The Hows and Whys of Eco-Packaging for Jansan Distributors
The jansan industry, also known as the professional cleaning industry, has been moving in a green and sustainable direction for more than a decade. Because of this and its experience with green and sustainable issues, many refer to the industry, including distributors in the jansan industry, as leaders in the green movement. Over time, the jansan industry has shown other industries essentially how to “go green,” which includes the actual cleaning chemicals, tools and equipment, along with the distribution and eventual use of these products in facilities.
In all fairness, we must say the move to go green was not because the industry necessarily wanted to go green or thought it was the “right thing to do.” It was market driven.
In the early 1990s, when then President Bill Clinton signed an executive order requiring the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products in all Federal government owned or operated facilities around the world, the industry simply could not refuse such a huge buyer of cleaning supplies. While estimates vary, it is believed that the Federal government purchases around $200 million of cleaning related chemicals, tools and equipment annually — an amount that cannot be ignored.
In time, schools, hotels, commercial office buildings and other types of facilities jumped on the green bandwagon and in the process, further “greened” the industry. However, in the past few years, jansan distributors have made green and sustainable moves on their own. This involves finding and developing ways to be more environmentally friendly and more sustainable when it comes to packaging and delivering materials throughout North America.
Some in the industry refer to this as “eco-packaging.” The two key objectives of an eco-packaging program are to avoid the depletion of nonrenewable resources and reduce waste. Beyond this, an eco-packaging program looks for ways to use fewer materials, along with materials that are recycled and recyclable, made from renewable resources, and can be reused. Further if the packaging is made from a material that must be disposed of, it is made with materials that decompose quickly. The initiatives are also designed to lower pollution, energy and water consumption, and through these actions, lessen distribution’s impact on global warming and climate change.
There is also a greater emphasis on finding methods to reuse materials in new ways. A perfect example of this is “PET” plastics, often used to make bottles and plastic containers especially for food items. Polyethylene terephthalate can be recycled and made into fibers, and from this, packaging materials used for a number of different packaging needs can be created.
While eco-packaging is not necessarily customer driven, as was the case for green cleaning, for those businesses that want or require their vendors to join them in operating in a greener and more sustainable manner, eco-packaging fits the bill. However, and as we shall discuss later, the big impetus for eco-packaging is far more practical. It is paying off for distributors in a number of “bread-and-butter” ways.
The Waste Audit
Typically the first step to get an eco-packaging program up and going begins with conducting a waste audit. A waste audit establishes a baseline — telling us where things stand right now — and allows us to measure progress in the future. It also allows us to quantify the amounts and types of waste generated by a distributorship. Because most of this waste involves such materials as cardboard, paper, metal and plastics, it also helps identify how many of these materials can be recycled, reused or possibly used for different purposes such as the PET bottles mentioned earlier.
In 2013, a nationwide waste collection and disposal company conducted a study and found that half of the largest corporations and manufacturers in the study had conducted a waste audit in the past five years, with about a one-fourth of them indicating they had conducted a waste audit in just the past year. But what was interesting about the survey was the fact that a larger percentage of small to mid-sized companies — 63 percent according to the study — had conducted a waste audit in the past year.
- A waste audit typically looks into the following items: Calculating exactly how much waste is generated by a facility. How much of the waste is recyclable materials, nonrenewable materials, materials that must be discarded, etc.
- The costs being paid for trash removal services and how these charges are determined. (Are you paying by the weight of trash collected or by frequency of service?)
- Service frequency (which adds to the amount of fuel used to pick up waste) and any related charges.
- Are there any rebates for recycled materials?
The “Whys” of Eco-Packaging
We mentioned earlier we would discuss the key reasons distributors should consider an eco-packaging program. Some of these are listed below and many have already been realized by distributors in the jansan and other industries:
Employee engagement: According to the study mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of an eco-packaging program is increased awareness of waste and use of packaging materials, which in turn encourages staffers to look for new ways to reduce waste and, along with it, nonrenewable resources. Invariably, this translates into cost savings.
Lowering shipping costs: Eliminating excess packaging materials results in lighter packages, which helps lower shipping costs. For those facilities with large-scale supply chain operations, these savings can be considerable. Further, reusing materials that were once discarded also helps reduce spending costs, adding to the savings.
Optimizing shipments: This involves developing and employing packaging designs that help increase efficiencies, all of which are designed to help further reduce shipping costs and along with it, fuel and energy consumption.
Customer requirements: As referenced earlier, as a requirement of doing business with them, more and more companies are requiring their suppliers, including distributors, to have green and sustainability initiatives such as eco-packaging in place.
Having an eco-packaging program in place can help attract new clients. Research completed by Nielsen in 2014 shows that a growing majority of global consumers would prefer to select products from companies that have implemented socially responsible policies and programs.1 Eco-packaging certainly falls into this category, which indicates it can be used as a marketing tool as well.
Michael Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK and the company’s ELEVATE process.
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