Hot Potatoes Prove Sustainability is About More Than Renewables and Recycling

Apr 6, 2011   //   by Bradley Short   //   Blog, Marketing & Communication, Operations Management, The Environment  //  No Comments

I read this BusinessWeek article yesterday and it really got me thinking about the state of environmental money saving. It talks about a profoundly unique solution to a difficult to see problem, and it really makes a great case for an environmental corporate focus.  Unfortunately, the ideas in this article are often missing in day-to-day sustainability conversation. Traditional green dialogue (focusing exclusively on efficiency and the like) can perpetuate a discourse that, pardon the expression, can’t see the forest for the trees.

Digging up a new water supplier

In the article, a Walkers potato chip plant in England took an environmental focus that allowed them to realize that their money was literally blowing in the wind.  Potatoes are about 80% water, and frying them releases a very large amount of it in steam form.  Walkers discovered that if they found a way to collect and condense the steam, and then use that re-condensed water back in their factory, they could save some big money.  They’re now working on a solution that, if successful, could save about $1 million each year at that single plant alone.

An appeal to eco-champions

The story about the Walkers plant is an excellent example of a company that is using a sustainable focus to drive an innovative new technology.  Benefits like this wouldn’t be possible if the company hadn’t been looking for ways to improve its environmental impact.  This story isn’t the only example of a business finding such a benefit either.  But if that’s so, why is corporate sustainability still often thought to be synonymous with low-hanging efficiency and conservation measures?

Regardless of the reasons, it’s time that we shift the conversation from incremental victories and small (yet noble) goals to discuss systematic change that creates new savings and cash flows beyond the wildest dreams of any CFO.  So become a champion for systematic environmental change in your conversations and in your company.  Maybe soon you’ll be the next to discover the hidden asset in your own back yard.