothness of non-recycled paper. Printing on both sides of the paper reduces the amount of paper used and lessens waste. Unfortunately, vegetable based ink, unlike the vast variety of recycled paper, is not widely available for office copiers and printers. However, when sourcing a professional printer, we ask if they use vegetable-based ink, which results in better quality and is brighter than petroleum based inks.
    • Local sourcing. We also try to source from local companies for both office supplies and food items. This not only boosts our local economy, but also reduces the negative impact of trucking.
    • Seeing is believing. We encourage our staff to use one of their social impact days to visit their local landfill - and take a friend or child with them. Most people don't really know where their trash goes. When people see the process and impact firsthand they are more likely to get involved and stay involved.
  • Scale our program to our community:
    • We have made a request and will continue to lobby our Palm Beach county government to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes along commercial corridors. With relatively little cost, these improvements can pay huge dividends in improving our health and reducing traffic.
    • We have also requested the city of Deerfield Beach to set up an electronics recycling and hazardous waste collection event.

Step 3, Measure and Revise

We're confident that when we make the initial financial and organizational investments to streamline business processes, cost savings result. As we measure our performance going forward, we will recognize both the reductions in pounds of CO2 discharged (per employee annually) as well as the hard cost savings. Expense reductions, unlike incremental revenues, offer a 1 to 1 effect whereby every dollar saved goes directly to the bottom line.

Stay tuned, and check back as we make measurable progress in our journey.

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 Filed In Categories: Sustainability
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 Tags Tags: Corporate Sustainability, Green IT
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Author  Author: Chuck Schaeffer
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Comments (10) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Juel Lisbon
  Green progress fluctuates with the political landscape. Whether by the new priorities of politicians or increased importance of economic objectives by private organizations, I don't see these types of eco-friendly efforts having longevity.
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    Possibly, but I don't think so. Eco-friendly becomes long-term and adopted by business in scale when we recognize the "eco" actually stands for 'economics', not 'ecological'. Politics aside, green jobs in California have grown 10 times faster than the statewide average over the last five years. The clean tech sector attracted $9 billion cumulative venture capital investment from 2005 through 2009. The wind industry has gone from a few businesses to employing over 85,000 people, mainly in North Dakota, Missouri and New York. Within our own IT industry, we can now measure the material cost and energy savings from shifts toward cloud computing and more efficient data centers. These types of advances are driven by economics and will continue to grow despite political shifts on Capital Hill.

Guest Shaun Lowe
  Where do you get the power consumption metrics for gear?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer

The best place is directly from each of your hardware vendors. They track power utilization for each device. For instance, below are a few common equipment power consumption measures.

Cisco Catalyst 6500 series switch (fully populated) - 2kW to 3kW per rack;
Cisco Nexus 7000 series switch (fully configured) - 13kW per rack;
Fully loaded rack of servers (average load) - 4kW per rack.

Guest Padmaja
  Unlike your company we're not a media company or service business. Any interesting suggestions on reducing shipping expenses for DVDs and technical documentation?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    My advice is to start with the basics and then seek additional measures. The easiest way to reduce shipping materials is to save and reuse received packaging. Boxes, bubble wrap and packing peanuts are easily reused. Paper scraps from the shredder are an excellent source of padding material. I would seriously explore if technical documentation must be delivered physically. Online documentation is more accessible, more usable (via online search, etc.) and can be updated more frequently. Delivering documentation from a managed social network can further encourage customer dialogue, receive great feedback and build community.

Guest Paul Sabil
  Junk mail is a big source of trash. Rather than just recycle it, how can we prevent receiving it or do something less wasteful with it?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    Good question. Every year, the U.S. produces over 6 million tons of junk mail, 78% of which is immediately discarded. Junk mail not only wastes paper, but also produces greenhouse gasses with its transport. There are a few ways to stop unwanted mail. First, consider removing the name of your business or employees from the major mail databases. The two largest are Dun & Bradstreet and InfoUSA. They both require a written letter to remove any name or business, and it may take several months for the request to be completed. Second, get off specific company mailing lists. Many companies do not use direct mail databases but require individual employees to make requests case by case. Print requests on a template postcard to streamline the process. Third, purge former employees from existing mailing lists. The Ecological Mail Coalition allows businesses to remove employees from marketers' lists for free. Fourth, try to prevent your business from being added to mailing lists in the first place. Specifically ask to be excluded from mailing lists at events, conferences and when placing orders. Lastly, limit the number of phone books delivered to your business to reduce paper and shipping waste.

Guest anonymous
  I don't think I really want to sacrifice health in favor of waste by turning to tap water instead of bottled water.
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    I don't think you have to make such a sacrifice. Bottled water is an image of a healthy lifestyle, however, its health benefits are very questionable and it couldn't be worse for the environment. It takes an estimated 47 million gallons of oil annually to bottle water for just Americans. Only 13% of these bottles are recycled. Approximately 3 million tons of water bottles are tossed into landfills where it will take them 1,000 years to fully decompose. The shipping of bottled water emits thousands of tons of greenhouse gases. People often chose bottled water because of anxiety over the perceived impurities in tap water. But in reality, municipal water in the U.S. is much more highly regulated than the bottled water industry. Information on every local water supplier is available upon request from your local supplier. Research also suggests that water stored in plastic bottles can become contaminated over time, particularly if stored in a hot environment.


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