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Sustainability Sorted

19 November 2007

The mailroom management sector has taken sustainability, recycling and reducing the carbon footprint to the heart of its operation. Mark Palmer examines how a green approach can assist an efficient mail operation

FOR WELL OVER A DECADE, TNT has carried the reputation of being Britain's leading internal mailroom manager. In that time, the constant evolution of the services provided by our Managed Services division has made it a leading performer in the provision of outsourced office services.

Bringing together a portfolio of products, from cutting edge reprographics and mail imaging to third party supplier management and stationery, is certainly one of the most effective ways forward for any outsourcing provider.

Emerging as a key partner with the public sector in the business process outsourcing market, TNT currently services more than 3,000 separate public sector organisational units and manage 13 million documents every day. Through framework agreements, we provide solutions for the Department for Work and Pensions, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, 80 Primary Care Trusts, the NHS, the Tribunal Service, Land Registry and Child Support Agency.

We sort more than two million internal mail items per week, retrieving tens of thousands of documents, moving 10,000 consignments and delivering 50 tonnes of consumables and print.

Be it private or public sector, this constant evolution now incorporates a truly best practice approach to sustainability and minimising the impact on the environment. Go back just three or four years and there was certainly a level of suspicion and scepticism in the market about the true value of taking a 'green' approach to mailroom management. A few years ago, the reaction you may have got is that the two were unlikely bedfellows. However, a close examination of the relationship between the mailroom operation and a sustainable approach reveals synergies between the two that not only make environmental sense, they make economic sense too.

Electronic imaging
A holistic approach - an integrated end-to-end solution for the entire document life cycle - often singles out the more experienced and accomplished players in the outsourcing market, and the ones with the sustainable approach. The delivery of a dedicated, focused management team helps businesses to concentrate on core activity, release valuable assets, leading to much needed cost reductions and value improvements. Electronic imaging and archive solutions, for instance, can reduce the need for retrieval, reduce paper useage, and potentially journey times.

In the mailroom, a 'junk' mail amnesty system for major customers can make a significant difference. Essentially, mailroom staff will take ownership of any unwanted junk mail that gets deposited at various bins located in the office. Of course, all paper is recycled, but prior to that the mailroom team contacts the sender and instructs them not to send any further items. This saves on paper, saves on despatch, saves valuable time for our customer and makes our mail sort operation even more efficient.

To become a truly leading edge outsourced provider, taking a proactive approach to recycling is crucial. TNT has helped facilitate customer recycling schemes, encouraging paper, toner cartridges and consumables to be recycled as much as possible. The same goes with stationery management in the office. Taking ownership from the customer for ordering stationery ensures a single - not multiple - point of contact for stationary suppliers not only more cost effective and efficient, it also reduces wastage and minimises deliveries.

It may sound obvious, but it's worth repeating that the less miles a vehicle travels, the cheaper it is for the customer - and obviously less miles means a smaller carbon footprint. Nowhere is this more evident than in an inter-site environment. Managing mail at several different locations presents its own set of unique challenges, but an innovative approach can produce cost-effective, environmentally friendly results. TNT co-ordinates the delivery of consumables from multiple suppliers to one point. As a result, instead of customers getting five deliveries from five different suppliers - one delivery from TNT achieves the same result in a much more efficient way.

Mail consolidation is yet another tactic which has had a positive impact on the environment. Customers with field based personnel who receive large volumes of mail can consolidate this into one re-useable satchel, whilst at the same time reducing the delivery frequency to set days of the week - yet another cost-effective and sustainable solution to mail management.

The same applies to even less obvious areas within the office environment. Toner replenishment in printers and photocopiers managed by mailroom staff maximises the longevity of these items - our own experience indicates having a unified team in charge of toners can increase their life by up to 10 per cent.

It's a constant journey about finding innovative new ways of supplying customers with solutions which best suit their business, and central to this are the best strategies for sustainability within the mailroom sector. Any value-added services, and efficiencies introduced in mailrooms are the approaches that can set the benchmark for the best in managing the mailroom, and clearly a sustainable approach to the mailroom is now central to this.

It's not just in the mailroom that TNT takes the environment seriously. In September this year, the company achieved the top ranking in a listing of the world's most sustainably aware organisations. The company topped the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for the first time ever. The DJSI tracks the financial performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide, organisations that combine business success with an ethical, caring and responsible approach across a variety of areas including economic, environmental and social criteria.

When the DJSI rankings for 2007 were published, TNT had improved its score from 84 in 2006 to 91 this year giving it the highest score of any company on the entire DJSI. TNT was praised by the DJSI assessors who remarked that "TNT has consistently improved not only its sustainability reporting but also its sustainability performance".

Contributing to the high ranking, TNT in the UK pioneered a unique global initiative by deploying the world's first 7.5 tonne high performance zero emission electric vehicle in London as a forerunner to a multi-million pound investment in a fleet of pollution free vehicles. In addition TNT UK recycled 3,403 tonnes of material (including 414 tonnes of paper and cardboard) in 2006 as well as deriving 15 per cent of its total energy requirements from renewable sources.

This summer, the company announced a new worldwide programme entitled Planet me at London's Natural History Museum, under which it outlined its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint to further underpin the company's leadership role in the 'green' sustainability stakes.

Certainly, back in the mailroom, a strategic sustainable approach to services increases efficiencies and cost effectiveness. This innovative approach now forms an integral part of the induction and on-going training of all mailroom employees. From switching off lights to ensuring unused monitors are switched from 'standby' to off modes, the 'green' message is vigorously communicated.

No outsource provider's single idea or initiative to creating a truly sustainable mailroom operation could be described as a panacea. However, certainly a strategic, formulated approach and a willingness to engage key partners and stakeholders in tackling the issue can certainly make in-roads into an area that's becoming increasingly important in today's office environment.

.... Mark Palmer, Divisional General Manager, TNT Managed Services. TNT Value Added Services 01827 303030 Link: TNT

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