- “Why now?” should really be “why not yesterday?” There are a multitude of global trends signaling a need for sustainable business—climate change, population increase, rapidly developing nations, resource depletion, environmental degradation, society’s toxic burden, the loss of biodiversity, the prospect of peak oil, and more. The bottom line is that we need to learn to do more with less—both less stuff and less impact on the environment.
These trends are moving faster than ever, driving an increasingly uncertain world for business. Being green is a way to find certainty in today’s shifting world and to deal with market pressures driving businesses to be greener. (For example, Wal-Mart has declared that its suppliers must use sustainable packaging to keep access to the retail giant’s shelves.) It’s a whole new ball game.
If you don’t lead the way on sustainability, you’re likely to be left in the dust by your competitors. In fact, odds are that other companies around the world are already working on it. You can wait for certainty, or you can lead the way.
As information becomes more transparent to consumers, investors, and regulators, there are new expectations for businesses to be green—and to be able to prove it. Add to the mix a new administration in the United States that has declared its intentions to build a greener economy, and we’ve reached a sustainability tipping point.
Besides, every day your business continues to burn more energy than you truly need, to produce non-product that you can’t sell, is another day of pouring money and resources down the drain.
What now?—A couple of years ago, a client asked me a provocative question: “If we really took this on—if we went beyond baby steps and really told ourselves the truth of what was required—what would we need to know and do?”
The following “Declaration of Leadership for Sustainable Business” was my response. It’s intentionally both terse and provocative. Its purpose: to challenge already good companies, developers, designers, and public authorities to an even higher level of thinking, aspiration, and performance. I think it provides a useful “big picture” frame for the nuts and bolts that you’ll find in the truths that follow.
- The well being of our economy fundamentally depends on the services from nature that support it.
- Business activity has a profound impact on the ability of nature to sustainably provide those services.
- We are committed, as business and community leaders, to the well being of both economic and ecological systems, of both humans and other living things.
- We believe that these goals are compatible (and where they seem to be incompatible, we are committed to finding better ways to do business that make them compatible).
We envision our company, suppliers and customers, and our community doing business in ways that:
- Preserve, protect, and ultimately enhance the living systems—of this region, and the planet—that sustain our business and the larger human economy.
- Provide ever greater value in meeting the real needs of our customers, suppliers, and communities.
- Meet human needs in the most efficient and economical means possible, in order to include the greatest percentage of humanity.
To do this, we will:
- Consider the requirements of the earth’s living systems in all design and operating decisions.
- Not take more from the earth that it can sustainably provide.
- Not provide to the earth more than it can sustainably absorb.
- Analyze the life cycle operating costs and impacts of our facilities, operations, and products/services, as well as their initial costs.
- Work to eliminate “waste” of all kinds from our operations, and to find safe, productive uses for any “non-product” that we are not yet able to eliminate.
- Treat employees, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders fairly, honestly, and respectfully.
- Take responsibility for the safety of our products/services in their intended use.
- Take responsibility for the safety of our activities for employees and communities.
- Take responsibility for the safe “end of life” recovery and reuse or recycling of our products.
- Design our facilities, operations, and products/services to be ever more efficient, ever less dependent on materials and activities that poison, degrade or encroach on living systems, and ever more supportive of these approaches.
- Do all these in a way that supports our economic well-being, and the economic well-being of those who depend on us.
We will measure our progress by the trends of our:
- Resource productivity (unit of benefit provided per unit of resource used)
- “Non-product” output (amounts and toxicity of “unsalable” materials and chemicals, formerly called “waste”)
- Net carbon emissions (production of climate-changing greenhouse gasses)
- Ecological footprint (demand on earth’s regenerative capacity)
- Profit, both near- and long-term
We will pursue these steps with a commitment to:
- Future generations
- Continuous improvement
- Open dialogue with our customers, stockholders, suppliers, and communities
What you need to do—Keep reading! This is a big field, too big for one book to cover, so this is not the only book you need (see Appendix B, “Resources,” online at www.informit.com/title/9780789739407 for some additional suggestions), but it’s the only one you need to start.
So lets get started!