Energy Efficiency, Energy Procurement, Industrial - April 2, 2018 - By Kousuke Ito
Three Best Practices for Launching a Sustainability Program with Business Partners
As businesses look at transitioning to more sustainable practices, a top-down, bottom-up approach to going green can prove beneficial. For a true sustainable approach to business, sustainability must be ensconced within the company’s culture and looked upon as an indispensable component for pushing corporate culture forward – both internally and via business partners. If the business relies on dealer partners to sell its products, the dealers should be viewed as an extension of the larger corporation and should also be made aware of corporate sustainability efforts and ways to enhance their overall sustainability practices. There are many considerations to think about when looking to make an impactful sustainability program for partners and dealers. These considerations can include analyzing trend research, developing a training program and generating buy-in, and finally, initiating the training program.
In order to justify the potential capital cost of a sustainability program for dealers and business partners, it is a good idea to first look at the hard numbers related to sustainability. If there aren’t any studies available relative to the program your business is looking at, it could be worthwhile to look internally and launch an in-house study. A study we conducted found out that 64 percent of our dealers said their customers were mentioning sustainability standards. Had we not conducted this study, we could have been completely unaware of this void we have the tools and ability to fill. In addition to identifying customers who could benefit from learning more about sustainable product offerings, we were also able to expand our commitment to a more sustainable world. This research and analysis step should also contain a look at different markets the company is trying to serve. For instance, a university that is a member of a sustainability consortium would have different needs than a small- to medium-sized business. In contrast, companies may be more focused on cost reduction and process improvement, but this training should equip dealers with the proper knowledge to explain how cost reduction and sustainability can often go hand-in-hand.
To make a true impact, sustainability should be approached holistically and treated as a business practice. If it’s ingrained in a company’s DNA, employees could begin to think of sustainability as second nature. Given that sustainable practices are something all employees can and should contribute to, generating buy-in is incredibly important. Once the dealer and business partner program is set, it’s time to spread the word. Sell to the sellers. Create dealer-facing materials to get business partners excited, these can include emails, videos, brochures and more. These materials should accurately represent the benefits of membership and any incentives associated with joining. Expanding green initiatives past the walls of your organization expands your circle of sustainability commitment. Together, companies can accomplish more than individual organizations alone.
Trainings should prepare the selling teams with the knowledge to understand customers’ sustainability needs and properly recommend products to fit the business in all aspects including volume, fleet size, sustainability and more. It may be beneficial to install the trainings in waves. An introductory course to the basics of sustainability can go a long way and gives a good foundation to build upon. After the basics, it opens up conversations around implementing true sustainable practices throughout a company.
There is no standard one-size fits all approach to sustainability, but equipping partners and dealers with the proper information to help customers make informed decisions about sustainable products and incorporating them into their offices, is a win for all parties involved.
Kousuke Ito serves as Director of Environmental Sustainability and Product Compliance for Ricoh in the Americas. In this role, Ito is responsible for designing and executing Ricoh’s environmental and green marketing strategies along with overseeing environmental, health and safety (EHS) compliance for Ricoh’s products and services in the U.S. and Canada.
Ito brings more than 20 years of experience to the role dedicated to supporting Ricoh’s long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. Most recently, Ito was Senior Manager of Product Management and Green Marketing, Environmental Sustainability and Product Compliance. Previous roles include Manager of Regulatory Compliance, and Manager of Demanufacturing Operations.
Ito began his career at Ricoh in 1997 as an Environmental Engineer. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Boston University.
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