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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : July/August 2007

Between Blue and Yellow

Green at Work

by Jeff Orloff

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


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