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Green sourcing resurfaces

Graphics | September 1, 2009 | By:

The practice known as “green sourcing” has resurfaced following last fall’s economic tsunami, and appears to be very much afloat. Gathering many green practices into one promotes the purchase of products that have the lowest and safest impact on the environment and human health. If every company at every level of the supply chain is using sustainable practices, the end product provides the most environmentally sound solution.

Jeff Baker, president of Image4, a fabricator and exhibit builder in Manchester, N.H., says that five years ago a customer asked them to build an environmentally sensitive, sustainable trade show display.

“Basically we said, ‘Huh? What’s that?’” Baker says. “It’s more evolutionary thinking than revolutionary. Tension fabrics have been with us for years. Using it as a sustainable solution by managing the build process, reducing weight and packaging size, and putting some thought into how you’re going to deploy the product is evolutionary.” When Image4 was recognized for “Greenest Trade Show Producer in America” by Inc. magazine, Baker wanted some third-party credibility behind what it had accomplished, but found no real definition of sustainability in the industry. He is trying to develop guidelines for the exhibit industry—similar to the LEED guidelines for the building industry—by October 2009.

A study last year, titled “Inconvenient Booth,” by the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association, found that more than 50 percent of companies have or will soon issue sustainability purchasing guidelines for their exhibit programs. “That’s huge,” Baker says. “We’re an $85 billion trade show industry; that says that somewhere around $30 billion is going to be directed toward sustainability.”

In “Going Green? Start with Sourcing” (Supply Chain Management Review, March 1, 2009) authors Martha Turner and Pat Houston maintain that green sourcing is going to pay off.

“It’s important to remember that green sourcing is a long-term effort,” Turner and Houston report. “The quality movement took several decades to achieve sustainable results, and there was a further lag before its reputation caught up. Green sourcing has amassed enough evidence of its value to prove that, like quality, it is no flash in the pan. Those who persevered with quality won substantial rewards in cost savings, more effective operations, and stronger connections with customers. The companies that fully engage today in green sourcing can look forward to comparable results.”

Janet Preus is associate editor of Specialty Fabrics Review, a publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International, and contributing editor for Fabric Graphics.

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