The Business of Saving the Planet

by Rachel Elnar - Date: 2007-01-20 - Word Count: 735 Share This!

On a sweltering day during the summer, I called my business partner Michael to ask why he thought it was so hot out. In Los Angeles, we were experiencing record high temperatures for the month of June and on this particular day I noticed how unbearable it was. The girls and I were sweating over our computers in our un-air conditioned office while Michael was driving comfortably around Orange County.

Michael said he'd been listening to discussion on the radio about how we're feeling the heat from the greenhouse effect. I felt helpless at that moment, seemingly waiting for an environmental Superman to whisk away the threat of our carbon contributions and bring the sprawling metropolis back to peace.

As the days are getting shorter and the downtown air has finally started to cool off, the dialogue about fighting global warming keeps heating up. All this talk is changing the way business is being done.

Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law the California Global Warming Solutions Act to impose the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions down 25% by the year 2020. As the very first emissions-cap initiative in the nation, the act is expected to encourage new business technology development in California to meet such emissions requirements. The controversial 87 proposing a $4 billion tax on gasoline for alternative energy incentives was on the ballot in November. California is determined to find environmental answers to the emissions problem while encouraging the business community to come up with solutions.

Nationwide, corporations have taken the concern seriously and started business and marketing initiatives of their own. Wal-Mart wants to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, as one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads. Target and J.C. Penney have begun to sell clothing and bedding made of bamboo fibers, a sustainable alternative to cotton and the hottest new "green" material in the eco-fashion boom.

The heat has also affected the stock market. Investors are rushing to put their money towards a good cause. The new market trend, called "green investing", is turning attention towards socially responsible companies (Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric) and companies searching for renewable energy sources (Genecor, Pacific Ethanol, US BioEnergy).

Global warming has created unique niche in marketing to consumers with the terms "biodegradable", "organic" and "eco friendly". Just ask consumers how good they feel when they interact with Toyota, Whole Foods and Ben & Jerry's brands.

This is an opportunity for businesses to change the way they do business and ultimately reposition their brands. Oil companies, who haven't had the best of press lately, have been making some major changes. BP (British Petroleum) introduced a new look in 2000 and realigned the company's brand to BP (beyond petroleum). BP invests in renewable and alternative energy. Royal Dutch Shell has become on of the world's largest developers of wind farms. DuPont and Chevron are teaming up in efforts to bring corn ethanol to market.

Hopefully, together we can slow down climate change. Ready to help save the planet? Here are three practices that make a big impact:

#1 - Recycle

One of the best ways to lessen the landfill is to recycle. You can do your part by sourcing post-consumer recycled paper for printed collateral and materials. Post-consumer recycled (PCR) paper is made from paper waste, available from 10% to 100%, which vary in paper texture, color and ability to hold ink. Many PCR paper grades are processed chlorine-free reducing water pollution. Recycled packaging materials and biodegradable foam can be used to pack products in shipping.

#2 - Invest in electronic communications

Another great way to lessen pollution is to forego print altogether. Invest in email, Internet and broadcast communications. Well-designed e-mail newsletters, PDF materials, online annual reports and mini-Web sites encourage feedback and community-building. Podcasting via audio or video is a great way to distribute training, tours, conference meeting alerts and updates and another method of building report with your fan base.

#3 - Add sustainability to your core values

Establish programs that demonstrate leadership and innovation in responsibility. Cultivate an employee commute program to encourage carpooling and mass transit use. Purchase renewable energy credits from wind farms to balance the electricity you use. Support supply chain partners are vital to a sustainability effort.

Every little bit helps. Seems to me that Superman had an easier time saving the planet. But he was alone in his fight. Lucky for the business community, it's now a group effort.

Related Tags: environment, global warming, sustainability, business issues

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