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Sustaining Businesses Through Foodservice Paper Solutions

July 12, 2012
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Sustainability is quickly becoming the focus of today''s business strategy as a way to improve profitability, sustain a competitive advantage, increase operational efficiency and reduce environmental impact and waste.

Facility managers across a variety of industries are constantly working to conserve natural resources and lessen their environmental impact in order to meet regulatory guidelines and customer requests.

Organizations want to positively impact the communities in which they operate, and many businesses are seeking to showcase the environmental strategies being implemented in their facility.

Additionally, both new and existing commercial buildings, hotels and facilities continue to apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

In fact, as of December 2011, square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings surpassed LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

One approach that can help businesses improve their environmental platform is to offer sustainable paper solutions in foodservice areas including break rooms, cafeterias and food preparation areas.

Cups, plates, napkins, towels and wipers, as well as deli papers and pan liners, may seem like small essentials, but they can quickly add up to help businesses reduce consumption and waste, demonstrate commitment to sustainability and increase operational efficiency.

Three Key Tenets: Social, Environmental And Economic Impact

At Georgia-Pacific Professional, we define sustainability as "Meeting the needs of society today without jeopardizing our ability to do so in the future."

This encompasses the enhancement of social well-being, environmental protection and economic prosperity.

We feel that, to enhance an overarching sustainability platform, facility managers should make all business decisions with the optimal balance among all three dimensions.

It''s a way of thinking and working that leads to practices that are environmentally and socially responsible as well as economically sound.

We focus on long-term value creation for our customers by creating innovative products that provide high performance at an excellent value.

We believe that the greatest long-term value to one''s customers, end users and the environment is found in products that provide a wise and sustainable use of resources.

One effective way to achieve sustainability is offering sustainable paper products in foodservice settings.

Cutting Costs By Reducing Waste

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), waste from commercial and institutional locations, such as businesses, schools and hospitals, amounted to 35 to 45 percent of total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated during 2010.

Paper and paperboard accounted for 29 percent of total MSW.

Foodservice settings offer a great opportunity for a business to improve operational efficiency and reduce environmental impact by selecting paper products that reduce consumption and waste.

Using paper products made from responsibly managed resources can help facilities to enhance their sustainability program.

From compostable cups made from renewable resources, napkins with 95 percent recycled fiber content and dispensers that help to reduce waste, there are a number of foodservice paper products facility managers should consider.

Dispensers that allow for one-at-a-time dispensing of napkins placed in break rooms and cafeterias, for example, can help increase operational efficiency, are cost-effective and can reduce waste by 30 percent by preventing overuse.

Sustainability In Packaging And Design

Innovations in product packaging are another way to help an organization reduce its environmental footprint.

Businesses should look for paper products that can be shipped or stored in a limited area, cutting transportation costs and increasing the amount of products that can be stored onsite.

Additionally, product density and packaging designed to maximize space can reduce the overall environmental impact of the product, for example, helping to reduce the number of trucks required to transport product.

In addition to sustainable packaging, organizations looking to enhance their sustainability program through foodservice paper solutions should consider product design.

Disposable paper products are staple items in foodservice settings for their hygiene and convenience benefits.

Today, there are a number of more sustainable paper options available including recycled content products, reusable options and compostable products.

Utilizing compostable cups, napkins and towels made from renewable resources, for example, can reduce impact on the environment.

Meeting Industry Standards

Many businesses are challenged to explain and defend their environmental position.

This is often required through corporate, city, state and industry specifications or regulations requiring some form of certification of products or services.

Certifications can come from government and non-government organizations.

For instance, buildings looking to gain LEED certification need products that are environmentally sustainable through source/waste reduction and recycled content.

Choosing paper products that are made from responsibly managed sources as a part of environmentally preferable purchasing program could help these buildings earn points toward LEED certification.

Another way to operate in a sustainable manner is to utilize paper products that support healthy forest environments, which help clean our air and water while providing economic livelihood for millions of Americans.

Purchasing products with Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) chain-of-custody certification can increase customer confidence that they''re making a sustainable decision.

To secure SFI chain-of-custody certification, companies must have a tracking system in place so they can tell customers how much certified, responsible sourcing and/or recycled content is in a product.

There are many sustainability priorities that can be achieved through product selection; these can include use of renewable resources, natural resource depletion, recycling, landfill diversion and emissions.

By purchasing foodservice solutions that meet or exceed EPA guidelines for post-consumer waste, for example, facility managers can have confidence that they are providing paper products designed with sustainability in mind.

Decision-makers should also ensure that they are doing business with companies that have high integrity and supplement with third-party certifications when they make sense for the business.

Assessing Total Value To Drive Success

There are many different elements and factors that organizations should be aware of when evaluating paper solutions for foodservice settings.

By listening to the demands of customers and evaluating the costs, quality and environmental impact of a paper product, facility decision-makers will be able to maintain customer satisfaction and decrease operational costs — critical components of maintaining a competitive edge within the industry.

By considering the three key tenets used to define sustainability when selecting paper products — social, environmental and economic impact — facility managers can gain a competitive advantage and drive business success by increasing operational efficiency and reducing waste.

As Vice President of Strategy and Category Effectiveness for Georgia-Pacific Professional, John Mulcahy works to realistically assess the marketplace and establish long-term strategy based on Georgia-Pacific Professional''s strengths, including the role of sustainability and corporate social responsibility in achieving long-term business objectives.

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