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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : July/August 2006

Between Blue and Yellow

No Question

By Sarah Christy

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about green@work and he asked the question, “Isn’t that idea (sustainability) counterproductive to a corporation’s bottom line?” I was quite flabbergasted. This friend of mine is well-educated and openly progressive in his political views. Still, he was under the impression that sustainability and profitability are at two different ends of the spectrum.

This month’s issue addresses this myth on quite a few fronts. In her Frontlines article, Diane Greer writes about the foreign oil problem, explaining how American companies like DuPont are looking to ethanol and other biodiesel fuels as the future of transportation. The funding for these projects is coming from government grants and private investors who obviously see a link between profitability and sustainability.

Brian Lynch furthers this point in his Industry News piece, discussing the topic of solar panels being used to power commercial giants such as Wal-Mart and La-Z-Boy. The competitive costs of using renewable energy sources are obviously enticing to some of our country’s most profitable corporations.

Americans have begun to realize that investing in green businesses can be a sound tactic as well, and investment advisors are starting to take note. “Investment advisors have discovered that environmental performance can be an excellent indicator of stock market potential,” says Chuck Kent, EPA director for the Office of Community and Business Innovation.

However, money is not always the driving factor in the practice of corporate responsibility. Some look out for the environment on their own accord. Take the growing trend of “offsetting” carbon emissions. People and businesses alike are now looking at ways they can negate, or offset, the carbon dioxide emissions they produce each year through energy use. London-based HSBC claims that it became the first major bank last year to offset all of its carbon emissions; Swiss Re, a major reinsurance company based in Zürich, pledges to do the same by 2013. Francis Sullivan, advisor on environmental issues at HSBC Holdings, says there was a “steep learning curve” that he faced when trying to find ways to offset the bank’s carbon emissions. HSBC wound up paying $750,000 last year to various environmental projects, including a clean energy project in India to offset these emissions.

Whether the motive is financial or moral, the answer to my friend’s question is a resounding “no.” There is nothing fiscally irresponsible by going green. Countless data proves this statement. It is up to those who realize the potential of business sustainability to let others know the merits of such a philosophy—and debunk the ongoing myth that green and the bottom line don’t mix.


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