As the world becomes increasingly aware of the impact of human activities on the environment, businesses are facing pressure to adopt more sustainable practices. This includes print and mail operations. With increasing energy insecurity, higher consumer expectations, new regulations, and growing demand by investors for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, pressure is ratcheting up for more sustainable practices.
The good news is there are steps that can be taken to improve the sustainability of print and mail operations, whether it’s among your many duties at a privately owned business or if you help run an in-plant operation. While setting ambitious, long-term goals is good, it’s important, as well, to think in the short-term to ensure that action is actually taking place. Here are steps can you take now to make a difference.
Make Sustainability a Part of Your Business Strategy
Integrate sustainability into your company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan so management, employees, and partners are all aligned with broader company environmental and financial goals. Develop a strategy to reduce your carbon and overall environmental impact.
Oftentimes, sustainable practices over the long-term are good for an operation’s bottom line because reducing inefficiencies and waste saves money. Additionally, running a more sustainable print and mail operation can help your organization’s brand image.
Reduce Paper Usage and Waste
Look for ways to reduce paper usage in your operation and consider implementing digital workflows where possible. Encourage customers to opt in for electronic delivery of invoices, statements, and other communications. There are software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions available, for example, that automate outbound document workflows and replace inefficient manual processes. Time-consuming manual processes lower employee productivity and increase the likelihood of errors, which can lead to waste. For print and mail service providers, there are solutions that can automate various business processes.
When you use paper, choose eco-friendly options. This includes paper that is made from recycled materials, certified by organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and produced using renewable energy sources. Eco-friendly paper is often more expensive than regular paper, but it can help reduce the impact of your operation on the environment.
Adopt Energy-Efficient Equipment
Another way to improve the sustainability practices in your print and mail operation is to adopt high-efficiency equipment. This includes printers, folder inserters, and mail systems that are designed to ensure high-quality impressions and efficient machine operation. Keep your machines running in peak condition.
Incorrect or incomplete addresses not only waste time and postage costs, but also materials, resulting in higher volumes of returned mail. Preventing failed deliveries will reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, recipients who mistakenly receive mailings will throw them out, adding to the waste stream.
Whether your focus is direct marketing, order fulfillment, or transactional mailings, accurate contact data is essential. Use a comprehensive contact data quality solution that will validate contact data as it’s entered across digital channels, correct existing records for compliance and customer experience, and maintain an up-to-date database as people and businesses move. Not only will this improve your sustainability, but it will also help the postal system do the same. According to the United States Postal Service, the cost to forward, return, and dispose of undeliverable pieces of mail was more than $1.38 billion in 2021. That cost is then passed on by the USPS in the form of postage increases.
Combine Documents in the Same Envelope
Modern letter folding and envelope stuffing systems not only remove the manual process of sending multiple documents within the same envelope, but they also ensure the right documents are inserted and go to the right recipient. The addition of automation software creates intelligent barcodes for each document that direct the folder inserter to group, sort, collate, and process documents based on pre-defined business rules. Combining offers or inserts intended for the same customer or household into one envelope reduces the number of necessary mailings and transforms ordinary mail into high-impact and actionable communications.
Recycling is an important part of sustainability initiatives. Make sure to recycle all paper waste generated by your operation, including envelopes, packaging, and scrap paper. When possible, recycle ink cartridges and toner cartridges, as well as any other equipment that has reached the end of its life.
Go Multi-Channel with Communication Campaigns
Multi-channel campaigns provide a value-add to your customer base while increasing the effectiveness of campaigns and improving the customer experience. Support your mail operation with a multi-channel document delivery offering.
Measure and Monitor Your Impact
It is essential to measure and monitor your environmental impact to understand where you can improve. Consider tracking your energy consumption, transportation-related emissions, and waste generation to identify areas where you can make changes to your operation.
Running a sustainable print and mail operation is essential to minimize the environmental impact of your business. By choosing sustainable materials, using energy-efficient systems, optimizing and automating your business processes, reducing paper waste, ensuring address accuracy, and measuring and monitoring your impact, you can create a more sustainable operation that benefits both your business and the planet.
Alain Fairise is Chief Solution Officer, Mail Related Solutions for Quadient, a leader in helping businesses transform their customer experience by creating meaningful connections through digital and physical channels. Fairise is a strategic leader with more than 20 years of experience helping businesses of all sizes enhance customer experience with the latest mail-related and digital communications technology. He can be reached at email@example.com. Learn how Quadient can help your business by visiting mail.quadient.com.
This article originally appeared in the May/June, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.