These days, it seems that talk of sustainable business practices is everywhere. There are websites and magazines dedicated to helping businesses institute green practices. Here in Asheville, we’ve been talking about sustainability and best green business practices for a while. But what does sustainability really mean, and more importantly for some, can it be profitable?
Sustainable businesses or green businesses have minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, or economy. These businesses use the triple bottom line approach focusing on people, planet and profit. Sustainability is at the heart of all their business decisions. They use sustainable development and distribution processes to meet consumer need, protect the environment, and stimulate business growth.
While sustainable business talk may be prevalent, it is exciting to now see real evidence that these practices, in addition to supporting our environment, are also profitable. Starbucks joins the ranks of many businesses that have shifted business tactics to focus on sustainability. Their recently released annual sustainability report shows successful initiatives ranging from ethically sourced coffee beans, reduced water consumption, recycling and green building. In fact, Starbucks new LEED green building initiative helped decrease its energy consumption by 7.5% since 2008, with a targeted goal of 25 percent by 2015.
Timberland focuses on making outdoors products in factories that neither pollute the water or air, while maintaining a democratic workplace. The company focuses on creating thoughtful products that are built to last, and at the end of their lives, are able to be disassembled and upcycled. They are changing the outdoor fashion industry with their belief that less is more; that by generating fewer but better products, they can grow economically while operating in the environment sustainably. This idea of designing products to maximize desirability and minimize their environmental footprint is gaining traction. Patagonia’s Common Threads Program extends the life of their garments by asking customers to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle and re-imagine their products with their technical support and ebay store.
These companies are lowering costs, increasing profits, and reducing environmental impact. Recently, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued its third annual Sustainability and Innovation Global Executive Study. The study looked at survey responses from thousands of businesses leaders worldwide. The results were encouraging, showing “nearly 50 percent of companies have changed their business models as a result of sustainability opportunities.” Not only are these companies leaving a smaller global footprint, they are increasing revenue.
Sustainable business practices can take many shapes and forms. It is important for business leaders to study all aspects of their business, from nuts to bolts, to determine where there are opportunities for better, sustainable practices. By thinking creatively, you will be able to institute changes, whether small or large, to your business that can create more environmentally responsible strategies while increasing business revenue