Norm Thompson: Commerce With a Conscience
Back at headquarters, Norm Thompson employees established other creative and cost-efficient sustainability projects. Two in particular are helping the company reach its goal of 0 percent facility waste by 2006.
First, the company’s organic garden on the headquarters’ grounds is the repository for all employees’ food scraps. Employees work in the garden during their lunch hours and other personal time. “For some reason, we have a lot of computer staffers who volunteer for garden duty,” says Smith. “I guess sitting in front of screens all day prompts them to want to get out in the sunshine.”
Second, Smith established an extensive recycling program that includes the usual paper, plastic and glass, in addition to batteries, light bulbs, product samples, and computers and computer parts. Sometimes the latter items can be sold to outside vendors, thus generating additional income for the company.
The “Ship All Together” project was another idea generated by employees. When a customer calls to order multiple items and not all are immediately available, call center staffers ask the customer if it’s OK for the distribution center to hold the order and ship it when complete. If the customer says “no,” the order is shipped separately, as usual. But often, customers select the “Ship All Together” option. This simple operational change, says Jewett, saves the company a few thousand dollars a year in packaging and postage.
Even more cost savings were realized from another employee-generated idea: Stop using envelopes to send requested catalogs. What’s more, response from this particular test actually went up. The reduced cost of paper envelopes and the increased response, Smith says, has added about $100,000 a year to the company’s bottom line—just from this one initiative. Even small operational changes like this, he continues, can improve both the environment and profitability.