Green Has Always Been More Than Just a Color to Xerox

Back in the early 1980s when Al Gore was still just a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 6th District of Tennessee, Xerox initiated a formal policy to begin reducing waste and conserve energy across its internal operations.

The energy crisis of the 1970s with its long lines at the gas pump was still fresh in the minds of Americans, so support for this early effort by Xerox to design its products and operations with ecological sustainability was strong. But that’s not why Xerox did it. The company understood even before the 1970s that sustainability was a key part of an overall corporate citizenship policy, so it would have acted to initiate sustainability policies and partnerships no matter what.

Who knew the issue of conservation and green technology would become what it has today?

The awakening of India, China and Russia as fast-growing manufacturing and services giants has resulted in a huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels by industry and massive numbers of new automobiles. Heavy metals and contaminants released by often unregulated manufacturing and disposal processes threaten to quickly raise pollutant levels off the charts, just as earth-warming carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere near 400 parts per million, a level that in 1950 was somewhere around 60.

This is why efforts towards environmental sustainability from companies like Xerox are designed for maximum impact and reach. Plans like that take time, which is why Xerox began practicing sustainability long before the Green Movement became vogue. For over a decade, Xerox has introduced green features such as paper-saving two-sided printers, automated power-down functions that reduce electricity use and Xerox’s patented solid ink system that puts more color on the page and less waste in the landfill.

As this new century dawned, a companywide sustainability initiative from Xerox, called Energy Challenge 2012, set a goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions from worldwide operations by 10 percent from 2002 to 2012. In 2007, Xerox boosted that target to 25 percent.

Motivating the decision to raise that target to 25 percent was a desire by Xerox to take its sustainability efforts even further. Recently, the company formed a sustainability strategy team which came together to further integrate sustainability into its operations. They built on the already existing sustainability framework for the company that consisted of four core areas upon which Xerox could best leverage its green initiatives and do the most work, said Xerox Community Manager Elissa Nesbitt. All four were suited with clear goals and objectives that would enable progress to be measured and targets hit she said.

Those four core areas are:

* Reduce energy use to protect our climate,

* Preserve biodiversity and the worlds forests,

* Preserve clean air and water

* Prevent waste prevention and management.

Ongoing research into smart technology that can help printers and other systems use less power, or shut down when not in use, are part of the efforts behind Xerox’s Climate Change and Energy sustainability program. Xerox became a Charter Partner as the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program was being initiated in 1993, and contributed its expertise to standards development. Since then, it has produced almost 350 copiers, printers, faxes and multi-function printers that qualified for the original ENERGY STAR designation. And when EPA raised the bar in 2007, Xerox qualified 140 products, including 80 percent of its eligible newly launched products, even though EPA expected only 25 percent of industry products to meet the new requirements.

Launched in 1992 by the EPA and DoE as a voluntary labeling program to promote energy-efficient products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ENERGY STAR products can save a small business that spends $2,000 a year on energy bills over 30 percent – or about $600 per year – with no sacrifice in performance. In fact, if all computers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR certified, the country would save $2 billion a year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to 2 million cars, according to ENERGY STAR.

Xerox’s Bio-diversity efforts embrace the importance of the world’s forests, and of finding ways to create a sustainable paper cycle and promote smart use of paper, said Nesbitt. Here, Xerox has partnered with The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization working to protect land and water. Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. This kind of partnering is what helps Xerox reach further to accomplish it sustainability goals, said Nesbitt.

“When we talk about protecting the planet, you really have to partner with all the stakeholders involved, be they a global organization, or our local channel partners. Being green is really a part of our DNA at Xerox,” she said, adding that the company has put sustainability policies and practices in place to engage all parts of its supply chain. This helps ensure that partners are aligned with Xerox’s commitment to sustainability.

The company also monitors manufacturing processes and its operations in an effort to exceed compliance efforts and do its part to reduce toxins and ensure that they’re being smart about water use. It’s all about knowing your business, understanding what you can do to help, and then taking action, explained Nesbitt.

“We are in the business of putting marks on paper, and we realize we have a responsibly to support that in an environmentally sound way,” she said.

Innovation is a strategic advantage when it comes to improving sustainability, and Xerox’s efforts are not just helping the company hit – and raise – its goals, they are also propelling the development of breakthrough printing and imaging products that satisfy the needs of their customers while protecting the planet. From industry-leading solid ink technology in the market today, to experimental technology like erasable paper that can be completely wiped clean and reused on another print job, Xerox remain at the forefront of sustainability, and will continue to help partners large and small get involved in what is clearly one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Learn more links:

Xerox Citizenship Report’s segment about Sustainability

Xerox’s commitment to the environment site

Sustainable paper and supplies