Governmental Buying Practices and Sustainability

Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability.  As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability.  To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue  Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.

  

How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?

When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy.  Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national).  Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.

 

Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?

Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand.  The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do.  The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy.  I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy.  Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.

 

Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates.  How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?

Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”.   Although Dolphin Blue  has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community.  Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. 

When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure.  In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria.  While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission. 

 Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships? 

Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.

 Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?

Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all.  They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet.  What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.

Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels.  While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods.  For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit.  Thank you.  You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner.  As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase.  We owe it to our children.

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.

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Trying to go Green? Get S.M.A.R.T.

By guest writer Jeff Eyink

If you’re like me, then you too are infatuated with the TV show Mad Men on AMC.  A few episodes back, the lead character Don Draper was speaking with a client, and he said something that got me thinking.

NatalGreenSnake“Some snakes go months without eating, and then when they finally do, they suffocate from eating too much. Let’s take this one opportunity at a time.”

I know this isn’t profound.  It’s really just a longer way of saying “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  But it reminded me about the overwhelming amount of choices that we face when choosing an environmentally-minded lifestyle.  There’s a ton of information out there (here, for example) with what seems like even more people trying to tell you what you should be doing, buying, and saving in your all-inclusive dream of “going green.”  In our enthusiasm to save the planet, we often become paralyzed by the massive amount of choices available.  This is especially true for those of us who are new to game and taking on too much in an attempt to atone for their environmental “sins.”  So how can we avoid becoming the snake?  What can we do that will help us digest our options without trying to do too much, too fast? 

It’s always difficult when you’re starting out.  But just like any goal we set, living sustainably requires a rational approach.  Sure, it would be great if we all woke up tomorrow living a perfectly environmental lifestyle, but that’s not going to happen.  Going green is a lifestyle change, and changes take time, persistence, and accountability.  It’s something we must cultivate over time in order to achieve the best and most sustainable transformation possible. 

So what’s the greenhorn to do?  Let me pull a chapter from my Management 101 memories and remind you about S.M.A.R.T. goals, meaning:

                 Specific

                Measurable

                Attainable

                Realistic

                Timely

Just recalling this simple acronym should have most of us re-evaluating our approach.  But let’s quickly visit each part to see the components in action.

Specific goals require us to narrow our approach to attain a single achievement.  Think of it as breaking down the trance of “I’m going green” to something understandable like “I’m going to group my errands into one large trip instead of many small ones.”  “Going green” has too many paths, and trying to pursue them all (I don’t know how you could even list them) will leave you stuck in a mental quagmire.  Instead, start with a single path and dominate it.  You’ll feel good about yourself and actually accomplish something.

Measurable goals require us to pick something that we can actually put a value too.  Back to our example, “I’m going green” doesn’t give much depth when it comes time to reviewing how well we’ve done.  You either did or you didn’t.  “Going green” is a concept that constantly builds upon itself, with new paths toward its achievement being realized every day.  On the other hand, our errand example is very measurable and goes further than “yes or no.”  You can break your self- review into days or weeks, track how many extra trips you found yourself making, and give yourself a score (both qualitative and quantitative).   A goal can’t be achieved unless there’s a set way to gauge success.

Attainable goals work together with how you measure your success.  Simply put, if you can’t measure it, you can’t attain it.  Like we said earlier, “going green” doesn’t have an endpoint.  The paths we realize as its components, however, can be grouped into finite occurrences.  We all have to run errands, so our optimal number of trips in a given time is one.  Can we attain one trip a week?  Yes!

Realistic goals probably seem easy at this point.  If you can’t develop a goal that is Specific, Measurable, and Attainable, it surely won’t be Realistic.  Having lofty hopes and aspirations is great.  That (plus a lethal dose of coffee) is what keeps me going every morning.  But let’s remember that goals and dreams are not the same thing, so we shouldn’t treat them the same either.  “Going green” is admirable, but it isn’t fathomable.  Use your tremendous dreams to create practical goals. 

Timely goals force us to set an endpoint.  It also makes us realize the great differences between our goals and dreams.  When we create an end to our goals, we make them that much more prevalent and important in our day-to-day lives.  When I create a goal (like finish this draft before 3pm, or else), it becomes increasingly prevalent in my day.  Deadlines aren’t always fun, but they push us.  Deadlines force us to reassess what we’re doing, assign a level of completeness, and review our tactics.  Dreams can impact our choices, but they creSuperStock_1612R-15828ate little accountability.

By now I’m sure you’ve developed an entire plan mapping out each and every step you’ll take to live a green lifestyle, right?  Of course not.  That’s the importance of creating goals that lead to your dream.  Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is extremely powerful, and often liberating.  As you continue to immerse yourself in the world of sustainability, remember to avoid being the snake.  It’s easy to fall into a good-intentioned but fruitless coma.  Acting purposefully, however, requires patience and practicality along with your good intentions.  By taking a realistic approach to what you seek, you can diminish what was once impossible into something you’re capable of accomplishing. 

Jeff Eyink recently joined the Dolphin Blue team as the Marketing Manager. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Jeff came down to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University and received his bachelors in marketing, markets and culture and economics. Contact Jeff at jeff@dolphinblue.com.

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Round UP, Impact DOWN

RoundUpLogo_260x113pixI’m excited to announce that we signed a memorandum of understanding today with Renewable Choice Energy to participate in their “Round UP, Impact DOWN” carbon offset project.
 
What this means is that anytime a customer of Dolphin Blue purchases an item, they have an opportunity to offset the carbon emissions associated with their purchase by “rounding up” their purchase price to the nearest dollar amount.
 
Through Dolphin Blue’s participation in the Round Up program our customers have an opportunity to offset a portion of the carbon emissions associated with shipping their order.
 
The extra charge collected by Dolphin Blue when a customer chooses to “round up” is invested in a carbon reduction project administered by Renewable Choice Energy.
 
And here’s what we promise to do for you – all Round Up contributions received will be matched 1-for-1 by Dolphin Blue.
 
Together, we can and will make our world sustainable for future generations.

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Q & A: What drives Dolphin Blue?

Recently, one of our customers from Manning Architectearth-lighture asked why we do what we do at Dolphin Blue. Our CEO, Thomas Kemper, answered that we do it to make sure our carbon footprint is small and our mission is to create a sustainable planet for future generations.

“I founded Dolphin Blue to provide only environmentally responsible office supplies and printed stationery.

Dolphin Blue has never provided any item to a customer which was not comprised of at least 30% post consumer recycled material. All the business cards, labels, letterhead and envelopes we’ve printed for Manning Architects have been produced on 100% post consumer recycled, certified processed chlorine free, FSC-certified paper, made carbon neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.

If you’re interested in knowing more about why we provide these products, please visit our site.

 We only print on uncoated stock made of 100% post consumer recycled, certified-processed chlorine free, FSC-certified paper, made carbon neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.

The reason we do not offer a glossy coated stationary is the following: Most coated papers for brochure stock and other coated, glossy collateral are being produced in China. I honestly don’t know if a coated stock, made in the USA, is any longer available. When measuring ecological footprint, any gain in recovered or recycled fiber is lost many times over in fuel being used to transport, adding to that the resulting emissions, in paper being shipped here from China and other far-off shores. Offering products requiring an increase in carbon footprint is counterproductive to our mission of creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

I trust this will give you some comfort about what drives us at Dolphin Blue.

Thank you for caring enough about our planet’s sustainability to ask the question.”

We’re very passionate about our products and about helping the Earth. If you have any questions for us, about anything, please do not hesitate to ask!

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