If you have your own business, become a green business: increase your profit by decreasing your environmental footprint.
If you are the boss, whatever your company does, what you can achieve is endless.
What a truly inspirational businessman was Ray Anderson.
He described himself as an industrialist. He was doing business, and he was doing it well (he built from scratch a billion-dollar company).
Yet one day he was asked what his company was doing for the environment.
That got him thinking – well, not straight away, as at first he didn’t even understand the question. But he started thinking and reading about what it meant. This is when he got struck by the emergency of the environmental crisis.
He actually instantly turned around his gigantic company toward his ideal of a “zero footprint”, a “no harm done” company.
And guess what?
He doubled the profit for his company.
What I’m trying to say is, if you don’t do it for the environment, do it for your company! Becoming a green business is actually good for your business.
It all makes sense: being sustainable means being more energy efficient, use cleaner renewable energy, reduce, reuse & recycle material (or in other words, waste less).
In a way it means living like you had very little money and every dollar counted. Thus you start to need less to achieve more. How could sustainability not save money?
Ray saw it immediately. As he said, he was a competitive and profit orientated businessman. He was not going to make any decision that would endangered the profitability of his company, his “third child” as he called it.
Go green with the help of Ray Anderson:
Build a successful business without destroying the planet!
Maybe you think becoming a green business is only possible for certain types of businesses, which have already a low environmental footprint? Or businesses which are green at their core or are aimed at green minded people?
Well, Ray’s business was making carpet tiles.
Making carpet when Ray started his dream of a zero footprint involved the worst situation in terms of oil, chemical and energy consumption as well as waste production.
Ray's carpet business aimed at selling carpet tiles mostly to large centres, office blocks and hotels, which are not particularly green minded businesses.
At the time Ray drastically changed his company vision to become a green business, no one thought it was even achievable. The stock exchange didn’t believe it, his industrialist peers mocked him, even his employees were stunned.
Did that stopped Ray?
On the contrary, that motivated him. He thought,
"If I, CEO of a business that has one of the worst impact on the environment, can become a green business, than every business can."
What Ray wanted to achieve was nothing short of revolutionising the business world, and through that the entire world.
Ray based this on a book he read from Paul Hawken, and what was motivational was that in his book Paul concluded a true green revolution can only come from the industry.
argument was that other big players -governments, religion,
universities- could not start a green revolution. Paul Hawken said:
Paul concluded there was only one other powerful player: the industry. And the industry had revolutionised the world before so could do it again.
Ray felt empowered.
And you should too: as a business owner, you may well hold the key to changing the world.
Ray Anderson, a radical industrialist on the way to become a world leader in green profitable businesses, devised a 7 fold plan to sustainability.
Everything you do that cost you money without benefiting your customer is waste. Ways of decreasing your waste is to think of how to be more efficient with your materials and your use of energy, as well as decrease costs associated with non productive parts of your business – administrative cost for instance. Brainstorm ways to eliminate mistakes – they are waste too, they cost you with no benefit to your customers.
Ask people on the ground to come up with ideas: they see what happens and where waste is hiding and they are full of ways to decrease waste – especially if they are rewarded for it. Meanwhile your company is rewarded too in savings, and the environment and wildlife benefit from what doesn’t need to produced to be wasted.
The best garbage is the one we don’t produce.
This is your effluents, whether they are solid, liquid or gaz, that are created and released from your business.
Look for ways to get rid of your worst chemical culprits by new processes or substituting bad guys for better guys.
This should be a no-brainer, really!
There are plenty available ways to use renewable energy, and no good argument against it.
Another no-brainer, and one thing I am obsessed with (see Reduce, re-use, Recycle): anything that is not recycled is increasing our problems on Earth . The natural world recycles 100% of all things. There is no waste in Nature.
And if we want the planet to continue harbour life, we need to start thinking like Nature.
Business-wise, the more you recycle, the more you save money, too.
If we think long and deep enough, we can find ways to recycle everything - Ray found ways to recycle carpet!
If we really can't recycle something, than we should find alternative products that we can recycle.
Remember, there is no other planet where we accumulate all the toxic waste we cannot recycle. We are accumulating it right here, on this planet.
For the environment, efficient transportation is a good way to decrease pollution and climate-warming gas. For profit, efficient transportation is good news too: it means transporting more for less money.
The worst kind of transportation is by air, then trucks, transport by rail and sea are much more efficient.
Also if you are sending products around the world, reducing their weight and packaging also means increased efficiency.
If you cannot go around transporting by trucks, use fuel-efficient trucks with:
You cannot become sustainable on your own. You need to get your associates, your clients, your suppliers on board.
And to gain support to sustainability, the first step is to be fair and ethical.
One positive mindset (to be green and good for the Planet) is linked to another: to be good to people. You cannot treat the planet well without being kind to the humans on it.
It just doesn't work that way...
When you look around you today, you see the model we use to run the world, in only a few centuries, has created many environmental problems:
- toxic products in our air, in our soil, in our water,
- enormous amount of waste,
- species being lost everyday through extinctions, and many more becoming threatened,
- climate change.
You also see more and more social illegalities. The difference between the richest and the poorest people on this planet has never been so large.
I repeat, because this is amazing:
the world has never been as unfair as it is today.
And if you think the world is unfair only because of the difference between the rich and poor countries, think again. The world is unfair inside rich countries too.
Take the USA:
And this situation has gotten worse in the past 30 years. We are working hard at making our world more and more unfair...
Therefore our current way of running the world is obviously NOT working.
Our ways to measure the world "progress" or "happiness" is wrong. We think the more we produce the better. Let me ask you: Where have you ever seen that the more you own the happier you are? I have never seen that!
Trying to increase GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and being proud to be in a higher GDP country is just wrong. Think about it: catastrophic weather events creating so much suffering, or large scale pollution (like the Exxon Valdez oil spill) have a big boost on GDP.
We need to change our model. We need the governments to stop subsidising big businesses (including banks) and industries that are doing the wrong thing. Can you believe that:
We should turn to a model that has proved to be working for millions of years. What would that be? Nature, of course.
We humans are great inventors. Nature though has produced the most amazing world, which beauty, efficiency and quality of life are pretty exceptional. It is time humans work with Nature to design our common future.
These are the rules for our future -if we want one- on this planet, taken from Janine Benyus book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature":
I love the example of Ray because it doesn’t come from some green minded extremist full of good ideas for the rest of us to apply (not that I have a problem with green minded extremists! In my wildest dreams sometimes I think maybe I could be one day considered one! And I would be proud of it!).
But the power of Ray Anderson example is that it comes from an industrialist. A profit orientated businessman, the CEO of one of the most polluting and oil-hungry type of business you can imagine.
Yet he did it.
He understood the necessity of becoming sustainable: the ecological and economical necessity of it.
And this is not the story of one mad (yet highly successful) man: many have understood the double value of sustainability (ecological and economical) and are following.
And some are big companies too: Wal-Mart, Dell, Nestle, Subaru...
If Wal-Mart was a country, its profit would place it next to the Netherlands. This is not a small business. This is not a business that wants to make less profit either.
You can trust them to be making the right choice to increase their profit, and the right choice is to become a green business - no matter the size of your business.
Be part of the new wave of successful businesses: become a sustainable, green business. This is the future of the industry.
Be a green business and while you are busy counting your profit, savour the taste of making the world a better place for humans and wildlife.