Part 2 of 2
“Green is sometimes a criterion in purchasing, however many of our clients don’t understand sustainability. They have to get it before they ask for it,” said David Anderson, managing director for Expense Reduction Analysts, a consulting company that identifies excess expenses and negotiates with suppliers on behalf of clients in exchange for a portion of any savings realized.
“Most people certainly aren’t aware of all of the elements that comprise sustainability. Education must be the mantra in any sustainability initiative,” said Elin Raymond, president of the branding/marketing firm The Sage Group, Inc.
Ned Tillman, principal of Sustainable Growth, LLC, a Columbia, Maryland, consultancy that helps businesses embed sustainability in their strategic thinking, agrees. “The biggest hurdle we face is that people don’t have a solid grasp of what sustainability means and how it can benefit the bottom line. We help companies implement a systematic approach for looking at energy costs, waste streams, services and products in ways that engage employees and build stronger and more efficient organizations. What results is a process that will embed sustainable practices into all operational areas.”
“To be profitable in today’s transparent and interconnected world, we all need a mechanism to balance competing stakeholder, environmental and financial interests,” said Tillman.
“Some companies treat employees as a disposable commodity. You can’t have long-term customers without long-term employees,” said Bob Henig, co-owner of Bob’s BMW in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, which is the largest BMW motorcycle dealer in the mid-Atlantic region. “Long-term employees cost more per hour, but there are costs related to turnover that exceed the costs of treating employees well. It probably costs $50,000 more out of our pockets, but my gut tells me that we get a good ROI for doing those things.”
“We have documented a number of successes,” said Tillman. “An IT department became convinced that turning off computers at night in order to save $37,000 a year is more important than leaving them on so that software can be updated during that time; a team of auto mechanics invented a low-tech way to recover the five percent of residual oil that is normally wasted when it is left in containers and thrown away; a medical equipment distributor adopted the green initiatives necessary to obtain ISO certification so that it can compete in foreign markets and double its revenue; and a school system motivated students to turn off lights by sharing a portion of the savings with them.”
“I definitely see green gaining momentum overall,” said Anderson.
Empirical data confirm Anderson’s observation. Apparently more businesses, especially large companies, are focusing on sustainability as the markets they serve further embrace it. In The Business Guide to Sustainability, published in 2010, authors Darcy Hitchcock and Marsha Willard presented data that showed that 48 percent of Americans “prefer a green option if it is the same cost or very little extra effort,” while 15 percent were “willing to pay slightly more for a green product or option.”
“If the client identifies green as a key criterion, we would evaluate only green options. Remember, the client sets the criteria,” said Anderson.
“We’ve been doing a lot of these things for 30 years because we feel they are the right things to do, and because they make good economic sense, too,” said Suzanne Henig, co-owner of Bob’s BMW.
This post continues on the topic of making a business case for going green. The first part of this story was posted on August 20.