Long-term sustainable growth is important to building a successful company. In Part 3 of her four-part series "Growing a Green Corporation: Meeting the Next Great Disruptive Challenge of the 21st Century" Brandi McManus looks at different strategies for investing in sustainability. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of her series.
Investing in Sustainability: Shades of Green
By now you are convinced of the business value in going green, or building environmental sustainability into your business. What exactly is "sustainability" and how much does it cost?
Sustainability is defined as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." If you look at this within a business philosophy, you can easily say that you would not make a business decision today that would sacrifice the business tomorrow (at least within normal business operation and ethics). Long-term sustainable growth is important to building a successful company.
|Growing A Green Corporation|
|This four-part series covers ...
• Reading the Signs of Change
• Assessing the Impacts of Environmental Pressure
• Investing in Sustainability: Shades of Green
• Building Your Green Team
To embrace environmentally sustainable development, it is not important that you become a tree-hugging hippie, nor is it vital to adopt a "principles before profits" mentality. But it is important to accept the serious impact of the environment on your business.
Stephen Schmidheiny, a leading business and non-profit activist in sustainable development, has written: "When viewed within the context of sustainable development, environmental concerns become not just a cost of doing business, but a potent source of competitive advantage. Enterprises that embrace the concept can effectively realize the advantages; more efficient processes, improvements in productivity, lower costs of compliance and new strategic market opportunities. Such businesses may expect to reap advantages over the competitors who lack vision. Companies that fail to change can expect to become obsolete."
To build a business case for building a sustainable corporation, you must first ask some hard questions about what you are doing and what you are willing to do. For example:
- Have you completed the basics: recycling programs and doing away with Styrofoam cups?
- Is your industry or company government regulated to make changes in your facilities or operations?
- Do you have high brand exposure that would lead customers or shareholders to question your sustainability policy?
- What investment (if any) are you willing to make to be environmentally responsible?
The following figure will help you place your business in a category of investment ranging from Level 1 to 4, or Shades of Green.
Level 1: The Basics, or Greening Your Life
This is the most basic level of sustainability. Here, your ethics or morals should guide you to do the right thing and create a proactive approach to sustainability. At this level, employees are environmentally aware, inspired and empowered. They actively seek to participate in recycling programs or internal energy savings program. Each office may be actively trying to cut back on Styrofoam coffee cups by bringing in mugs. These industries could be any business with offices or manufacturing with employees interested in the environment. Companies in highly competitive price-based industries may aim for Level 1 as they would be hard pressed to begin initiatives that add cost.
This level can also be described as risk mitigation. Basic energy reduction projects and compliance with environmental regulations can keep companies on the good side of consumers, the government and watchful non-governmental organizations.