When we hear the term “Citizen” we tend to think of voting in political elections. But there is another, and possibly more impactful way that we cast our votes: when we spend money. As a business, your purchasing decisions have ripple effects that stretch around the globe.

Most of us would agree in principle that a Texas-sized island of trash in the Pacific Ocean is not a good thing. But when it comes to day-to-day purchasing, the impact of our decisions is not always clear.

At the 2013 GreenBiz Forum conference in New York, participants learned from corporate decision makers that one of the most important considerations in determining their sustainability program is customer demand. Here is the kicker – they don’t only look at purchasing data – they also look at questions, comments, and requests.

So here is how you can make a difference. When you order the set-up materials you need to cater lunch for your clients, ask your suppliers if they have sustainable versions of cups, plates, utensils, and paper products that are (in rough order of preference):

  • Biodegradable
  • Made from post-consumer recycled materials (this is big for paper)
  • Recyclable in your area

We encourage you to choose more sustainable options when they are available, but either way, and regardless of whether your vendor offers a more sustainable option, you can make a HUGE impact simply by asking about it.

If you really want to make a difference, ask about it every time you order. In fact – even if they offer a “green” option, ask about an even greener one. Encouraging your sales rep to kick these requests up the chain of command can result in environmentally friendly products being a priority for everyone.

Remember that voting with your dollar isn’t limited to what you spend, but what you ask for as well. Your power as a citizen is not restricted to the voting booth. Consider using it as you build your business.

Published by Michael Rosman

Michael Rosman has spent more than three decades in the food industry. He built a $1.8 million a year corporate drop-off catering operation from the ground up in suburban Boston. Throughout his company’s steady growth he kept detailed records of the process. His membership website is a compilation of tips, tools, templates and behind-the-scene trade secrets that he and his team have created over the years.