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Buying sustainably increasing at Otago

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The University of Otago uses carbon neutral paper for 98 per cent of its needs and is now among the top buyers of more sustainable office supplies, as it strives to make choosing sustainable options easier.

To support the University moving to carbon neutral paper, ordering was centralised through Uniprint, which is not only having a “huge environmental impact” but saving money too, Financial Services Division Manager Stephen Hall says.

Since changing office products suppliers almost 33 per cent of the University's office product purchases have been more eco-friendly options and 38.6 per cent Fair Trade.

The switch to NXP about four years ago was partly driven by it having an eco-friendly range of about 4000 products under the banner NXPlanet.

“It’s something our University is helping drive in the market. We’re already making great progress. Single-use plastic is also being driven out, replaced by bamboo and compressed paper,” Hall says.

“We’re led by what our University and the sector believes is value, and there’s value in sustainability. Relationships with suppliers are key to that and we partner with them to achieve great things.”

University of Otago Sustainability Office Head Ray O’Brien believes “how we spend our dollars – and it is a lot of dollars – has the potential to have a massive impact”.

“It’s an emerging area where we don’t have someone to copy so we need to be prepared to take the lead by ensuring our spending has the most social and environmental benefit possible.”

Contracting for good

Hall says some contracts intentionally create positive sustainable social outcomes – the University's e-waste contract is with Dunedin’s Cargill Enterprises which employs more than 80 people with an intellectual disability, and many cleaning materials are from Will and Able, which aims to create 100 new jobs for Kiwis with disabilities while making earth-friendly products.

The fixed-price contract for waste removal is innovative sustainability-wise because it incentivises our partner Waste Management New Zealand to help us reduce waste.

When purchasing the University's electricity supply, how the contract would enhance our sustainability was 20 per cent of the consideration, and for cleaning contracts, 10 per cent. Other contracts – such as milk, IT hardware, and food – have a strong focus on reducing waste.

To switch to low-emission electric vehicles, our Sustainability Office has been working with departments this year to access funding to help cover the higher initial cost of buying them, Hall says.

Eco-conscious decisions

When it comes to being more sustainable, NXP office supplies General Manager Sales and Marketing David Box says, “the University is definitely one of our higher performing customers in that space”.

Every time University staff choose an NXP product online that is not the most sustainable, they are automatically offered a more sustainable NXPlanet option.

An NXP team verify the NXPlanet products are ethically made – without involving modern slave labour.

Planet products must also meet one or more of the company’s other sustainability criteria, including being recyclable, reusable, compostable, low emission-emitting, carbon neutral or having a social benefit (Fair Trade, equality, workforce participation etc), Box says.

Thinking transportation

His company also works hard to combine our University’s orders so they are transported together on pellets to reduce carbon emissions and packaging, then are delivered around campus using our existing systems rather than external couriers.

How else can you make a sustainable difference?
• Order products from contracted providers, because we consider sustainability when selecting them and managing their contracts.
• When ordering from office products supplier NXP, the system lets you know the more sustainable options (NXPlanet products) to choose.
• Place orders weekly or fortnightly, rather than daily or on request, so more orders can be combined. Placing fewer, larger orders, will reduce transport emissions and packaging.