News: Australia - being green becomes a business ethic
Concern for the environment is bringing a new set of skills at work, according to The Australian newspaper, Fuji Xerox's experience is testament to the fact that going green can be good business.
Monday, 13th October 2008
The printing technology and solutions provider has changed its operations to become more sustainable, and that has led to substantial savings. With growing recognition of the IT sector's contribution to vast amounts of landfill and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions as the waste breaks down, there is increasing pressure from customers and others for reduced environmental impact. At Fuji Xerox's Asia-Pacific operations, waste has been minimised to a point where more than 99 per cent of each product will be reused, recycled or remanufactured to be better than new. Recycling is a less attractive option because it is a cost to the business, but the money-saving remanufacture plant in Sydney uses sophisticated technology to look at how parts are failing to ensure they will be more reliable in the future. Environment and sustainability manager in Australia Amanda Keogh says Fuji Xerox has a strong culture of environmental sustainability: "It's really out of a strong sense of environmental responsibility that we do all these things, but also it's really much more of an imperative than it used to be three or four years ago -- employees expect it and customers expect it." While sustainability is at the heart of its corporate culture, the award-winning Eco Manufacturing Centre on the city-fringe suburb of Zetland has grassroots beginnings: it started as an idea when three workers questioned why a used $10,000 electronic circuitry board had to be treated as waste. Last financial year alone, the state-of-the-art plant remanufactured 243,000 parts worth about $11 million. The savings are even greater when considering that the centre also redistributes remanufactured parts back to the parent company for resale. Fuji Xerox is just one example of an increasing number of organisations profiting from greening their operations. In the opinion of sustainability consultant Alan Pears, climate change is changing the way organisations operate and this should be good for business. Pears, an adjunct professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, says that despite the warnings of the business lobby, very few industries will be adversely affected. "There's an amazing amount of change going on in this direction and ... it is about opportunity, not about threat," he says. In many cases it is just a matter of using the same resources in a smarter way. Pears gives the example of an industrial refrigeration plant in Melbourne's Abbotsford which his team scrutinised for Foster's. Analysis led to operating changes, some as simple as more lagging of pipes, and cut energy use by 18 per cent. Further improvements over subsequent months delivered an eventual cut of about 30 per cent. In the past, a "business-as-usual" approach meant consumption of resources such as energy went largely unchecked but this is starting to change, Pears says. "Now it's actually cultural forces that are driving improvements." Pears warns that even small businesses need to start thinking about their environmental impact. He says the effects of the coming emissions trading scheme will be felt immediately from big businesses down, despite the fact that only the biggest emitters will be targeted initially. The higher costs will be embedded in energy-intensive goods and services, thereby making green options more attractive across the supply chain. A whole industry has sprung up around measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, the idea being that it is important to understand one's environmental footprint in order to know how best to reduce it. An increasing number of organisations have been opening themselves up to scrutiny by participating in programs such as the voluntary benchmark-based Corporate Responsibility Index (CRI), and small- and middle-sized enterprises are also expected to focus more on responsible business practice. Rosemary Sainty, from the St James Ethics Centre which runs the annual CRI, says: "It's really about organisations being responsible and accountable and opening themselves up to being transparent, which is quite a big step in itself." At a time when consumers are growing wary of claims of sustainability, getting independent verification is important. "Consumers are wanting more information so they can make informed and responsible choices," Sainty says. To date, corporate social responsibility has focused on large companies but that is changing because of supply-chain pressure, increasing consumer awareness and a tighter regulatory framework. This year the St James Ethics Centre was commissioned by the federal Government to undertake a three-year project to expand responsible business practice nationally -- and one of the areas of focus will be to look at how to help get more SMEs on board. A new initiative, the CRI leaders network, will see organisations with consistently high CRI scores -- including Westpac and Toyota -- share their ideas, with a particular focus on sustainable supply chains. "With SMEs making up more than 95 per cent of all businesses in Australia, it is important to give them a voice in the corporate social responsibility conversation and an opportunity to lead," says Sainty, who is head of responsible business for the project.
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