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EGO's Triple Bottom Line

Published 10/4/11


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EcoGreenOffice, a thriving, three-year old, one-stop-shop for affordable, environmentally friendly office products and services, doesn’t have a single customer. Not one. That’s because Bryan Beckett and Molly Beckett-Olsen, the company’s co-founding brother and sister team, don’t believe in customers. “We believe in having partners,” Beckett says. “In this business, people want to buy from someone who closes the deal with more than an invoice. They want to work with a company that shares their ongoing vision for a greener world.”

Does that mean EcoGreenOffice, known as EGO, doesn’t believe in making a profit? “Of course we do. We are a business,” Beckett says. “But we’re a triple bottom line business—people, planet, profit. Three equally important, intertwined ideas.”

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The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Way:

Boosting green office product sales helps the planet, the people, and your profit margin.

Although a triple bottom line, or TBL, is a relatively new business concept, springing from the current sustainable movement, it’s catching a lot of attention. “In the future, I believe that providing sustainable solutions will play a big part in a business’ success.” Beckett declares. “Companies that don’t take TBL seriously are going to be left behind. Our dedication to eco-friendly office products, in our own daily practices and in our business, is a big reason so many companies want to partner with us.”

Baby Steps

While EGO began with a strict green-only product offering, on-the-job training taught Beckett that boosting green product sales occasionally means offering un-green products as well. Some valuable partners, he explains, have established habits when it comes to buying office supplies. Maybe they’ve purchased the same breakroom paper towels for years and that’s how it is. In this case, EGO’s strategy is patience with persistence; introducing one green product at a time and helping buyers develop a long-range game plan that eventually gives the green light to a full inventory of sustainable office supplies.

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Recycled & Conventional Products

Businesses can start being green by slowly implementing green products.

“As we grew and took on larger companies, we realized that no business can flip a switch and instantly be green. It’s impossible. It’s a conversion process that takes time, with the finance guys watching the bottom line, a struggling sustainability manager trying to make good decisions, and everyone working to update purchasing policies. We’re not going to slam the door on companies that can’t go green overnight. That’s the wrong outlook to build green sales.”

So EGO began offering conventional office supplies as well. This gave EGO time to get in the door with a wider range of businesses, build a strong relationship, and help partners forecast sustainable solutions for down the road. For example, Beckett n says, he might guide a partner toward eco-friendly, breakroom paper towels this month and next quarter suggest compostable paper plates and cups. It makes for a slow transition over to green products, but EGO has a successful track record with this strategy.

A slow and steady transition to green also gives Beckett time to convince finance guys that sustainable products definitely don’t break the budget. “We have two types of partners,” he explains. “There are the no-brainers who say, ‘Let’s go green together.’ For them, cost is not as much a factor as how green are the products. Then there’s the other partner who wants to know first and foremost how much going green is going to cost.”

Money Matters

To attract these bottom line buyers, EGO developed a path specifically geared to price savings. It begins with an in-house, EGO brand, green printer cartridge program that’s an automatic money saver. “Starting with printer cartridges, a high business expense, and a resource intensive product, we help the finance guy save money right off the bat and also send him down a green road. The wheels are in motion!” Beckett says.

Next, Beckett explains, EGO moves on to a company’s paper program and presents a little simple math. “We say, ‘Why don’t you try using post-consumer paper? Yes, it’s slightly more expensive than virgin paper, but you saved 25 percent with our green ink and toner program, so in the end you protect the bottom line.’ As long as the bottom line stays on track, and we keep pointing that out, people are more than happy to partner with us.”

Hand-held Devices

While Beckett admits that doing the right thing is one of his best sales tools to boost green product sales, he’s also a strong proponent of United’s Green marketing materials -- especially the printed Green Catalog. “People still like to hold something in their hands and since the catalog is printed eco-friendly, it’s a great marketing tool for us,” he says.

In addition, Beckett adds, the catalog gives his business credibility, with the company name printed on the catalog cover and a vast assortment of products to support EGO’s promise to be a one-stop-shop for affordable, environmentally friendly office products and services. “Everyone is quite impressed with the catalog,” Beckett says. “They take it back to the office, pass it around, and it keeps the momentum going.”

And maintaining an energy to go green is vital, Beckett says. It’s the surest way to lead the green office supply retailer and the green office supply buyer toward a productive partnership where the people, the planet, and everyone’s profit margin come out ahead. Put another way, it’s a win-win-win.