In today's era of environmental consciousness, companies are increasingly developing strategies to minimize the environmental impact of their products. In part a response to customer demand, most companies that create mailing hardware solutions understand the importance and benefits of driving efficiencies in a customer's mailing operations, which helps reduce costs and impacts the environment.

For mailers interested in starting a "green"â❠strategy, the right products can make a big difference in helping achieve environmental objectives. The following four tips will help mailers decide exactly which partners have a competitive edge when it comes to environmentally responsible mailing equipment:

Baseline Assessment
In order to make improvements, every company needs a baseline assessment of its products' environmental impact. Mailers should ask how progress is measured against this baseline and which standards are being used for comparison. Most organizations that are ahead of the curve will analyze products from a life-cycle perspective and feed the results from this analysis back into the design process for improvements.

Overall Sustainability Program
To avoid companies that might be "greenwashing" (going green only as a superficial selling tactic), make sure a sustainability program is ingrained into a company's culture. The right company will have a sustainability program the touches every part of its products' life cycles, from a supplier code of conduct with environmental parameters to a design process that considers the environment, to a product take-back program that helps recycle and reuse product parts.

Compliance Requirements
Most vendors should meet the minimum compliance requirements for mailing hardware. This includes the elimination of ozone-depleting substances and meeting regulatory requirements such as the European Union's Directive on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). Progressive companies will incorporate "beyond compliance"â❠requirements into their manufacturing processes to stay well ahead of future regulatory schemes.

Environmental Leadership
No one should be more knowledgeable about the environmental impact of the mailstream than your mailing equipment vendor. Strategic relationships within the mailing industry and leadership on key issues that impact the sustainability of the mail stream will only help mailers achieve their own environmental strategies and goals.

Having information in these areas will help a mailer avoid "greenwashing"â❠and will increase the likelihood of partnering with the right mailing hardware solutions provider to help reduce environmental impact, increase efficiencies and drive costs down. As most mailers now realize, "going green" can benefit not only the environment but their own bottom line - with the right mailing equipment.

Ellen Huang is director of Environmental Affairs at Pitney Bowes Inc.