It doesn’t matter what term you use — sustainable development, triple bottom line, eco-efficiency, resiliency, corporate social responsibility, or shared responsibility — it’s about leadership.
Let’s split this into two types of green leadership — the greening of conventional business and green from the ground up. Both movements have been active since the early 1990s, a product of the sustainable development movement of the 1980s.
Greening business: Most conventional companies have now made environmental responsibility an integral part of doing business — including minimizing environmental impact, maximizing the efficient use of resources, and marketing responsible products and services to their customers. Most businesses have also developed a complete life cycle approach, applying environmental responsibility at all stages in the production chain.
Green business: Since the early 1990’s there has also been a steady increase in the number of new companies that provide green products and services. This green entrepreneurial spirit is evident across all sectors, including food, transportation, energy, housing, and clothing. As a result, we like to say that the green economy is now about 5% of the conventional economy (+ 5%). The reality is, the green economy is growing fast in response to consumer demand for green products and services.
Green Marketing and Transparency
One of the biggest concerns around the green economy is transparency — are claims of being green accurate and complete? Our friends at Terrachoice (home of the EcoLogo) have a great website on the sins of greenwashing, which include hidden trade-offs, false labels, vagueness, and the lesser of two evils.
There are some excellent certification programs available, that cover sustainable practices for seafood, farming, forestry, energy, recycling, building design, and environmental management systems. There are also about as many green labels as there are products on the shelf. No wonder consumers are confused.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to compare apple and oranges? Here’s what we need: a common, high-level rating system for commitment to green that is comprehensive, connected to appropriate certifications, scalable to the size of business, adaptable to all types of business, simple for consumers to understand, and backed up by full transparency and disclosure.
A five star system could easily cover a commitment to green leadership in internal operations, products and services, and community support:
An initial statement of commitment
Ten significant actions relevant to the size and operations of the company
Leadership in internal operations (certification or environmental management system)
Leadership in products and services (>50% with significant environmental benefit)
Leadership in community support (community of peers, environmental community, or geographic community)
There is no guarantee of perfection with this system, but it would use the power of positive marketing, corporate relations, and a watchdog role to ensure compliance and to provide consumers with a reliable and meaningful indicator of a company’s environmental commitment.
If you are interested in developing the system, either as a sponsored project or through your corporate environmental program, drop us a line.