Tom Kemper - Environmental Pioneer in Business
By Holly Haber
Tom Kemper was the first person in Dallas to organize a major public recycling effort back in 1992, and he’s still a maverick today at age 57.
Kemper’s online office-supply company, Dolphin Blue, is the sole firm in Dallas and one of only eight in Texas to earn certification as a B Corporation. What’s that? It’s a rigorous test that evaluates whether a company that claims to be green really is acting in the best interests of the community and the planet. “We scored really high for a company our size,” says Kemper, a salesman who launched the company in 1993 in his Lakewood home because he wanted to transfer his skills to “something that was better for the planet.”
Nestled in the historic Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company building near Fair Park, Dolphinblue.com vends a range of office supplies, from notebooks to toner and business cards printed with soy ink on recycled paper. Clients include federal agencies and Yale University. Dolphinblue.com sells only U.S.-made products composed of at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled materials and is “strict on the source of manufacture and material,” Kemper notes.
“Five years ago I began seeing a proliferation of products from China marked as green products, and nobody was monitoring it,” Kemper recalls. “Who is watching the destruction through emissions or effluents? So it became clear to me that if we were going to be serious about sustainability, we really needed to pay attention to where the products came from. We asked our suppliers to certify, and some were saying they came from the U.S. and they weren't, so we dropped them.” Certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSE), which audits paper mills to ensure they are using post-consumer materials, Dolphin Blue paper is produced with carbon neutral or renewable energy, and is not processed with chlorine.
Why, I asked him, does recycled paper cost more? It seems paradoxical.
“The paper mills that used to be all over the world decided to centralize their plants in areas where they had easy quick access to forests,” he responds. “They shut down all the small mills. Transportation and logistics become an issue. When you are paying $2 an acre for a lease on forest, it's so easy to go in and start chopping down trees. Nobody is measuring the runoff and soil erosion and loss of habitat.”
Visit www.bcorporation.net for profiles of 427 B Corp-certified companies that are accountable for their green claims. For instance, the Method soap company not only uses non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients, it actually pays suppliers to reduce carbon emissions.
Notes Kemper, “Our customer is the person who believes that humankind is having an effect on global warming and that we are creating a world that is losing its resources -- that we need to buy less stuff, and when we do, to be environmentally responsible.”