As with any movement,
the sustainable business movement needs leaders. While many companies
are eager to make changes that positively affect the environment,
they are most often only comfortable with dipping their toes in
the water. The need for businesses willing to dive in is greater
than ever, but in terms of the bottom line, companies are afraid
to be the first to do anything that hasn’t been proven to
work in the past.
Not so for the trailblazers out there making progress in the green
movement. This month, a few corporate leaders—and their efforts
to lead the charge—are highlighted. In “Exelon Takes
the LEED,” we see how one power company has made efforts to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent. Here is a company
whose bottom line is directly affected by efforts to conserve energy,
and it is promoting responsible energy use.
One Exelon executive believes more companies will follow suit. Last
year, Exelon was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability North America
Index. “We hope to retain that distinction this year,”
says Helen Howes, vice president, environment, health and safety
for Exelon. “But I think more companies and certainly more
of the financial institutions are looking at these kinds of analyses
to make investment decisions, and that should drive a lot of behavior.”
When these large companies show that they can be profitable by being
green, smaller companies are more likely to jump on board. In Jim
Rise’s story about “The Greening of Corporate America,”
he shows how much of an impact small business can have on the environment
when they join forces to make change. But even the smallest effort
can help: By simply selecting to print on both sides of a sheet
of paper, for example, business will conserve storage space, reduce
heating costs and eliminate up to 50 percent of paper waste.
Many companies are starting to promote sustainability in the workplace.
As Dennis Walsh writes in the cover story, greening a business can
save money, boost productivity, earn respect and make an impact
on the environment. He points out that the average office employee
generates a half-pound of paper waste every day, and uses 10,000
sheets of copy paper each year. The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency estimates that paper and paperboard account for nearly 40
percent of our garbage—and each half-pound of paper waste
contributes the equivalent of one pound in greenhouse gas emissions.
By encouraging, even mandating, employees to do their small part
through recycling used paper products, using recycled-content materials
and reducing margins when printing documents, companies everywhere
can do their part to be socially and environmentally responsible.
The little things do add up. Small companies doing their part on
an individual level may not have the same effect as the acts of
large corporate organizations. But when they collectively make the
effort, the effects are easy to see. They just need their big brothers
and sisters to jump in the water first and show them that everything
is all right.
by Sarah Christy and Jeff Orloff