Hearing that another distributor has a living roof or solar panels — or both — might be intimidating for those looking to get started or improve current sustainability efforts.

“Distributors are sometimes afraid if they start reporting on what they’re doing and start with only a few categories, that they will embarrass themselves because they are not perfect,” Ashkin says.

But that shouldn’t be the case. Sustainability should be viewed as a journey,
says Ashkin.

“No one is doing it perfectly,” he adds. “Not only are they not doing it perfectly, they may never do it perfectly.”

Ashkin breaks down sustainability for distributors into two areas of focus: transportation and facilities.

To lessen the impact of transportation, many distributors use fleet management software to map out fuel-efficient routes for product deliveries. A small number of distributors are investing in hybrid trucks or vans. Yet, even more popular are distributors’ investment in alternatively fueled vehicles for the warehouse. About 30 percent of distributors are using hydrogen or propane-fueled forklifts.

When looking to improve sustainability at their own facilities, distributors have plenty of options.

“Look at how your building operates — heating and cooling, energy use, water use, etc.,” says Ashkin.

Reducing energy use is a very popular sustainable tactic with 59 percent of distributors implementing energy-efficient lighting in their warehouses and office facilities, according to the SM survey.

When Norton Shores, Mich.-based Nichols first achieved LEED certification for existing buildings, a lighting change in its warehouse led to a 35 percent energy use reduction.

As the company prepares to recertify by June 2015 and participates in the LEED v4 beta program, Nichols is again changing its lights, which should reduce energy use by another 35 to 40 percent, says Renae Hesselink, vice president of sustainability.

According to the SM survey, waste and recycling efforts currently lead the way as the most popular sustainable initiatives with 61 percent of distributors reusing pallets; 59 percent recycling corrugated cardboard; and 44 percent involved with recycling other materials. In addition, 44 percent of distributors look to reduce their waste overall.

At Philip Rosenau, early efforts focused on recycling aluminum cans and toner. Recycling has since expanded: cardboard and shrink wrap is baled onsite, and a recycling company picks up the bales and pays Philip Rosenau for them. Pallets also are recycled or used.

Another recycling initiative saves old cleaning equipment from the landfill. When a customer no longer wants a machine, employees of Philip Rosenau will take the equipment to a local company, where it is broken down for its scrap metal and plastic.

previous page of this article:
Do Cleaning Customers Care About Sustainability?
next page of this article:
Making A Commitment To Sustainability