Would knowing where your products came from and seeing their journey to your shopping cart help you think more about sustainability? Would illustrating the carbon footprint left by the production and distribution of goods compel you to be more discriminating in how you use your product? New Leaf Paper and Office Depot think so, and they are teaming up to tell the story of your paper.
Ellyn Fortino of GreenBiz reported that Jeff Mendelsohn, founder and CEO of New Leaf Paper, and Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy at Office Depot, are developing the process for making life cycle transparency for paper available to its users. When it's implemented, web-based technology will allow you to use your smart phone to scan a code on each package and launch a video story of where your paper came from and how it got to your cart.
Each story will use Google Earth and be specific to the purchasing region. Siddiqui told attendees at last week's State of Green Business Forum in Chicago that by using in-depth environmental and supply chain data, you'll be able to see the paper’s entire journey from where it was initially recycled; from pulp making, to packaging, to its distribution route all the way to its final retail destination. The visualization should look something like the demo version on SourceMap.org we talked about some months ago here.
While pulp making causes 41 percent of New Leaf’s total carbon emissions for a typical paper product, they report end user consumption accounts for 20 percent. Not surprisingly, how consumers use and discard the paper makes a big difference in how much impact it has on the environment.
Will seeing the story of your paper encourage you to use your paper wisely? Will you use less, print double-sided, and recycle more diligently? What other products would you like to see the transparent carbon story for? Do you think companies should make this data available to consumers, or is it too complicated and expensive? How many consumers do you think will watch the story of where their products came from and care about reducing their carbon impact? Do you think companies who offer this type of transparency will gain more consumer loyalty?
We'll see if, well, seeing really is believing…and if believing changes behavior.
Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at email@example.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.