We’re proud to showcase a new i4cp member company, drugstore.com. Founded in 1998, Seattle-based drugstore.com is an online retailer of name-brand and private-label health and beauty items as well as prescription and OTC drugs. i4cp, drugstore.com and Weyerhaeuser recently hosted a sustainability workshop at drugstore.com headquarters in Bellevue, WA. This article will explore some of the approaches the company has taken to simultaneously reduce costs and help the environment. A champion of sustainability in the retail space, drugstore.com sees their commitment to going green as a concept to embrace from the inside out. They began with simple grass-roots efforts that were collaborative and employee-supported and had wide departmental representation. Getting commitment up front was critical, and ensuring that the initiative wouldn’t be viewed as “a new mandate from management” or “something else we have to do” has helped to keep a high level of positive energy and engagement. Their first effort at going green took aim at paper cups. It was determined that approximately 56,000 paper cups were used by drugstore.com in 2007. By simply eliminating them and providing “going green” mugs in the kitchens, this use of paper and the associated costs were eliminated. After the kitchen, drugstore.com moved to the printers. In one office they consumed 907,500 sheets of paper in a year. That’s 10 tons of paper and an average of 300 sheets per person annually. Once again, the company’s approach to reducing waste was grass-roots and easy to execute, primarily by changing the way printing was viewed. Since at least half of all the materials printed didn’t get significant use – many times either never claimed at the printer or used for one meeting and thrown away or filed – the strategy for cutting down on these throwaways required communicating some simple guidelines:
- Print only what’s needed.
- When having a meeting, use a projector so everyone can see the information without handouts.
- Those who do need a hard copy should print it themselves and use double-sided printing, which alone reduces the number of sheets used by 50%.
- And for those infamous printed PowerPoint slides, print with multiple slides per page.
To encourage employees to follow these recommendations, drugstore.com made the process fun, with contests such as the 50/50 Challenge. For this incentive, each floor in the building was asked to reduce its paper consumption by 50% over six months. The prize for the winning floor: breakfast cooked and served by the executive team. By combining sustainability with a fun and cost-effective incentive, drugstore.com was able to eliminate waste, save on printing costs and provide a boost to employee morale and engagement. Employees have also been encouraged to use public transportation or to car pool, thus reducing the number – and costs – of reserved parking spaces. In turn, employees were rewarded with “drugstore dollars” they could use toward purchases within the company. drugstore.com has sponsored many other events, activities and programs to encourage employees to get involved in sustainability efforts. The company provides opportunities for employees to network with others on personal efforts to go green, including measuring and reducing their carbon footprints. Colorful posters around the office in key areas like the kitchens and print rooms encourage innovative new ideas for making changes and reinforce the focus on being green. The firm has also started a local Sustainability Business Group to share resources and ideas with other area businesses. New initiatives planned for 2009 include “Green Your Space,” eliminating water bottles and finding ways to reduce shipping and the use of packaging materials. At the sustainability workshop, the key proponents of these efforts shared three lessons they had learned:
- Going green has a diverse set of motivational factors. Success comes when you push as many buttons as possible – from dollars and cents to “it’s just the right thing to do.”
- Individuals have different learning styles and, as a result, change habits for different reasons. You have to speak and appeal to those differences.
- Your executive sponsorship will come and go as the pressures of the business rise and fall, but always stay focused on the positive and the progress that has been made. Look for and tap the natural champions for a green lifestyle to delegate responsibilities and share the vision.
And one more lesson learned: When it comes to going green, you’d be amazed by how many people out there want to make a change but just don’t know how or need a nudge to get started. None of the sustainability efforts taken up by drugstore.com are difficult or costly to implement in other organizations, and, in many cases, they are a simple and effective way to reduce wasted costs. When done right, sustainability programs benefit the environment, your community, your employees and your bottom line. Please share your organization’s “going green” programs and practices to help other companies go down a sustainable and responsible path. And if your company isn’t going green, what barriers are standing in your way?