Magazine article Information Management

Tips for Growing a Green Organization: All Records Managers Should Think about the Business Benefits of Greening Their RIM Program, Which Can Contribute to an Organization's Bottom Line and Make It a Better Corporate Citizen. by Consuming as Few Resources as Possible and Retaining Only Those Records That Are Necessary, an Organization Saves Loads of Money, Time, and Energy

Magazine article Information Management

Tips for Growing a Green Organization: All Records Managers Should Think about the Business Benefits of Greening Their RIM Program, Which Can Contribute to an Organization's Bottom Line and Make It a Better Corporate Citizen. by Consuming as Few Resources as Possible and Retaining Only Those Records That Are Necessary, an Organization Saves Loads of Money, Time, and Energy

Article excerpt

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Every business, it seems, is either going green or planning to green up. With energy and transportation costs steadily rising and global resources decreasing, it makes increasing economic (and efficiency) sense to implement green business programs. Marketing these programs and practices is proving to be a savvy step, as well, and is attracting--even in a recession--a growing variety of consumers and citizens interested in sustainability.

Of course, going green helps the environment, too; no matter which side of the global warming issue you are on, you can likely agree that decreasing pollution is good for humans and good for the earth.

Yet, one might ask (and it's a fine first question), what does "going green" really mean? Fundamentally, going green means reducing your carbon footprint and striving for carbon neutrality (or a net zero carbon footprint). Carbon neutrality means removing as much carbon dioxide (or equivalent greenhouse gases) from the atmosphere as one puts in.

Some organizations appear to be succeeding in this effort. Google now claims to be completely carbon neutral. Patagonia buys 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, and Dell claims carbon neutrality for its global electricity use. Many other companies are doing much the same and, necessarily, are including their records and information management (RIM) programs in the process.

Particularly, though, going green means many different things to different businesses--from protecting thousands of acres of rain forest in the Amazon to using recycled copy paper, and from establishing a home work program to lessen commute hours to replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). Actually, one of the great things about going green is that small steps often equal big returns, especially for a sizable company. Wal-Mart set a goal of selling just one CFL to each of its 100 million customers, and within a little over a year it did just that, translating to $3 billion in energy savings.

Needless to say, RIM programs can have a deep impact on the carbon footprint and cost savings of businesses. Most obviously, RIM practices have a direct and immediate impact on business paper usage. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites that the life cycle of one ton of office paper (40 cartons), from production to recycling, results in the release of about nine tons of carbon dioxide or equivalent gases.

Or, seen from another angle, the production of one ton of uncoated, virgin, non-recycled printing and office paper uses 24 trees. If your RIM program can reduce paper usage by one ton annually over 10 years, it can quickly add up to real environmental and financial savings.

Get the Lay of the Land

The good news is that if you have a comprehensive, efficient, and well-run RIM program you are already contributing to the greening of the planet by reducing material waste, space allocation, and energy usage. Yet, even with a stellar program, there is always room for improvement.

The first step in either instigating or improving green practices is to conduct an environmental RIM self-assessment--taking your green temperature.

In establishing a green benchmark, you can get a clear sense of green opportunities, see the areas in most need of green expansion, realize and better understand your existing green metrics, and create a preliminary map that will lead the way in diminishing your carbon footprint.

There are a few RIM green self-assessment tools available on the Web and elsewhere, but most of them are associated with a product or service and are usually skewed to that end. Though a solid self-assessment template is provided in the next section, you should input some of your own metrics into the equation. There are, of course, constants in every RIM program, but each business in each industry gives rise to specific RIM structures, practices, and policies. …

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