April 1st, 2013
It stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, a product registration that helps consumers identify “greener” electronics.
Initially intended for PCs and displays, the EPEAT rating system was created more than six years ago and today is used by eight national governments, including the U.S. While some describe EPEAT as a rating tool, it is most similar to an ecolabel. A trademark green check denotes a product that has achieved EPEAT Product Registration.
Last month, it was expanded to include printers, copiers and other imaging equipment.
In addition to providing consumers with a tool, it was also intended to provide marketplace rewards for innovation by clearly recognizing products that reduce environmental and health impacts.
To achieve EPEAT Registration, a device must meet at least 33 environmental performance criteria. A product can achieve a higher rating by meeting up to 26 additional criteria. Rating points include the use of recycled and recyclable materials, design for recycling, energy efficiency, packaging and corporate performance.
When EPEAT was expanded to include printers, copiers and multifunction devices last month, Xerox showcased 19 products that achieved EPEAT Registration. The company is committed to seeking EPEAT for its other products.
Another value of EPEAT is that it creates a culture of judging the environmental superiority of a product on the impacts across its entire life cycle and not just one phase, such as the product use, which has traditionally been the focus.
Will you look for the EPEAT check when you’re shopping for a printer?
January 24th, 2013
By Catherine Reeves, Manager, Communications & Systems, Xerox Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability
In response to growing consumer concern about climate change and other environmental impacts, environmental claims are increasing as a corporate marketing tool. The claims are used across sectors, including energy, motor vehicles, household products, office equipment and food/drink. Some of the claims are general, e.g. eco-friendly, carbon neutral, green; while others are vague, e.g. natural, energy efficient, non-toxic, low carbon, pollutant-free, clean, zero emissions and sustainable.
How often have you seen a label that states the product is “environmentally friendly?” Did you ask yourself whether the term “environmentally friendly” applies to the packaging, the product or both? But wait… does the label indicate the evidence to support the claim or indicate what environmental impact in which it is “friendly?”
Greenwashing is the use of marketing claims or statements — whether words, names, seals, or other symbols — that deceive or mislead consumers as to the environmental benefits or attributes of a company’s product or service, or, more broadly, the company’s environmental practices as a whole. Greenwashing may take the form of suggestive pictures or images that indicate an unjustified green impact (e.g. flowers blooming from smoke stacks). It may take a myopic view, focusing only on the product attributes and not on the process used to manufacture the product (e.g. green products vs. dirty company: such as efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers).
In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. A summary of updates to the FTC Green Guides go to was provided by Environmental Leader just this past week: FTC finalized ‘Rules of the Road’ for Environmental Marketers in Update to Green Guides. Other countries and providences have comparable watchdog agencies to protect consumers.
While it may seem like no big deal to make a vague environmental claim, the FTC considers it to be false advertising and conducts fraud investigation. The FTC or the courts have imposed “cease and desist orders,” civil penalties and corrective advertising/disclosures. These legally-binding orders require companies to stop running the deceptive ad or engaging in the deceptive practice, to have substantiation for claims in future ads, to report periodically to FTC staff about the substantiation they have for claims in new ads, and to pay a fine of $16,000 per day per ad if the company violates the law in the future.
A number of companies are conducting life-cycle assessments of their products. They are also seeking certification to respected and internationally recognized eco-labels such as Energy Star and EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool). EPEAT exists today for computers and printers. This label’s certification criteria cover the entire spectrum of the product’s value chain, from material selection, manufacturing through to end of life management. Governments are exerting their purchasing power by procuring only products that are EPEAT registered.
No firm wants to be accused of greenwashing, but they are equally concerned that if greenwashing persists, consumers will not take any environmental claim seriously and they won’t buy the truly “greener” product or service.
Nowhere else does the principle of “Caveat Emptor” apply than for environmental claims. Environmental attributes are just as much an aspect of “quality” as are “reliability” and “material composition.”
Consumers need to invest the same energy in seeking the evidence that substantiates the environmental claim just as they would for other quality claims. Government agencies can develop laws, guidelines and carry out enforcement actions, but it is truly the consumers that have the greatest ability in sending a clear message to marketing companies… show us the evidence to support your claim or face loss of market share, civil suits and enforcement actions.
August 16th, 2012
By Wendi Latko, Director of Sustainable Services, Xerox Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability
It’s the time of year I refer to as “reporting season.” It starts in late spring with receipt of questionnaires for ratings such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and Newsweek Green Rankings, and flows through summer with the compilation of Xerox’s annual report on global citizenship. And every year I hope (in vain) that there is one question I never see – how much do we spend on “green initiatives?”
It’s not that we’re reluctant to share the information. The problem is that we don’t track it – because we can’t. Certainly we have people and processes dedicated to environmental sustainability, and we could report on that. But that figure would leave out so much of the equation – the part of the equation that gives our environmental initiatives their power. Environmental thinking is integrated into our day-to-day business. That integration takes many forms, from the assessment of environmental impact of every project being tackled by our researchers to the inclusion of renewable power sources in our facility energy contracts. From employees identifying opportunities to reduce waste in their processes to our portfolio of transportation solutions that help relieve traffic congestion.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Andrew Winston argues that sustainability needs to shift from being viewed as a what concept to a how concept. He likens it to quality and innovation, stating that it creates more value when it’s embedded throughout the organization. While you need to invest resources in the technical experts to coordinate and analyze, you concurrently need to work toward full business integration.
