Setting The Record Straight on "Green"

<p style="text-align: justify;">We see it everywhere these days -- the call to "Go Green!"&nbsp; TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, books, and the Internet, the barrage of advice to green your home, your life and your business is inescapable.&nbsp; As a rather vocal environmentalist, entrepreneur and MBA, I am often asked by friends, family, and colleagues to give my perspective on "green business."&nbsp; My initial response often disappoints anyone who is looking for a "profound" answer.&nbsp; It is my belief that there is no such thing as "green business."&nbsp; To me, using the term "green business" is like using the terms "red business" or "black business" to describe organizations that are dedicated to losing or making money.&nbsp; It just doesn't make sense.<br /><br />When people use the term "green business," what they typically are referring to is a business that is attempting to reduce its negative impact on the environment.&nbsp; This might include reducing the amount of pollution, manufacturing waste, or the thing we hear most about, CO2 emissions. &nbsp;<br /><br />But let's be very clear. These reductions are not solely based on operational tactics or even an operational strategy.&nbsp; The actions taken to lessen harmful environmental effects are motivated by the organization's values and core attributes.<br /><br />Let me explain.&nbsp; Companies such as Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms, Whole Foods, Burt's Bees, and Honest Tea, are often referred to as "green" and typically share some things in common.&nbsp; These often include a commitment to:</p>
<ul class="unIndentedList" style="text-align: justify;">
<li> Reducing pollution</li>
<li> Curbing global warming</li>
<li> Supporting biodiversity</li>
<li>Preserving natural spaces</li>
</ul>
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<p style="text-align: justify;">But there are other traits that these companies share:</p>
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<li> Innovative</li>
<li> Profitable</li>
<li> Positive work environment</li>
<li> Low employee turnover</li>
<li> Efficient use of all resources (time, materials)</li>
</ul>
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<p style="text-align: justify;">What is critical to understand is that it's the second grouping of traits, not the first that actually make these popular companies successful and more importantly, green.&nbsp; In fact, when you look at all these characteristics together it does not say "green business," it says "good business."&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br />To make this a bit more concrete, let's consider a trait that most companies would like to possess, efficiency -- the ability to do more with less.&nbsp; One of my favorite examples of this is from an organization whose dedication to efficiency helped to reduce their impact on the environment and make them "greener".<br /><br />UPS is in the business of delivering packages.&nbsp; Is it a "green business"?&nbsp; Conventional wisdom would say no.&nbsp; It burns tens of millions of gallons of gas per year delivering customer packages.&nbsp; Is one of UPS's core traits efficiency?&nbsp; Absolutely.&nbsp; The UPS model is based upon delivering more packages, by driving or flying fewer miles.&nbsp; UPS continually seeks greater operational efficiency and in 2007, it implemented a rather odd practice, no left turns.&nbsp; Why no left turns?&nbsp; Internal studies showed that if UPS drivers avoided left hand turns, they could save time and ultimately deliver more packages. &nbsp;<br /><br />The results proved the studies correct.&nbsp; Not only was UPS able to eliminate 30 million miles from its fleet, allowing UPS to deliver more packages with fewer miles, it also saved 3 million gallons of gas.&nbsp; But as the story goes, this also reduced UPS's negative impact on the environment.&nbsp; They cut emissions by 32,000 metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to removing 5,300 passenger cars from the road for an entire year.<br /><br />Is UPS a so-called "green business" or just a "good business"?&nbsp; I think you know my answer. <br /><br />So why did I feel compelled to write about this topic?&nbsp; First, as the blog title goes I wanted to set the record straight (or at least make my opinion clear) on "green business."&nbsp; More important though, I want everyone to remember that like a company, it is your own values that define who you are.&nbsp; If you strive to live a greener, more sustainable life, stop focusing on changing your light bulbs to CFLs and examine your values.&nbsp; If your values are in line, and you stay true to them, they will lead you to where you want to go.<br /><br /><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Jeremy Litchfield is president / CEO of Arlington-based, <a href="http://www.atayne.com">Atayne</a>, a newly launched company created to inspire positive environmental and social change through the power of sports and active lifestyles. Website: <a href="http://www.atayne.com">www.atayne.com</a></em></span></p>
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