BE Blogs: A Voice for Responsible Business
As part of our sustainability pledge to discuss best practices openly and honestly, we share insights that allow others to effect change in their community. While companies have responsibility to drive change internally, we believe they also can add to their insights and impact by sharing their experience with others.
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When I begin to discuss sustainability with people, I get a lot of blank stares and questions. I then default to the buzzword ‘green’…
“Oh, I understand what that means!”
But that easy and fast response tends to make me cringe.
I am so passionate about sustainability but qualifying it with the concept of green, triggers images of hippies chained to trees. What I am talking about is an all encompassing term that defines responsibility; responsibility to our environment, our local communities and the world. I don’t want to deemphasize the importance of sustainability with such a simple word but I also know that an easy understanding of the concept is the only way we will grow the importance of sustainability…and, I will admit, in the world of SEO, green is a major keyword.
So what does green mean?
As a marketing mind, I consult Wikipedia for societal and trending definitions, and I found exactly the cliché explanation I was looking for:
“Recent political groups have taken on the color as symbol of environmental protection and social justice, and consider themselves part of the Green movement, some naming themselves Green parties. This has led to similar campaigns in advertising, as companies have sold green, or environmentally friendly, products.”
Another cringe-worthy moment as I read about the Green movement and green products in one paragraph. One speaks to capitalism and a greater economy; the other, to that “green” cleaning product you just bought that is “better for you and the environment”. Green tends to be overused and misused, usually highlighting only a small piece of sustainability; I want to broaden people’s view with a much wider range of topics, the important ones.
In an article by Bahar Gidwani, he identified the rainbow of sustainability, the numerous “colors” that define this growing market. He surveyed a few thousand users from his site, CSRHub, and assigned a color to the different focuses of each group.
Green: environment focused; this group ranked environmental issues as their highest concern.
Blue: community and employee focused; this group pushed up the importance of community and employee engagement, and de-emphasized environment and governance.
Red: governance focused; this group wanted companies to be ethical, have a balanced and diverse board, and to be transparent about their behavior.
Grey: “all things being equal”; this large group of people declared all topics of sustainability to be more or less equal.
White: follow a leader; these members did not have a strong opinion, or they were more interested to know how “everyone else” feels about various issues.
Perfect; we now have a wider spectrum of colors to help us break down sustainability but what will really help professionals define this growing industry?
Robert Pojasek, via GreenBiz.com, defined sustainability as follows:
“Sustainability is about behaving in a way that can be continued or sustained. To operate sustainably, an organization must act in a way that is consistent with and supports the well-being of the physical environment and all of the biological communities and economies of the locations where they operate.”
He didn’t mention ‘green’ once and defined sustainability in a way that people can understand, well most people; Pojasek’s definition may elicit a few blank stares as it is strongly intellectual.
I want to move away from the simplicity of green but still use common words that give a smart, but understandable definition. Then I came across and article by Tim Mohin titled “Less is More Obvious: Why Sustainability Is So Hard To Define.” Mohin put it as simply as this,
“It is an expectation that you treat people and our planet with respect.”
Amazingly well put. Society lives off this planet, we will affect it but we can control the repercussions by respecting the world around us.
What do you think? Is ‘green’ too strong and important of a buzzword to leave out or can we start to explain sustainability by using words such as respect and responsibility?
In business, all roads lead to the customer. Whether you’re selling fabric softener, alarm clocks, or electric vehicles, this is true. Last week, GreenBiz ran an article describing three ways that plug-in EVs (electric vehicles) could make it in the mass market. Reading it made me realize that all three of their recommendations could be boiled down to overarching challenges green (and even non-green) products face. And below them all remains the point that can’t be said enough: Always focus on the customer, not the product.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a framework for companies to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance. At first glance, a formal framework may seem overkill for a small business. However, the core principles of the GRI can benefit small players as much, if not more, than a Fortune 500 company.
Measuring Beyond the Bottom Line
Revenue and profit are critical to your operation. If you don’t keep tabs on these numbers, your business won’t survive. The GRI is simply an extension of these metrics that allows you to measure the impact of your business on your environment and community (including your customers).