For businesses, going green is no longer just a good PR move. With regional and state mandates for LEED certified building practices, endless research on the cost savings of renewable energy sources and proof that sustainable workplaces make for happy and healthy work forces, there’s more to green workplaces than just their effects on the environment.
The business world has taken note and realized the benefits not only to the planet but to their bottom lines.
More and more consumers want to patronize environmentally friendly businesses, says Eugenia P. Ferrero, associate at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, Atlanta office. And businesses realize that going green is a good way to retain sales and attract new revenue.
Smart Business spoke with Ferrero on the strengthening green movement and what’s at stake for businesses.
What is a ‘green’ business?
Some define a ‘green’ business as one that is socially responsible and uses environmentally sustainable, renewable resources. It’s all about how a business purchases, develops, produces and provides products and services to consumers while having a positive impact on the environment.
What is the green movement all about?
Initially, the green movement was about preserving the natural bounty of the past. However, it emerged into regulating the problems of the industrial present. Now, the green movement has changed, and it’s about investing in solutions for the future, such as solar power, hybrid technology, biofuels, wind turbines, tidal power, fuel cells, etc.
The green business movement has developed over decades and is not a fad recently created by enormous media attention. Awareness of pollution was initially raised in the 1960s, followed by the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. In the 1980s, some businesses realized that pollution prevention, not pollution control, should be emphasized so that a business could reduce its pollution and also still make a profit.
In the 1990s, management started to play a significant role in the greening of business, and this led to the creation of an environmental management system in 1992. This system devised a set of guidelines, the ISO 14000, to govern how companies could organize in an environmentally conscious manner.
The end result is that, today, it’s not enough to say that one’s business is green but rather that it’s sustainable. That means that the business continues to make a profit, does not negatively impact the planet and people benefit from its products or services.
Consumers are choosing to support green business, and if a business isn’t green, it could potentially lose some of its customers and, eventually, considerable amounts of money.
Should businesses be proactive or reactive about going green?
Being proactive rather than reactive will help a business’s corporate image, and it is a better overall strategic move. Long-term planning provides stability to the business practices and allows a business to avoid constantly reacting and changing its business practices based on new regulations passed by the federal government.
A proactive approach also encourages consumers to continue to support that company and purchase its products and services.
One danger to avoid is ‘greenwashing’ campaigns. This is when a business claims it’s going green with certain initiatives and then doesn’t follow through. Once consumers learn that they’ve been misled, the backlash against that business could be severe and result in significant loss of profits.
What benefits can a business achieve by going green?
- Innovation of new products and services
- Expansion into new markets
- Creation of new jobs
- Reduction in the costs of health care from healthier employees
- Lower landfill fees and less production of air pollution, waste and toxic chemicals
- Improvement of community health and opportunities in struggling communities
- Education of not only employees but consumers, retailers and others with whom a business has developed relationships
- Earning of the title of role model and/or pioneer within its particular industry
Who should businesses seek out for help in executing their green strategy?
A business should turn to outside consultants who have the expertise and knowledge as it pertains to its particular industry. A consultant can help a business develop more sustainable practices in providing its products or services. A consultant can also serve as an educator, teaching the business about the negative impact of its current practices and how to move in the direction of more sustainable practices. This can be done gradually if a drastic change to the entire business immediately is not desirable.
EUGENIA P. FERRERO is an associate in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC’s Atlanta office. She is a member of the real estate group, where she focuses on commercial real estate and real estate development as well as corporate and mergers and acquisitions matters. Reach her at (404) 223-2216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.