As Kermit the Frog laments, “It’s not easy being green,” but Yale professors/authors Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston hand over a solid case for responding to the environmental crisis with workable green strategies and tactics. All without succumbing to negatively impacted profits.
Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage succinctly makes the business case for sustainability. The presentation is focused enough to provide a thorough understanding of the hot environmental issues, without being too tree-huggerish. It highlights the responsibilities of global stewardship along with those of being financially accountable in the business arena. MLT Creative used this book as a primary resource for the development of sustainability program for one of our clients.
According to the authors, the top 10 environmental issues facing humanity are:
- Climate Change. This includes rising sea levels, changes in rainfall patterns, severe droughts and floods, harsh hurricanes and new pathways for disease.
- Energy. Companies selling goods and services that promise to improve energy efficiency will claim market share.
- Water. Companies around the world now face limits on access to water.
- Biodiversity and Land Use. Biodiversity preserves our food chain and the ecosystem on which all life depends. It also holds prospects of new drugs, foods and other products. A key factor in the decline of biodiversity is habitat loss.
- Chemicals, Toxics and Heavy Metals. Part of what makes air pollution more dangerous is the presence of toxic elements. Exposure to chemicals like dioxin, a byproduct of production processes such as papermaking, and heavy metals such as lead and mercury can create severe public health risks.
- Air Pollution. Significant air-quality controls on factories, cars and other emissions sources have reduced air pollution over the past 30 years in the United States, Japan and Europe. But the air is still not clean.
- Waste Management. The EPA estimates that the 1,200 Superfund sites across the country will require about $200 billion to clean up over the next 30 years. Under the liability provisions of the Superfund law, anyone found responsible for the waste at a site can be held liable for the full cost of cleanup, even if the toxics were legally disposed.
- Ozone Layer Depletion. With a thinned ozone layer, the world becomes a more dangerous place, with reduced agricultural productivity, higher risk of skin cancer and other health problems.
- Oceans and Fisheries. More than 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are over-exploited and beyond sustainability.
- Deforestation. Every company that uses wood, paper or cardboard packaging has a stake in, and responsibility for, the state of our forests.
The strength of Green and Gold lies in its extensive reference to case studies of “Green Wave Riding” corporations. You can learn a great deal from the many examples, which include several instances of green initiatives that failed. High profile wave riders include:
- IKEA is proud of its “flat packaging.” Efforts to squeeze millimeters out of every box have allowed the company to pack its trucks and trains tighter. That saves up to 15 percent on fuel per item.
- Toyota saw the Green Wave coming and responded with the energy-efficient “hybrid” Prius, a breakthrough product that enhanced profits.
- Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott vowed to cut energy use by 30 percent; to use 100 percent renewable energy (from sources like wind farms and solar panels); and to double the fuel efficiency of its massive shipping fleet. The company will invest $500 million annually in these energy programs.
Memorable Takeaway: Purposeful environmental thinking can be summed up in three words, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” The best pollution-control option is to reduce the use of resources and eliminate waste. The next is to refurbish or reuse items. Then recycle what’s left. As a last resort, throw something out.
Esty and Winston emphasize that trade offs are always necessary on the market, and that when it comes to so-called “green” products, marketing may work best when the green advantage comes third after price and performance. A key note for B2B marketing and advertising efforts.
Perhaps Kermit is right about it not being easy for him, but this book provides enough tips for businesses to make being greener much easier.