Do People Really Care Where Their Stuff Comes From?

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Members of the Lulu team recently attended the 12th annual Sustainable Business and Social Impact Conference (SBSI) at Duke University. Lulu COO, Kathy Hensgen participated in a panel discussion titled “Responsible Consumption and Production – Do People Really Care Where Their Stuff Comes From?”

Lulu answers this question with a spirited, “YES!”

Katie Kross, the Managing Director of Duke University’s Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE), led the conversation with representatives from Walmart, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Burt’s Bees, and Lulu. Each participant provided a unique perspective on their social and environmental impacts.

When asked why pursue a more sustainable business venture, Paula Alexander from Burt’s Bees, explained their customers expect the company to not just follow environmental manufacturing guidelines as required by the government, but to be a leader in the sustainability movement.

Katherine Neebe shared Walmart’s story, which began as an internal environmental and social movement following  the retail giant’s efforts to aid Hurricane Katrina survivors.

Stacy Glass described Cradle to Cradle’s desire to not just be “less bad,’ but to make more good in the world through the use of smart design providing cost savings for manufacturers while preserving natural resources.

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Panelists – Kathy Hensgen (seated far right)

As part of the discussion, Hensgen explained that Lulu’s path to sustainability began in 2002 following Bob Young’s experience publishing traditionally. When all was said and done, he did all the work, got paid the least, and ended up with a garage full of books his contract required him to purchase as stock. In response, Young launched Lulu, a DIY print-on-demand publisher. The print-on-demand model removes the burden of maintaining a book inventory allowing authors and institutions to print only the books they need at any given time. He later learned that nearly 40% of all traditionally published print books do not sell and are eventually returned for pulping and recycling.  So not only did his print-on-demand model benefit authors, it also benefited the environment by preserving our natural resources.

Contributing to Lulu’s sustainability initiative, our global print partners are contractually obligated to manufacture books with a 0.5% defect rate or lower. This not only ensures high quality books, but also reduces waste by eliminating rework and reprints. Lulu books are printed on paper that is Forest Stewardship Council certified meaning suppliers must follow good harvesting practices.

Following the completion of our B Corp certification, Lulu remains committed to a path of continuous improvement with a strong focus on the environment. In addition to our sustainable business practices, Lulu recently relocated to an energy-efficient building, uses eco-friendly office products, has implemented robust recycling programs (including composting). We are now also purchasing renewable energy credits and working with our supply chain to improve their environmental impact.

We think people do actually care where their products come from. Sustainability is not always easy, but we believe that even small steps and improvements make a big impact over time. In all we do, our goal is to be better than yesterday, everyday.


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