Time to get on the sustainability train

Posted on Apr 28, 2010 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
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Posted by of Insight Publications

The
sustainability train has left the station – is your business on board? If it
isn’t, you’ll be left behind as the economy charges into its stage, according
to Darcy Hitchcock, an expert in sustainable building practices.

The
co-author of The Business Guide to Sustainability, Hitchcock was the keynote
speaker at Wednesday’s G2B Conference at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in
Appleton. G2B featured speakers and break-out sessions designed to help
businesses at every stage of their “green” journey by providing practical,
green solutions.

“Ninety-two
percent of businesses out there are addressing sustainability in some way. Some
are further along the journey than others,” Hitchcock says. “Some are really
engaged while others are doing more talking about it than actual deeds.”

Through
her work with businesses and organizations, Hitchcock has identified 10 reasons
for embracing sustainability. By doing this, she says businesses will find
themselves better prepared for the future while also “doing the right thing.”

Reason
#1:
Sustainable companies provide better shareholder returns. A study by
Goldman Sachs found that industry leaders with strong sustainability plans had
25 percent higher stock performance than their competitors. “To put it simply,
sustainability is good for shareholders – who doesn’t like that?” Hitchcock
says.

Reason
#2
: Largest corporations in America are engaged in sustainability, including
Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and General Electric, which leads to

Reason
#3:
Suppliers are getting pushed into becoming more sustainable. Hitchcock
pointed to the example of Wal-Mart working with the manufacturer of Hamburger
Helper to redesign its noodles so more could fit in a package, which led to
less packaging waste and allowing more boxes to shipped at a time, cutting down
on fuel costs.

Reason
#4:
Green building pays for itself. A LEED-constructed building will save a
company 30 percent to 40 percent on operating costs with almost the same
construction costs, Hitchcock says.

Reason
#5:
Volatile energy prices. “This one is almost self-explanatory. If you’re
using less overall fuel, you won’t be affected as much when oil prices zig-zag
all over the place,” she says.

Reason
#6:
Taking climate change seriously. There’s little doubt that the earth is
negatively affected by what’s happening as more greenhouse gases are pumped
into the air. “The Chinese are spending $9 billion a month on clean energy
projects. If we’re not careful, the United States is going to wind up buying
clean energy from them,” Hitchcock says. “This is serious business.”

Reason
#7:
Investors are salivating over clean energy, which is the No. 1 draw right
now for venture capital investments.

Reason
#8:
Keep and attract talent. Hitchcock pointed to a study by Monster.com that
found that 78 percent of more than 3,000 employees surveyed said they would
leave for a “greener” employer. Businesses who embrace sustainability are
“becoming an employer of choice,” she says.

Reason
#9:
  Insurers want to limit their
liability.

Reason
#10:
Sustainability unleashes innovation. For example, Hitchcock pointed to
UPS, which made a simple change in their logistics software that dramatically
cut down the number of lefthand turns. Fewer lefthand turns helped the company
save three million gallons of fuel.

“Sustainability
is a real must for businesses today. You need to get on board and develop a
plan using language and concepts that resonate with your workforce to help get
their support,” Hitchcock says. “Sustainable companies are going to be the most
successful.”

For more
on the G2B event, click here.

–By
MaryBeth Matzek