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IBM Calls Suppliers to Account on Sustainability

How do we move the larger corporate and business world toward sustainability? Sometimes all it takes is one big supplier to hold its suppliers accountable, and all of a sudden, there is a sea change.

That’s the position that IBM has put its suppliers in. As announced at the Eco Forum, IBM has asked its suppliers — all 28,000+ of them — to do three things:

  1. Find and employ their own management systems for sustainability
  2. Set at least three voluntary goals or objectives that makes sense for their business and that they can achieve
  3. Publicly disclose how they are doing.

Although there is no official accountability associated with this (and what “publicly disclose” means isn’t clear), the concept is sound. It’s a subtle, it’s low-pressure, but it’s a clear signal that is being sent from a major brand marketer that adds to the mix. Sustainability is becoming mainstream.

The more other brand marketers do along the same lines, the more quickly the momentum will build. It’s one thing to take your own steps toward sustainability, but when you ask your suppliers to do the same, that momentum is ratcheted up more quickly. Is there something you can do — some influence you can wield — in the area of supplier relationships that will make a difference to the planet?

To see a YouTube video discussing this issue and others related to IBM’s position on sustainability, click here.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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