Green Business: the Power of Sustainability

If you have your own business, become a green business: increase your profit by decreasing your environmental footprint.

Go green!!!!!!

If you are the boss, whatever your company does, what you can achieve is endless.

 “While environmental and financial sustainability have often been seen as opposite goals, they are, in truth, one and the very same”

Ray Anderson

in Confessions of a Radical Industrialist

What does YOUR Company do for the Environment?

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.

“I stood indicted as a plunderer, a destroyer of the earth, a thief, stealing my own grandchildren’s future. And I thought, My God, someday what I do here will be illegal.

Someday, they’ll send people like me to jail "

Ray Anderson

in Confessions of a Radical Industrialist

Increase your Profit Today: Go Green

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!

If a Polluting Business Can Do It, You Can Do It Too

In the documentary"A Passion For Sustainability" (2008), you see how different businesses went down the path of sustainability.

The diversity of the businesses gives you real hope: EVERY single business can become more sustainable! There is a fashion designer, a wine maker, a shoe industry giant, a car repair shop, a cleaning business, a home building company, a pizza restaurant, an architect, a furniture maker, developers, even a logging company...

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."

Why Should the Industry Become Sustainable?

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.

Paul's argument was that other big players -governments, religion, universities- could not start a green revolution. Paul Hawken said:

  • Governments are often motivated by short term goals that will get them re-elected.
  • Religion has supported for a long time that the Earth was here for humans to take what they needed.
  • Paul sadly also said Universities wouldn’t either head the revolution (bad news for my convictions!) because they trained the new generation to act in the future but we needed action now.

"Human society is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Earth environment. If our "parent company" destabilizes, our society and our economies go down with it."

The Natural Step

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.

The 7 Steps Toward a Green Business

Ray Anderson, a radical industrialist on the way to become a world leader in green profitable businesses, devised a 7 fold plan to sustainability.

Step 1 for a green business: Eliminate waste

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.

Step 2 for a green business: Increase benign emission, decrease harmful emissions

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.

Step 3 for a green business: Use renewable energy

This should be a no-brainer, really!

There are plenty available ways to use renewable energy, and no good argument against it.

Step 4 for a green business: Recycle

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.

"Business is the economic engine of our Western culture, and, if it could be transformed to truly serve Nature as well as ourselves, it could become essential to our rescue"

Karl-Henrik Robert, Founder of The Natural Step

Step 5 for a green business: Efficient transportation

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:

  • optimised tyres,
  • hybrid systems that re-use the energy created when a truck breaks,
  • some modifications can be made to trucks to make them more aerodynamics...

Step 6 for a green business: Change mindsets

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...

Step 7 for a green business: Redesign commerce and costing by being inclusive

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,

There are millions of environmental rules and regulations issued by  governments to the industry on how to operate. If industries break the rules, they get in trouble.

What are these rules and regulations achieving? Well, they are definitively not keeping people safe and the environment clear from pollution...

Maybe rules and regulations keep us from being poisoned too quickly, at which time it would become too evident that our societies were doing something wrong??

- 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:

  • The top 1% of the population has a staggering 40% of the Nation wealth.
  • Meanwhile the bottom 80% of all Americans have only 7% of the country's wealth!!!

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.

"The Gross Domestic Product measures just about everything except the things that make life truly worthwhile"

Ray Anderson

in Confessions of a Radical Industrialist

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:

  • mining companies in Australia receive subsidised fuel!
  • organic products in many countries in Europe cannot compete with subsidised highly-polluting factory farms and intensive farming!
  • in the US, nuclear energy is artificially low cost because of government laws that stop people from claiming compensation in case of a nuclear incident (which means the nuclear energy thus benefits from artificially low insurance costs).

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":

  • Nature runs on sunlight
  • Nature uses only the energy it needs
  • Nature fits form to function
  • Nature recycles everything
  • Nature rewards cooperation
  • Nature banks on diversity
  • Nature demands local expertise
  • Nature curbs excess from within
  • Nature taps the power of limits

Sustainability: An Ecological and Economical necessity


We are not promoting Wal-Mart or Nestle here! There are lots of painful aspects of these massive multinationals. We are just pointing to the fact that these businesses would do ANYTHING to make more money. This is why they are now going down the green business path: it makes economical sense.

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.

"We're going to create jobs, we're going to create new industries, we're going to create a whole new way of doing business that will be positive for the economy at the same time that we're being responsible to the environment"

Dennis Wilde, Developer

in the documentary"A Passion For Sustainability" (2008)

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.