By Kate Olsen
Last month, Sprint unveiled its latest green initiative - the ecoEnvelope(TM), a two-in-one reusable envelope that allows customers to receive and remit payment using the same envelope. Sprint, # 3 on Newsweek's 2011 Green Rankings and Forest Ethics honoree, sets a good example to other corporations with its environmental sustainability and ‘intrapreneur’ philosophy to look for innovative resource reduction opportunities in the supply chain. Sprint’s partners with environmental nonprofit Canopy to set appropriate goals and policies, as Canopy specializes in collaborating with large-scale forest product customers to ensure sustainable supply chains.
As reported at this year’s Sustainable Brands Conference, Sprint estimates that in just over a year, the ecoEnvelope(TM) will save just under $500,000 in operational costs and the equivalent of:
- 447 tons of paper
- 1,669 tons of wood = 11,565 trees
- 9,931,834 gallons of water = 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools
- 859,047 pounds of solid waste = 31 loaded garbage trucks
- 2,692,185 pounds of CO2e = 244 cars off the road/year
However, this latest initiative is smart not just for its eco-consciousness, but also for its direct application to the customer experience. Sprint has other consumer-facing green initiatives (for example, the Sprint Buyback Program rewards customers for recycling old phones), but the ecoEnvelope(TM)will be a monthly reminder to the 70% of customers who prefer paper bills about Sprint’s corporate citizenship, not just for those customers who opt in to a green program.
According to Keanon Swan, Manager, Vendor Management & Postal Strategy at Sprint, “The ecoEnvelope(TM) is a terrific way for us to continue educating customers about our sustainability efforts. The ecoEnvelope(TM) is branded with information about its paper-saving attributes; we also included information about e-billing and pay-by-phone options, in the hopes it'll raise customer awareness.”
I had the opportunity to ask Keanon about the new ecoEnvelope(TM) via email and am pleased to share is comments here. Keanon was instrumental in the development of the new envelope and sits on Sprint’s Paper Leadership Council.
Did Sprint solicit feedback from consumers in the development of ecoEnvelope(TM) and if so, what did consumers say?
“Yes. Prior to launch, we conducted several focus groups with customers, letting them try out and talk about the ecoEnvelope(TM) in various stages of development. We wanted to make sure the new envelope and its instructions were easy to use and understand; we even solicited customers' input on the envelope's design. The biggest piece of feedback that we wound up incorporating into the final product was the fact that customers said they'd like to see some information on the envelope itself about why Sprint decided to switch to this option, and how much paper the switch would save. After the initial focus groups, we selected a group of customers for a three-month pilot of the new envelope, then conducted phone surveys to gather their reactions.”
What has been the most interesting, or surprising result from the ecoEnvelope(TM) rollout?
“How fully it's been embraced by people and companies who are inspired by our journey. We talked to many people outside our industry at this year's Sustainable Brands Conference, and received so many excited and surprised reactions from people who never considered mailing policies could be such a huge opportunity for reducing our environmental footprint. We've received a similar reaction from the media, and even internally--bringing the envelope from idea to reality involved the enthusiastic cooperation across many different departments.”
What advice does Sprint have for other companies looking to create deep, lasting partnerships with nonprofits such as Canopy?
According to Kathleen Baker, Manager, Print Strategy & Operations at Sprint, "Having Canopy as a partner ensures we are aware and informed of the important environmental issues regarding paper procurement." Kathleen advises: "Ensure you seek out NGO partners you trust, and that understand and are aligned with your objectives. It's important to know the cultures of both organizations and determine up front if it’s a good fit."
Watch this video of Keanon Swan unveiling the ecoEnvelope(TM) at the Sustainable Brands Conference.