Earthbound Farm is the largest grower of organic produce in the U.S., with more than $400 million in sales last year.
Q Our company is dedicated to the environment, but we work with vendors that aren't. How can we get our landlord, our construction and janitorial contractors, and other vendors onboard?
Your green efforts should begin at home. Before you approach your vendors, make sure you give your employees measurable goals for improving your company's ecological footprint. If your metrics for success and employee bonuses don't include that, managers will not have an incentive to choose vendors and partners that are focused on the environment.
Getting vendors onboard may be easier than you think, if you work to educate them on environmental topics. Just don't think this is something you can do by simply picking up the phone. In the mid-1980s, when we were trying to get our organic products into supermarkets, we would go to grocery stores and talk directly to the produce managers. We knew we had to make them understand not just that there was a financial opportunity in selling organics--otherwise stores wouldn't carry them--but also that organic is a healthier choice for consumers. Our approach was to kindle a little passion in the buyers, so they would have a personal incentive to buy our products. But be realistic. You can't give vendors or suppliers a week to switch to ecofriendly products. Give them a few months or a year to make a change.
The unfortunate fact is that environmentally friendly office and building products can be more expensive in the short term. You may have to buy environmentally responsible products--green cleaning solutions, for example--and demand that they be used at your facilities. Be insistent, and don't back down. This will show your contractors that you're serious and that environmentally friendly products work just as well as less responsible alternatives. Of course, this means spending more money up front, but eventually you'll prove to them that some of these products--energy-saving light bulbs, for example--actually save money over time.