I especially like the quality analogy. Would you want the company that made your automobile to be able to tell you how much they spend on quality? I wouldn’t. I expect it to be a given – integrated into their processes every step of the way. Why would we strive for environmental sustainability to be any different?
June 12th, 2012
By Wendi Latko, Director of Sustainable Services, Xerox Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability
Right now at Xerox we are pulling together the final pieces of our annual Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHS&S) Report, which is part of our Report on Global Citizenship. While the EHS&S report is filled with metrics and data, the part that is the most fun to compile is the call-out boxes which contain real-life examples of how we live our commitment to environmental responsibility.
Every year, however, I encounter reluctance from people in our operations who are hesitant to have their projects highlighted. Not because they aren’t doing great things – they ARE doing great things. Their resistance stems from what they see as an ethical dilemma – if a project was not undertaken for the purpose of “environment” or “sustainability,” is it right to use it as an example of a “green” accomplishment?
What if we turned the situation around – if we attacked an environmental problem, and the solution also resulted in a cost savings, would we not acknowledge that benefit to the bottom line? Of course we would! The reality is that cost and environmental impact are often closely intertwined. A quick look at the seven types of waste identified in Lean Six Sigma thinking makes it very easy to map to the associated environmental impact: the wastes of transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing, and defects. Each of these non-value added activities has costs not only in time and money, but nearly always to the environment, as well.
One way we recognize this linkage at Xerox is through annual Employee Earth Awards. These awards recognize individuals or teams for innovative or outstanding achievements that promote “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” It is an opportunity for Xerox employees to partner throughout the world to ensure that our actions have a positive impact on the environment while demonstrating value to our customers. The 15 award winners for 2011 demonstrated that what is good for the environment is also good for business. In total, they represent cost avoidance of $17.4M and waste elimination of 6M pounds. Why were those projects initiated? In some cases for cost savings, in others, to reduce environmental impact. The reality is they’re one in the same.
So are environmental improvements initially pursued for the purpose of cost containment still green? While certainly “sustainability” is a term that has a moral implication, the reality is that businesses exist to be profitable. Companies that are striving to operate responsibly still need to make money, and thus continually look for cost-effective ways to achieve their goals – both financial and environmental. We strive for the win-wins that are good for business and good for the environment.
May 1st, 2012
By Kara Rayburn, WW Product Marketing Manager, Xerox Enterprise Business Group
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a 1st grade class at a local elementary school about two topics that don’t always complement each other… technology and the environment.
In a world of Barney and Dora, children these days have a good understanding of why it is important to practice the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The students already had a good understanding of Earth Month, and volunteered several excellent ideas showing what they do to care for the earth.
- “Fix things rather than buy a new thing.”
- “Walk to school, or ride your bike!”
- “Pick up trash.”
My favorite, however, was “Clean your room.” At first thought, I found it to be an odd suggestion. However, after further discussion I realized what he meant was that if you have a clean room, then you can find your toys, shoes, etc. when you need them. Then, you won’t have to buy new items to replace the things you can’t find. That struck me as a unique way to look at a problem from a different angle. This was a great lead in to talk about how technology can be done differently – and how it can be friendlier to the environment.
In order to show the class one example of how technology can work with nature, we printed the ideas they came up with on sheets of seeded paper through a ColorQube MFP. Seed paper is just what it sounds like – sheets of paper with non-invasive wildflower seeds embedded into it. Not only were the seeds actually in the paper, they were preserved during the printing process by the solid ink technology.
The class delighted at the sight of a solid ink stick. Most thought it looked like a large crayon, and did not seem at all surprised that there was little more to the printing process than marking the “crayon” on the page. Each child was given their own sheet of paper and took the page home to see the flowers grow from their printed ideas.
I was expecting that a discussion with 1st graders about technology and the environment would be difficult. But children this young have open minds and they responded positively to the idea of finding a different way to get something done. After seeing a true example of how technology can work with the environment, I hope the knowledge might have a lasting impact so they grow up to continue responsible actions that are good for the environment in the future.
And hopefully they will have cleaner rooms as well.
April 24th, 2012
By Wendi Latko, Director of Sustainable Services, Xerox Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability
Over the recent April school break, I finally got the chance to see The Lorax. As I watched my 6-year-old laugh out loud at the film’s humor, I couldn’t help but think about the film’s message and how things have changed – or not – in the 40 years since the book was written.
The Lorax is one of Dr. Seuss’ less-disguised social commentaries, pointedly highlighting the dangers posed by industrial development and corporate greed. In the story, an entrepreneur named the Once-ler invents a garment called a Thneed, made from the prized tuft of the Truffula tree. He cuts more and more trees to meet demand, leaving environmental carnage behind, until, finally, he cuts down the last tree. Unable to produce any more product, his company folds and he retreats to a reclusive existence.
