Cynical Eye on Sprint’s ECO-commitment

Samsung (Sprint) Replenish

Recently, I stumbled across a stat that surprised me. Sprint ranked #6 on Newsweek’s 2010 list of the 500 greenest “big companies” in America. (Click here for the methodology.) Considering the extent to which I’ve written about e-media as a coal-fired-power-guzzling, mountaintop-removing marketing channel, this stat intrigued me.

This score is derived from three component scores: the Environmental Impact Score, the Green Policies Score, and the Reputation Survey Score.   To find out how and why Sprint’s ECOmmitment policies earned it a high ranking, click here.

Among those that caught my eye:

  • Sprint is the first and only U.S. telecommunications provider to publicly commit to significantly increase its phone-recycling efforts. It is pledging to collect an amount equal to 90% of what it sells per year by 2017.
  • Sprint leads the U.S. telecommunications industry in terms of actual renewable energy in use and has committed to securing 10% of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2017.
  • Spring is  reducing its carbon footprint by eliminating the use of Styrofoam cups, lighting signage on campus with solar panels, printing bills on thinner paper (allowing less paper to be wasted), using natural lighting when possible, and replacing traditional incandescent lighting with LED lights, which are 70% more efficient.
  • Spring has committed the company to recycling 50% of its operational waste from commercial facilities by 2017. It is working to ensure that 90% of its suppliers comply with its environmental standards by 2017 as well.

But as usual, there’s something that bugs me. In its list of eco-policies, Sprint lists its transition to e-billing, which is not environmentally friendly. Sprint itself may be increasing its use of renewable energy, but the power companies supporting the hundreds of thousands of people using its products are not. Electricity production is a planet-damaging activity, and while it is sometimes a necessary part of supporting our modern lifestyles, saying that it’s environmentally friendly is disingenuous at best.

I really wish companies promoting themselves as green would stop using e-billing as a selling point. Hear this loud and clear, guys — e-billing s not green! Paper produced from sustainably managed forests and manufactured by paper companies producing up to 67% of their energy through renewable sources is far greener than electricity-hogging, data-center-driven e-processes.  Those processes are sometimes necessary, but they are not green!

When are companies going to get it? Probably not until consumers get it — and start holding them accountable so they can no longer get away with saying it.

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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