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Focus on corporate responsibility key to profitable business

01 May 11

There is no doubt New Zealand is moving towards being a mature "green’” economy – one where scrutiny from individual consumers and business customers will put a premium on having credible corporate responsibility – encompassing economic, environmental and social impacts – at the heart of your business.

As a reseller, you might think you market "environmentally friendly” products, and that is enough. However, you need also to consider how your company stacks up in terms of employee satisfaction and engagement, and how your business supports your local community and cares for the environment.

Ricoh New Zealand believes that after its people, sustainability credentials are the next most important factor in ongoing profitability and market success and has made it a key strategic focus.

For any business there are two parts to the sustainability equation – the business itself, and its products or services.

Making an environmental claim which isn’t backed up by credible facts or independent verification will be swiftly condemned as "green washing”.

This can be disastrous. It is difficult to shake off resulting negative perceptions and damage to your brand.

A survey by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development showed consumers – particularly those in relatively affluent income brackets – are more likely to buy a product if it has an "eco” label.

Recognising this early, Ricoh was the first in its sector to have its products accredited with the Environmental Choice tick.

Many business customers also want to look beyond the product to buy from companies which can show corporate responsibility is at the heart of their business. Some large companies have procurement officers who now put a strong emphasis on dealing with similarly sustainably focused organisations.

The "all-of-government” tenders for office solutions services, and for vehicle suppliers, were decided last year and included a significant section on sustainability credentials. Given the size of the deals, missing out was not an option for many key industry players.

An important step in the right direction for demonstrating environmental responsibility is attaining independent accreditation. Options include attaining Enviromark or an ISO certification, or embarking on Landcare Research’s carboNZero programme.

Ricoh New Zealand was the first in its industry in New Zealand to achieve the globally recognised environmental management system certification ISO 14001 back in 2001 and has obtained carboNZero certification as an organisation and for its service – another first for the industry in New Zealand. We have extended our environmental management to our national dealer network, helping them to attain carboNZero status – a clear differentiation in the market place.

The best way to address product sustainability is a "cradle to grave” product stewardship approach.

This life cycle covers design (does the product you sell include parts which are easily recyclable, or are from a sustainable source?), through manufacture and packaging, to distribution and eventually its end of life.

Measures such as the Waste Minimisation Act increasingly put the onus on resellers to take responsibility for what happens to their products at end of life.

Ricoh New Zealand uses innovative approaches, both in product design and in industry partnerships. Our product stewardship has reached a new level by linking with Sims Recycling Solutions, which dismantles old machines – remarkably, up to 98 per cent.

We are finding other e-waste recyclers around the country, so we hope high recycling rates will be possible nationwide.

In comparison to parts of Europe and the US, New Zealand is lagging behind when it comes to a focus on sustainability.

Ricoh New Zealand is one of an increasing number of companies here which recognise the importance of publicly reporting its sustainability. We recently published our third annual report.

This reflects our strategic decision to become an industry leader in sustainability, and most importantly, remain a profitable business.

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