It is well documented that end users of office
equipment supplies continue to increase their
interest in the carbon footprint being created by
the products and services they are choosing to buy
and use. This fact became immediately apparent to
me as I was discussing a proposal for a Managed
Print Services agreement recently. The potential
new customer handed me a printed sheet that was
titled, "Sample questions business owners should
ask to better understand how to be more
The list of
ecological concerns began with the company's Green
Policy statement. As I was reviewing the list of
concerns, the end user continued to explain, "I am
more concerned with the carbon foot print that our
supplies are leaving on the earth than I am with
what brand they are. Under our MPS agreement,
whoever we choose to do business with has to be
responsible for all the service and supplies. So I
am not worried about the copy quality or
serviceability of our equipment. That will be your
problem. You must select a product that will work
up to our expectation."
customer continued, "I do not care if you use HP
brand supplies. I have read that many OEMs
actually destroy, crush, or bury the empty copier
and printer supply containers that are returned
for recycling. So it is OK with us that your MPS
agreement states you may use non-OEM supplies. Our
concern is that the products your company chooses
to provide to us for use in our copiers and
printers, (covered under your MPS) will use earth
"Our Company is setting
corporate sustainability goals which includes that
all products we use adhere to national and
regional sustainability standards and regulations
for all the products and their packaging. We are
requiring our suppliers to be environmentally
-"We are committed to making
corporate buying decisions that uphold green
practices and principles in all their products
manufacturing, packaging, distribution and
ultimate end of life disposal. Responsible, earth
friendly, green supply chain standards must be an
integral part of all the products and services
that we plan to purchase and use. Our goal is to
use products that decrease the carbon footprint on
each phase of a product's lifecycle."
quickly realizing that my company's 20 year
history of OEM authorization, great service,
community involvement, industry awards won and
recommendations from other local companies were of
little interest to this end user.
read the list of the following requirements
necessary to be eligible to compete for this
Items that will be
considered in your evaluation of the products that
we buy include:
1. How does our
vendor reduce the overall use of material and
impact on the environment?
original design to ultimate disposal, what is the
total carbon foot print of the products that will
be consumed by ABC Company?
3. Have any
considerations been given to making these products
conducive to remanufacturing or recycling into
another product after its end of life as a supply
1. What portion
of the product is made out of renewable, recycled,
or remanufactured material?
2. From a
waste generation viewpoint, how efficient are the
manufacturing processes dealing with material use,
energy consumption, and emission?
your company provide indemnification from any
intellectual property or patent infringement
1. While ensuring
that the functional requirements of packaging are
not compromised, what proportion of the total
material is reused, recycled and renewable?
2. How have you reduced the size and packaging
to minimize waste?
3. What testing
procedures of recognized green manufacturing
techniques and/or industry recognized
certifications have been earned by those
corporations who are manufacturing and
transporting the products?
4. Will we have
access to the original country of origin and the
country that is doing the remanufacturing of
5. Are there any
banned or non-recyclable material used in the
6. Is your company complying
with the same ecological sustainability standards
and performance rating that are being required by
governmental users and enterprise level
7. How are you determining
and rating your level of compliance?
1. Are you considering the impact
that shipping has on the environment?
items being manufactured overseas?
recycled items sent off shore?
4. How is
the ecological impact of multiple overseas
shipping being considered?
what type of vehicle design is being used to
optimize fuel economy?
6. What clean fuel
usage is being used or being considered for the
7. Are you using a truck idling
8. Has your company
implemented a structured daily routing optimizing
plan to minimize driving mileage and/or actual
9. Does your company do self
delivery or use a common carrier?
you aware of which delivery companies have the
most ecologically friendly delivery programs?
End of life Disposal:
1. Are you tracking
what happens to the products at the ultimate end
of their life cycle?
2. How are the used
products ultimately being disposed?
is the total ultimate carbon foot print at the end
of the life cycle?
4. How is this being
After viewing this green
document, I asked our prospective customer where
he had come up with this document. It was very
detailed. The customer looked around and leaned
close to me, replying in a whisper, "Our owner is
relatively young and very green."
green indeed I thought. Was this green document a
sign of a new requirement in the selling cycle? I
asked the potential customer if they had received
any written responses to this document from other
vendors? "No," was the instant reply. "This pretty
much scares off sales reps."
understood that answering this company's
questionnaire would be a big road block to most
sales people. I also understood it was a sign of
the future. Upon closer review, I realized each
question expressed a legitimate concern.
As a buyer of new OEM and aftermarket products I
am mainly concerned with price, quality, yield and
availability. As an occupant of the Earth, who
truly believes in improving sustainability, I
should have many more concerns.
into my brief case and retrieved a thumb drive. I
held it out and I asked for an electronic copy of
their requests. I didn't want to waste paper and
toner making copies. I already knew I would be
emailing it to several vendors. I was curious
about how they would respond.
the potential customer for their time. "It will
take me a few days, (or weeks I thought) to get
this information together. Once I have all our
information documented, I think I will have earned
an appointment to talk directly with your young
"I think I can arrange that,"
was my potential customer's reply. We both smiled.
My question to the readers of this article
is: How prepared are you to factually reply to the
concerns of this potential customer? Sooner or
later servicing dealers, distributors and OEMs
will all be asked these types of questions. My
challenge to you is to be more prepared than I
was. I am still following up with many of my OEMs,
re-manufacturers and distributors to get real
answers that can be backed up with written policy
or other substantiated proof.
of new technology, a growing emphasis on
sustainability, green consciousness and increasing
demands from our ecologically concerned customers
will shape the future market for office services
and supplies. Now is the time to do more than just
talk about the green values within your business.
We must actually walk the walk that will improve
the carbon footprints of the products and services
we sell and use. u
Ronelle Ingram, author of
Service With A Smile, also teaches service
seminars. She can be reached at