3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Joseph Fiksel is the founder of Eco-Nomics LLC and co-director of the Center for Resilience at The Ohio State University. In 2002, he founded Eco-Nomics, a sustainable enterprise consulting firm, to help educate business executives on the economic benefits of operating sustainably. He is a frequent speaker at industry and professional conferences.

How can sustainable practices benefit a business’s bottom line?

In business, the focus is always on cost, so you don’t have to believe in green to believe in ways to reduce waste — which saves money. Showing that your business conducts business sustainably shows strong leadership and vision and creates alliances with customers. It also increases shareholder value.

How does not investing in sustainability hurt a business’s bottom line?

Sustainability isn’t about saving the planet; it’s about making sure your company will be around in the future. Energy prices will only increase in the future and the ability to use typical energy processes will decrease. Ten years ago, maybe 5 percent of businesses were looking into sustainable practices, and they are all leaders in their industries. Sustainability doesn’t cost anything. The investment is done for business reasons — because it will save money. Sustainable practices reduce nonproductive spending and provide a different lens in which to examine business operation.

What is necessary to convince a business to start using sustainable energy today given our poor economy and fear of investing in anything new?

To sustain a business, you need to use some energy — there’s a balance that must be achieved. The value of your company to society increases when you operate with little waste. U.S. businesses consume too much and nothing productive comes from the waste. The U.S. consumes two times as much material as Europe and Japan and we continue to be largely egregious in our waste, with 95 percent of material in our economy is waste in a matter of weeks — or even before the consumer gets it. Businesses should consider that sustainability sets you aside from other companies — for now. This helps your portfolio and prepares you for what will be a staple in the near future.