— Submitted by Patricia Calkins, vice president, environment, health and safety

Below is my response to Don Carli’s recent MediaShift.org article, “Is Digital Media Worse for the Environment Than Print?”

Your article addresses a challenge facing many consumers and businesses. As I read through it, one sentiment really resonated: the need to look beyond the green rhetoric and rethink the lifecycle impact of both print and digital media. I could not agree with you more. At Xerox, we believe an inclusive approach to this issue (versus a “pixels vs. paper” fight) will play a major role in conserving the environment. Both print and digital media must become fundamentally cleaner, greener and more socially responsible.

What we’ve found at Xerox – after decades of work in this area – is that the key to any meaningful sustainability effort is a “value chain focus.” At Xerox we assess the entire product life cycle, from selecting raw materials to integrating product features that help people work wisely in small offices, large enterprises and commercial print operations worldwide. Our approach includes sourcing paper from environmentally sound suppliers and providing customers a broad portfolio of sustainable papers; reducing energy use by implementing energy saving features like faster fusing and smart sleep modes that learn “printing patterns” to re-inventing toner that doesn’t use as much energy to make or use; reducing waste in our facilities, in our customer work places and reducing waste in or products and technology by designing equipment with parts and subsystems that can be reused; lastly we work to eliminate hazardous substances in all our processes and products.

I offer up these examples to demonstrate the power of a value chain focus. It not only begets sound environmental practices, it also results in profits. Let me offer one more example of how the “lifecycle impact” of an industry – print or digital – can be transformed with this approach. Xerox recently announced that it will commit another $1 million to work with The Nature Conservancy and the paper supply chain to advance forestry stewardship practice and bring paper suppliers together. This partnership exemplifies how business can look beyond its four walls, and set off a ripple effect across an industry. By working together, we’re developing tools and best practices that will enable environmental scientists, forest managers and paper suppliers to work cooperatively toward sustainable forest management and preserving biodiversity around the globe.

Your article points out: “if you care about the environment and the health of forests you should become more informed about the energy sources used by both digital and print media.” I could not agree with you more. At Xerox we see our sustainability effort as a journey, and I invite anyone interested to learn more about where we’ve been and where we’re headed: www.xerox.com/environment

— Patricia Calkins, vice president, environment, health and safety