If you’re looking for a company that is constantly adopting to fit itself to the changing times and at the same time makes sure this journey takes the sustainability path, Xerox should be at the top of your list. This company has transformed from a paper products company to a business process and document management company, helping customers to reduce their printing, their costs and their carbon footprint at the same time. This interesting journey is documented through Xerox’s annual global citizenship report, whose 2011 edition has just been released.
When it comes to sustainability Xerox does a great job, although there are some things they can still do better. Still, as you can see it in the report they keep evolving and improving themselves. No one explains it better than their CEO, Ursula Burns: “we know we are far from perfect, but we constantly try to be better. The more we do, the more we discover what we must do. We don’t shrink from those challenges. We embrace them. We’re impatient people – and we believe that’s a virtue.”
Xerox’s 2011 Report on is organized around four areas that capture the essence of Xerox’s citizenship efforts:
Supporting the customer – how Xerox is helping its customers build more sustainable and thriving enterprises.
Improving the Workplace – ensuring a workplace that is diverse and fair to all.
Preserving the planet – in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the company decreased water consumption by more than 40 million liters annually.
Advancing the community – over the years, the Xerox Community Involvement Program has funded over 18,000 projects supported by 400,000 employees.
The first part about supporting customers is very important as it integrates the company’s leadership, design and innovation. Customers as CEO Burns explained last year are looking for ways to reduce costs in this troubling times, pushing for further digitization of data and processes. Although it means less need for printing paper, Xerox saw this trend as an opportunity rather than a risk and responded with new technology and solutions that help businesses to operate more efficiently and effectively. For example, Xerox offers solutions that reduce paper documents through digital imaging, archiving and indexing. Another example is the shift to digital multifunction systems in workplaces from stand-alone printers, copiers, fax machines and scanners.
Now, here’s a problem. Although Xerox is definitely making an important progress, innovating and providing win-win solutions to its customers, the wins are not very easy for the casual reader to get excited about. The ‘supporting the customer’ part of the report does not include any examples of their new/innovative products and services. Instead, it directs readers to the website “for detailed information on our technology and service offerings, please see the “Company Profile” section or visit www.xerox.com.” Why not making it easier for stakeholders by putting a couple of examples on the report?
The report would also benefit from some client stories. I missed hearing from the Xerox client, sharing his point of view on how Xerox made his life easier and better. Sustainability reports are very much about storytelling and when you don’t have stories it makes the report not just less effective but also a bit dull.
Moving on to the part on the company’s measures to reduce their environmental impacts, I found a very detailed section filled with achievements and progress. First, 100 percent of the eligible new product launched in 2010 met the current ENERGY STAR requirements – up 8 percent from 2009. Xerox’s water consumption was down by 7 percent from 2009, energy consumption down 2 percent from 2009 and greenhouses gas emissions down 3 percent from 2009.
Xerox’s ultimate goal according to the report is to be climate-neutral and their first priority is to reduce the total GHG emissions by lowering the energy intensity of their operations. In 2003, Xerox made a public commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adopting a goal of reducing their absolute GHG emissions across all company operations, by 10 percent by 2012 (from a 2002 baseline.) Xerox met this target in 2006, six years ahead of schedule and in 2007 the company set a new and challenging goal to reduce its GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2012, from the 2002 baseline. Through 2010, they have cut emissions by 31 percent, by reducing energy consumption in their facilities, manufacturing operations, and across their service and sales vehicle fleet.
It’s very impressive to see that Xerox met and passed its goal two years ahead of schedule. Just to put it in perspective, this goal doesn’t include Scope 3 emissions, which include GHG emitted during product use and raw material extraction and processing for example. According to Xerox, Scope 3 emissions per unit are higher than Scope 1 or Scope 2, with the highest contribution being from product use. It means that the main challenge is still ahead of them when it comes to GHG emissions. The company reports that it is gathering Scope 3 emissions data and other key metrics to assess climate change risk in the supply chain, so hopefully we’ll have Scope 3 emissions included in the next report to be able to better assess the company’s progress.
Xerox has more challenges ahead of it from both operational and reporting perspectives, especially with their largest acquisition ever of ACS that occurred in March 2010 and more than doubled the number of Xerox employees. Yet, as CEO Burns said, they’re ready to embrace them, and I have the feeling that no matter how they’ll do it, they’ll do it sustainably.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is also an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.