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Dell makes strides in packaging reduction

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Since 2008, the high-tech giant has cut packaging volume by 12 percent, helping reduce transportation and procurement costs.

Of all the metrics listed in Dell's fiscal year 2012 corporate responsibility report, I found this one among the most intriguing: The high-tech giant's innovative use of new packaging materials has helped it deliver on all of the goals in its 3Cs (cube, content, curb) packaging strategy.

Between 2008 and 2012, Dell managed to reduce the size of its packaging by 12 percent, while increasing the amount of recycled or renewable content by 40 percent through efforts such as its use of compostable bamboo- and mushroom-based materials to cushion various products.

Up to 75 percent of the company's packaging materials are now recyclable at curbside.

Taken together, the new packaging initiatives have helped the company eliminate more than 20 million pounds of packaging material since its 2008 baseline year.

That's a 12.1 percent reduction in volume, exceeding the company's original goal of 10 percent.

Dell's packaging initiatives matter for all sorts of different reasons.

For one thing, the volume reduction will translate into decreased transportation costs because more products can be crammed into each shipment.

The company is also trying to make the most out of locally sourced materials, which helps reduce procurement costs. To wit: The bamboo now used for many of its tablets, phones and even some notebook computers is grown close to the facilities where the products are manufactured. (Note, the company says its bamboo comes from places far outside panda habits.)

Dell positions these choices as not just good environmental decisions but as good business practices. And from the standpoint of the buyer, some also turn out to be way more convenient than the alternative.

One final example: Dell figures that its Multipack program, which combines multiple computers or servers or other products into one box for larger orders, allows businesses to set up new blade servers in about 15 minutes and reduce the deployment time for multiproduct orders by up to 47 percent.

Time for some fresh perspective on your company's own packaging policies?

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure