Are You Really Ready to be Green?

October 20, 2009
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You see the interest in green goods and energy efficiency—and it’s no stretch to think that you can market some energy-saving electronics systems or promote your own company as being green.

That’s great, but are you really ready for that?

There are several things to consider before you jump on the green bandwagon. And one of them is devising your own company’s sustainability statement. How will you and your company be greener? After all, you don’t just want to market yourself as green if you’re not ready to show that you’re green yourself. Some of this is covered in the article, “3 Steps to a Winning Green Business Strategy,” I wrote for CE Pro.

The concept of sustainability involves three basic concepts, or a “triple bottom line,” writes Jonathan M. Estes in his book, Smart Green: How to Implement Sustainable Business Practices in Any Industry—and Make Money (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). It is well worth the read.

The three concepts of the triple bottom line are:

  • People—The need for social equality and opportunity for all. That means treating employees right, and also applies to where you buy goods from and where they go, such as dealing with companies that pledge responsible recycling practices so electronics don’t end up in toxic pits in third-world countries.
  • The planet—And the preservation of its habitable environment. What the green movement is all about.
  • Economic—Balancing financial good with concern for the social good and environmental stewardship. Yes, Estes, says, it’s possible to make money and do good in the world.

If you’re not ready to balance financial concerns with some environmental stewardship and social good, maybe going green isn’t for you.

Following are some valuable tips from Estes, just in the chapter on getting started toward crafting your company’s own sustainability statement:

Don’t rush in

“For most companies, the beginning steps of reflecting on the issues and the changes they can make at the level they can successfully implement and maintain is a good start; and as they gain experience and increase awareness, more significant environmental impacts emerge,” Estes says. In other words, don’t think you have to save the planet right away. Maybe you can cut back on paper waste in the office, add some insulation to the warehouse to save heating fuel, or upgrade vans to more fuel-efficient models. Start small and build, and measure the results.

“A Smart Green company takes the time to plan its strategy for sustainability in small increments and learns to build upon the success of measurable results. As the results indicate a positive return on a small scale, that effort can either help to fund other efforts of be rolled out across the enterprise for a greater return on investment (ROI),” Estes says.

Don’t “spray and pray”

A smart green company, says Estes, has a specific green strategy in mind, while a greenwashing (fake green) company sprays claims and prays they’ll work. The latter is not a good way to be taken seriously as a green company. (Also see 7 Deadly Sins of Greenwashing.)

“A Smart Green company develops its strategy with the intent of affecting the larger issue of its carbon footprint, whereas a greenwashing company is more interested and concerned about self-preservation and will say what it needs to say to get a customer, retain a customer, or buy from any vendor or supplier without regard to a greater sustainability strategy.”

Determine your level of “greenth”

“Another important strategic planning strategy is to determine your level of greenth—that level at which your company can adequately implement and sustain change toward becoming sustainable,” writes Estes. That level of “greenth,” as he calls it, can start out simply and increase over time.

I know some of this reads like high-concept hoo-ha. After all, you may just want to market some energy-efficient electronics systems. But if you want to be considered a true and trusted source of green goods or services, it’s best to show that you’re green as well—and that you mean it. Besides, it’s good marketing. (More on that later.)

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