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July 28, 2015
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Baker & Taylor Turns Book Distribution Green, with Help from Long-Time Supply Chain Partner UPS

In a low margin, labor-intensive business like book wholesaling, it's a constant challenge to maintain profitability. As a global information and entertainment services company that distributes print and digital books, as well as entertainment products to educational institutions, libraries and retailers, Baker & Taylor is up to the challenge. The 180-year-old company continues to grow, despite the challenges of the recent recession. Based in Charlotte, N.C., Baker & Taylor ships more than 1 million unique products (SKUs) annually, serves more than 44,000 customers in 120 countries and provides numerous value-added services for publishers. A key factor in the company's success: a commitment to sustainability across the enterprise and supply chain.

Baker & Taylor feels strongly about implementing sustainable business practices whenever and wherever possible. In fact, years ago Baker & Taylor made a commitment to recycle, reduce waste and improve its carbon footprint.

Becoming more sustainable is a big commitment. It involves not only the company itself, but also its customers and supply chain partners. As one of Baker & Taylor's key supply chain partners, UPS had a definite role in its sustainability efforts. UPS, the world's largest package delivery company and a leading supplier of freight and supply chain services, was well-prepared to help Baker & Taylor "green" its supply chain. Like Baker & Taylor, UPS has a history of industry firsts in the sustainability arena – dating back to the 1930s with the introduction of electric cars to its delivery fleet in New York City.

Through a combination of internal commitments and collaborative efforts with UPS and other partners, Baker & Taylor made significant changes to its business and supply chain processes, becoming a green supply chain pioneer in its industry.

Going paperless while growing business

Since its inception, Baker & Taylor has developed long-term relationships with major suppliers, including book publishers, movie studios and music labels. It maintains one of the largest combined in-stock book, video and music inventories in the world – about 1 million titles in inventory and more than 4 million titles available for order. The company services practically every library in the country and many customers outside the U.S., which means its shipping needs are high volume and varied. It also means the company comes into contact with a lot of paper, and by extension, a lot of waste.

Baker & Taylor first started working with UPS in 1978 and, over the years, expanded the relationship to take advantage of the full range of UPS's freight, small package and contract logistics services. It was no surprise that Gary Dayton, Baker & Taylor's Senior Vice President of Operations, turned to UPS for a "greener" solution when his company decided to reduce its reliance on paper – an ambitious undertaking for any company, in any industry.

The timing couldn't have been better. UPS had recently launched a service called UPS WorldEase®, which consolidates multiple shipments destined for one country or the entire European Union into a single shipment that clears Customs as a single unit, significantly reducing documentation while also saving time. One of the first companies to "pioneer" UPS WorldEase, Baker & Taylor found the service not only to be key in its transition to automated, electronic processes, but also instrumental in the growth of the company's international business.

"With UPS WorldEase, we can ship product to Italy in two days and to Australia in three days," says Dayton. "It takes the same amount of time to process an international shipment as it does to process domestic packages."

UPS WorldEase also has helped the company with its mission to go paperless, a move that has paid off beyond the company's sustainability efforts. "In addition to meeting our environmental goals, we saved money that would otherwise be spent on paper, and we improved order accuracy, all with one application," says Dayton.

Adds Dayton, "We don't print anything, including shipping manifests and invoices. Everything is completely electronic, which goes a long way in helping us reach our environmental sustainability goals."

Baker & Taylor worked closely with its customers to educate them on the value of going paperless, including foregoing paper statements and invoices. All of the company's customers can view all of their invoices online and never receive a piece of paper. This translates into tremendous positive environmental impact.

Maintaining high sustainability standards

When it comes to sustainability goals, Baker & Taylor has set high standards for itself and its industry. The company pledged to recycle 100 percent of its waste, and has reached this goal. Baker & Taylor recycles 5 million pounds a year. But Baker & Taylor hasn't stopped there.

The company is now helping others in the industry on their own green journeys. Four years ago, Baker & Taylor introduced a solution to reduce the use of packaging materials. In the past, Baker & Taylor used cartons filled with cushioning materials, such as foam, bubble wrap and papers to protect products. Now the company uses one sheet of fixed plastic to keep the product in place and prevent damage during shipping. The new solution has allowed the Baker & Taylor to save 800,000 pounds per year in packaging materials.

In addition to using environmentally-friendly shipping practices, Baker & Taylor also helps its customers become greener. The company recently introduced a print-on-demand (POD) program that allows publishers to avoid unnecessary print runs, reducing waste. Consumers can place orders for books from a customized website, and orders are then filled from existing stock or via the POD service. For POD titles, Baker & Taylor prints only the quantity of books necessary to fill the order. The company also offers e-books and works with libraries around the country to move from traditional catalogues to online systems.

"Our mission is to be the premier distributor of physical and digital media and value-added services for customers and suppliers worldwide. And we take pride in knowing that we are saving trees and protecting the environment along the way," says Dayton.

Dayton has seen that greening a supply chain can contribute to company profits, as his company continues to perform solidly in good times and bad. For Baker & Taylor, green business is good business.

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