Why should businesses Go Green?

By Bhavani Prakash, a sustainability writer, speaker, trainer and consultant at ecowalkthetalk.

Climate change, peak oil, biodiversity loss and scarcity of natural resources, such as water, metals and productive soil, are multiple challenges facing businesses today. Smart companies do not side-step these issues; but instead respond proactively to them. They show leadership in their industry by seizing the opportunities these challenges provide, and create solutions by going green.

What does going green mean? Becoming “sustainable” is not merely about small incremental changes; but a fundamental way of looking at the entire lifecycle impact of one’s products and services. It comes from a deep awareness and determination that we must not harm the future world, with our current actions. It is the right thing for a business to do as an entity dependent on the planet’s valuable resources, and as an interdependent part of society. Being genuinely concerned about sustainability, considerably enhances a company’s and its products’ brand image.

An organisation’s reputation for making the world a better place brings in appreciation and loyalty from customers, suppliers and society.

All these ultimately translate into long-term profits. It is also a smart Human Resource strategy. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, USA, recently analysed data on employee satisfaction, perceived financial performance and environmental performance at 113 companies. The results showed that employees prefer “green” policies of their company more than greenbacks. Employees are likely to feel more loyal to companies that are aligned with their personal values.

Does going green necessarily have to cost a lot of money? More often than not, businesses become more efficient in their operations, which help to save money and add to the bottomline. However, some sustainability measures require investments whose payback periods are longer. This is where bold vision is required by management to think beyond short-term measures such as quarterly turnover, or shareholders’ returns, and extend the time horizon.

By not becoming environmentally and socially responsible is like building up contingent liabilities. These costs remain off the balance sheet, but will come back in the future to hit the company monetarily in the form of litigation claims, or environmental and social costs that have to be internalised.

Whatever the reason, there are many benefits to going green. Combining people, planet and profit is the best and only viable business strategy for long-term success.