Many of the world's enterprises, large and small, are committed to environmental sustainability by launching innovative programs. A significant number of these initiatives are not only reducing energy consumption and waste, but also saving money - a critical element of any corporate strategy in today's challenging economy. To help promote these goals in the document management arena, Océ Business Services periodically shares our insights on implementing sustainable and cost-effective practices across the document lifecycle, which spans document creation through disposal.

Five Easy Pieces
There are several mail management practices that can help companies reach both their environmental and cost-reduction goals. From the sustainability perspective, these practices can significantly reduce the use of paper, thereby saving trees, fuel in shipping the paper and physical space to store it. From the financial perspective, respondents participating in Océ industry surveys have indicated that mail and shipping practices have a high impact on reducing costs, driving faster time to market and improving operational efficiency.

Following are five mail management practices that can help organizations improve the environment as well as drive the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of their operations.

House list hygiene
Companies can lose a substantial amount of money by not updating their mailing lists. It's estimated that two percent of all mail is returned and the total cost of re-mail is $3.50 to $4.50 per mail piece. The need to update is a constant challenge because about 15 to 20 percent of consumers and businesses move every year. The solution: save money and paper by regularly updating mailing lists to limit duplication and waste. Make sure that addresses are correct before the mail goes out, and when a mail piece is returned undelivered, update the database as soon as possible before the next mailing cycle. Consistently updating databases can have a significant, positive impact on sustainability and cost-reduction initiatives.

Document design dividends
Paying attention to document design can reap solid dividends. For example, printing on both sides of the paper (duplex printing) can substantially cut paper use and reduce mailing costs. Simply decreasing the margin and font size can reduce the number of pages in a document. Additionally, variable data and document composition tools enable companies to combine two documents/ mailings into one. One example of this approach is TransPromo, in which a document is created that combines a piece of transactional printing, such as a bill statement, with promotional or marketing content - all in one document.

Defaulting to duplex
While mentioned earlier as an element of document design, duplex printing is a major cost-effective and sustainable practice worthy of additional mention. Most multi-page documents don't require the text to be printed on one side of the page. Newspapers, magazines and books use both sides. Companies can decrease paper use by up to 50 percent by making duplex printing the norm, a move that can also help the environment. Océ implemented a green campaign as a joint effort to help a financial services company client reduce paper usage. Through initiatives such as moving print production to copiers that can print on both sides of a page, the company acknowledged that Océ helped it significantly reduce paper consumption and realize thousands of dollars in cost savings."

Certified paper trails
The United States Postal Service (USPS) recommends that when sourcing paper, make sure it comes from forests managed with practices certified by independent, third-party organizations such as the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). SFI forest certification promotes responsible forestry practices. To be certified, forest operations across the United States and Canada must be audited against the SFI forest standard. While this sourcing practice focuses mainly on sustainability, it does have business benefits. By choosing SFI-certified products, a company can use its buying power to improve forest management while sending a clear signal to customers it cares about forests.

Greening direct mail
In a sustainability campaign, the USPS asked "How green' in your direct mail?" Organizations have many opportunities to lessen the environmental impact of direct mail, which accounts for 2.3 percent of landfill waste. One way to spare the environment is the inks. Companies can look for agri-based inks and use them whenever possible as well as opt for less ink usage/coverage (fewer colors mean fewer chemicals). Working with the right business partners also can help. Companies can seek out partners located nearby in order to minimize transportation, reducing cost and using less fuel. Two other initiatives include finding vendors that use renewable energy sources and using print-on-demand technology instead of printing large quantities and warehousing them until they're needed.

Any organization can implement these strategies - internally or with an outsourcing partner - to benefit the bottom line as well as the environment. As many companies are demonstrating every day, green business can also be good business.

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Joe Freeman is a business solutions architect for Océ Business Services, a leading provider of managed business process services. Visit Océ at