What does “Green” really mean?

Kermit says it’s easy to do, but if that’s the case, why isn’t everyone “going green?” What are some of the barriers to adopting a sustainability strategy?

“Green” has a PR problem. Suggest “sustainability” in the office, and reactions may range from enthusiasm to blank stares to outright hostility. Why? There is a perception among many that sustainability is directly opposite—or at least detrimental to—profitability. Taking care of the environment is great—until it starts to hurt the bottom line.

The good news is that, in most cases, the greener strategy is the most affordable strategy. Reduced travel costs diminish CO2 emissions. Lower power bills decrease usage of energy produced by fossil fuels. The modern movement towards sustainable business improves the traditional bottom-line of profit, while adopting a more holistic view of a corporation’s success. Under this definition, a sustainable business “meets the needs of the present world without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainability is not just about the environment. It is about defining success in terms of more than just dollar signs. Sustainable businesses measure themselves against what is known as the triple bottom line. The triple bottom line expresses an organization’s success in terms of three key areas: People, Planet, and Profit. While financial profitability is necessary, it is not the only criteria of a sustainable business.

The sustainable business invests in its people, not as a means to an end, but as part of the goals of the organization. They aim to continuously improve the overall quality of life for their people, and take a vested interest in their personal and professional development. This approach creates better talent for the company, but also improves the community in which the company does business. One customer, seeing a drop-off in local graduation rates as well as a need for entry-level unskilled labor, built a secondary manufacturing facility. This facility was turned into a co-op, where local students—who would have otherwise dropped out of school to help pay the bills—earned money and learned a trade while working towards their high school diploma. Graduation rates showed a significant improvement after the program was implemented.

Sustainable businesses consider environmental as well as financial costs. When offering a new product or service, the environmental impact is analyzed and mitigated as a part of the development process. A sustainable business won’t offer a product if they can’t mitigate the harm caused by its materials or manufacturing process. Sustainable businesses commit to engineering new ways of doing business that allow them to achieve their profit goals without exploiting resources. A great example is a major desktop/laptop manufacturer that uses up to 30% recycled material to build their equipment.

Sustainability is about resources. It is about making sure all of the resources needed for the success of a business—monetary, natural, and human—are utilized in a way that respects their scarcity and the need to preserve them for future generations.

About Melissa Alvares

Melissa was the head of Softchoice’s campaign marketing team, responsible for providing organizations with information on the latest technology trends, insights and solutions from the desktop to the data center.