Practice Greenhealth member saves money with sustainable office supplies

Published: 01/17/2019 - 11:11
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Dignity Health supply chain and sustainability staff worked collaboratively with Staples, their office supply distributor, to improve the use of more sustainable office supplies throughout their network. The results of this initiative that began in late 2016 have shown both an increase in “sustainable spend” and 5 to 7 percent savings in the category of office supplies.

“Our purchasing decisions not only contribute to our cost and quality goals but connect us to our core values – especially that of stewardship – cultivating the resources entrusted to us to promote healing, which is at the heart of what we do at Dignity Health”, says Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, Dignity Health vice president of corporate responsibility. “Our goal in working closely with Staples and others in our vendor community is to extend the responsibility within the supply chain, so that we see a much bigger impact in our society and our earth.”

The decision to initiate this project was two-fold: The efforts would involve almost every Dignity employee, which would reinforce the organization’s commitment to a culture of sustainability, and this category is non-clinical, so although it was a widespread effort, it did not involve screening for clinical efficacy.

Once the sustainable office supply core list was identified, communications throughout the organization was essential to success. In Dignity’s case, not only did they use their own internal mechanisms, but they also employed Staples’ system communications to inform users network-wide of the upcoming changes while highlighting the sustainability and cost-saving benefits.

“Communication was critical to the adoption of the program,” says Jeff Stoner, Dignity’s product line administrator. “We maximized impact of direct end user communications by messaging within our ordering platforms and widely publicizing within the organization.”

The successful program has been up and running for almost two years, and Dignity continues to track the gain in the use of sustainable office supplies and even includes those statistics in its annual report on sustainability.

“We set goals and seek ongoing successes year over year through vendor partnerships that help track performance and growth,” said Stoner.

In addition, the standard for sustainable office products has been used to “refresh” the core list and expand the selection of items to users without compromising on the sustainable features of those products. This approach also provides the ability to track progress on the use of better products in this category.

If your organization is looking at the office supply category for implementation of more sustainable products, here are some recommendations:

  1. Set a goal. But first analyze current spend on sustainable office supplies to determine your benchmark. Then set a reasonable goal based on the subcategories you will be including in the initial efforts. We have typically used spend to calculate benchmarks and track progress.

  2. Focus on high-spend products. This typically means toner and paper, but your office supply distributor can run report by category that will help focus the work.

  3. Establish what your standard for sustainability is by office supply subcategories. Instead of trying to set granular standards (like one for each SKU), set standards for categories, such as

    - Paper
    - Toner
    - Mailing supplies
    - Binders
    - Pens/pencils 

    The standards in some standards in some of these categories can be as simple as recycled content of “X”%, or as complex as recycled content of “X”%, “Y” certification, absence of “Z” chemicals and no “A” in packaging. 

    The key to setting the standard is recognizing what is possible to achieve within your organization and not setting a standard so complex or stringent that product selection becomes a dissatisfier among users

  4. Review pricing impacts. Local negotiations for the new core products is likely required to reduce pricing deltas.

  5. Communicate the plan, process, and benefits.

  6. Use a group to champion the project. This can help with communications, goal tracking and troubleshooting during implementation.

  7. Leverage the supplier. Office supply distributors have exceptional system capabilities and can provide unique solutions for these types of projects. In some cases, the system can even help with communication of the upcoming change – or it can help users select the established sustainable product if they start to order the supplies “they’ve always ordered.”

  8. Communicate during implementation. All of us know that even with detailed planning, these types of projects usually need tweaks after implementation so communication remains an important part of the ongoing program management.

  9. Celebrate success. Use a newsletter, posters, management meetings, and other venues to inform users that their choices are making a positive impact on the environment and bottom line.

With planning and focus, office supplies can provide significant improvement in an organization’s use of sustainable products while helping to establish a process for future category conversions.

As a member of Greenhealth Exchange, Dignity Health had access to existing terms and conditions and was able to leverage the detailed work already done reviewing products against an established standard for these efforts.

Dignity Health regularly tracks their office supply purchases and what percentage of those purchases are considered sustainable. The chart depicts their current progress of sustainable purchases in the office supply category. “Advanced” represents those products that Greenhealth Exchange has established a standard for, and “basic” represents products that fall outside of the advanced category but still have a sustainable feature, such as recycled content.

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