The new focus on environmental management is real - no longer just hollow words in an annual report or a public relations me too message. Terms like sustainability and going green are surfacing throughout the business media. In the past century, free market capitalism has done a lot to raise the economic prosperity of citizens in developed nations. Now, capitalism appears to be accepting an advanced mission to save our planet. With escalating CO2 emissions globally, we have been running an uncontrolled experiment on the only home we have. Can we fix it? Only our unborn great-grandchildren and their offspring will be able to judge whether capitalism succeeded.
In the April 15, 2007 issue of The New York Times Magazine, journalist Thomas L. Friedman, author of the popular book The World is Flat, discussed U.S. politics.
Sustainability is a way of thinking and acting when making decisions, not a way of reacting after wrong decisions have been made.
How Can We Help?
When I advise organizations, I almost exclusively restrict discussions to focus on business topics such as resource capacity management, alignment of processes with the organizations strategy or product and customer profitability reporting - pure capitalism and pure performance management. But with the realities of global warming, pollution, deforestation and the dwindling of nonrenewable energy sources like oil, I am increasingly paying attention to the term triple bottom line(profits, people and planet) for environmental accounting. I respect organizations who are accepting this responsibility. This article focuses mainly on environmental responsibility In a future article, I will discuss social responsibility.
The appealing aspect is that actions commercial companies take to reduce carbon emissions do not necessarily mean incurring higher costs. They can be both green and greedy - but greedy in a good way. Through innovative thinking they can develop new methods that both increase revenues and reduce costs. Higher profits provide executives discretion to divert the some of the higher retained earnings to more environmental investments.
A leader in promoting sustainability is Wal-Marts CEO Lee Scott, who appointed Andrew Ruben as the vice president of sustainability. Wal-Mart recently announced their partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project to measure the amount of energy used to create products, many of which come from China, throughout its supply chain and reduce costs. For example, Wal-Mart collaborated with Procter & Gamble to sell only higher concentrated liquid detergent that requires not only less storage space and shipping but also less water usage in washing, plastic and cardboard. In another example, materials destined for landfills are being replaced with new materials that disintegrate over time with no environmental impact.
There are now signs that political and business leaders are no longer saying, Its not my problem or This is their problem. This is a problem for humanity and, fortunately, there are people of influence stepping forward who appear up to the multifaceted task of lessening the impact of mankind on our environment and mitigating the future risk of depleting our planets natural resources.