Despite the rhyming text and whimsical pictures, Dr. Seuss’ point is not at all subtle: disregard for the implications of business growth not only compromise the world in which we live, but also the ongoing viability of the business itself.
So where are we today? There is certainly a lot of attention to environmental issues and corporate responsibility. But have things really changed?
From our vantage point at Xerox, the answer would be yes. Among Xerox’s customers, energy and waste are top of mind today, just as they were in the mid-1990’s when we first systematically started looking at our products’ environmental impacts. What has changed is the level of detail our customers are looking for – today they want to know how much we can help reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint, and to make it easy for them to reduce waste. Programs such as our Green World Alliance for recycling and managing consumables waste have evolved over time to meet those expectations. Today, we also have customers asking us to help them print less, finding ways to improve their processes and manage their information without putting marks on paper.
Growth is certainly top of mind for nearly all companies today, but we don’t see our customers solely focused on “biggering” (the Once-ler’s word) their operations at the expense of all else. While I won’t speculate on motivations, customers are increasingly raising the bar on their environmental expectations. The reality is, especially in the early stages of paying attention to environmental issues, what is good for the company in the long term is very often also good for the environment. Waste nearly inevitably equates to unnecessary cost and environmental impact. And, as Dr. Seuss so effectively illustrates, by ignoring the environmental impact of his operations, the Once-ler ultimately drove himself out of business by depleting the very raw material that made his product possible.
While many view environmental sustainability as a moral issue, the reality is that “business is business, and business must grow!” The good news is that growing business doesn’t need to equal “biggering factories, biggering roads, biggering wagons, and biggering loads.” Companies that are striving to operate responsibly continually look for cost-effective ways to achieve their goals – both financial and environmental.
October 13th, 2011
-Submitted by Wendi Latko, Director of Sustainable Services, Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability
Every day I receive several newsletters in my inbox, which are basically compilations and commentary on environmental news. The fact that there even needs to be digests of this information is a testament to how widespread the attention to the environment is these days. But how can any of us know what to believe?
A survey released by Gfk Custom Research North America in September showed a definite trend with more respondents saying businesses are fulfilling their responsibility to the environment, and fewer saying that business’ environmental claims are not accurate. The absolute scores are still sobering though – 63% feel businesses are not fulfilling their responsibility, and 39% say business’ claims are not accurate.
Environmental claims are a bit different from so many other advertising claims. If a manufacturer makes a claim regarding price, the consumer can do the math to verify it. If a brand of yogurt or mac & cheese promises to “taste better than the leading brand,” for a few dollars you can decide for yourself. But what about those energy labels on the appliances you buy? Or claims that goods are “sustainably sourced” or “eco-friendly” or, worst of all, “green?”
The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines that specify what can and can’t be said about the environmental attributes of a product. These “Green Guides” outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and then provide guidance on specific green claims, such as biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled content, and ozone safe. Basically, any claim made about a product needs to be specific and substantiated. Generalized claims such as “eco-friendly” or “green” are particularly problematic, unless the justification for those claims is prominently displayed. This poses a challenge for packaging designers and marketers – no one wants to use footnotes on the label of their product!
ENERGY STAR is perhaps the best known example of an environmental label. While most of us would claim familiarity with the program, it wasn’t until I became involved with Xerox’s product stewardship that I realized how stringent the process is. For example, printing equipment is tested according to a well-defined protocol that is intended to roughly mimic a typical workday. This process accounts for the differences in power consumption and time spent in different modes (run, standby, sleep). Also, I never realized that the ENERGY STAR standards are always changing. A product that achieved ENERGY STAR in 2008 would quite likely not meet today’s standards, and products launched today may not meet the standards in place a few years from now. Finally, earlier this year new requirements went into effect requiring third party validation of energy testing data.
Environmental impact is complex – and more often than not, there are tradeoffs associated with the choices. Energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs contain mercury. Hybrid car battery packs need to be managed at the end of their useful life. Products become smaller and lighter weight, but don’t last as long. Organic foods use fewer chemicals, but have a lower crop yield and therefore, less food to feed society. Electronic devices replace paper documents, but require electricity to run and ultimately end up as electronic waste. How can a consumer be sure that a company’s claims, even if true, are reflecting the whole story?
Consider just a few of the items that have made the news in the past few weeks:
- The 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Index recently ousted and added members to its list.
- The announcement of a legal settlement by a major retailer and an appliance manufacturer regarding inappropriate Energy Star claims.
These examples just give a glimpse into the detail that surrounds environmental requirements for companies. It may lead you to think twice about what you hear when it comes to products claiming to be “green.”
In the end, businesses work very hard to meet the requirements set by ENERGY STAR, EPEAT, Blue Angel and others to provide more sustainable products to their customers and help lessen our impact on the environment.
Have you ever questioned a product claiming to be “green” or “eco-friendly?”