Deloitte Report – Sustainability in Business Today: A Cross-Industry View

By Marisa Greenwald (Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice, Grossman Marketing Group)

Despite widespread support for sustainability reforms, lofty rhetoric from CEOs and government incentivizes for businesses to “go green,” corporate sustainability improvements have been limited.  To further probe why companies are not moving more aggressively on this front, Deloitte recently published a study that delineates corporate perspectives on sustainability based on responses from 48 companies across different industries.  The report studies these perspectives in five contexts: general sustainable practices, sustainability related to innovation, corporate responses to sustainability incentives in the stimulus package, the relevance of new skills in pursuing sustainability efforts, and future sustainability trends.  Several compelling trends emerged from this study which I thought would be worth sharing with the Sustainable Ink community.

First, it is interesting to note the challenge companies face trying to innovate through sustainability.  The study found that in the area of product innovation, 23% of companies surveyed were developing entire sustainable product lines while only 25% of all companies surveyed indicated they were pursuing efforts to make their products more sustainable.  So while a considerable portion of companies are devoting entire lines to greening efforts, only a fourth of all surveyed incorporate the sustainability factor into innovation.  A major problem companies identify when trying to create sustainable products is the tension between willingness to pay and cost.  Even though customers may want sustainable products, they are not necessarily willing to pay more for them, so companies must find ways of keeping the sustainable measures cost-neutral.

Another interesting finding from this report is the corporate reaction to sustainability incentives in the stimulus package enacted last year.  While there was an overall mild recognition of energy efficiency incentives in the legislation (5.29 on 10-point scale, with 1 being not at all familiar and 10 being very familiar), there was the largest gap in understanding between the automotive industry, 6.38, and the technology industry, 3.91.  The gap in policy awareness between the industries supports the broader idea that there is a heightened emphasis on greening in the automotive industry, where carmakers have been under considerable scrutiny and consumers have a relatively high willingness to pay for a hybrid vehicle, compared to a willingness to buy energy efficient technology products.

Overall, this report offers strong insights into corporate perspectives and decision making criteria in the context of proposed sustainability reforms.  Sustainability advocates and policymakers must continue to consider the needs of corporations who are open to pursuing stronger sustainability standards but whose aims continue to be maximizing shareholder value and maintaining profitability.

Click here to download the full report from Deloitte.

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Tips from Deloitte: Top 10 list to green your client site

picture21A friend at Deloitte has made me aware of his firm’s “Greening the Dot” program, aimed at helping create awareness among Deloitte’s large employee base that being environmentally-friendly is an important thing to do.  The leaders of this effort frequently send out newsletters with tips to go green and initiatives that the firm is designing to be a more sustainable enterprise.

Not only is this effort a smart play from an employee retention perspective (given the economy, this will be important longer term rather than immediately) but also because it helps Deloitte send a values-laden message to its clients.  As a former consultant myself, I know that this industry is often seen from the outside as tough and unfriendly, and focused purely on numbers and deliverables.  However, I believe that Deloitte’s “Greening the Dot” program helps send a positive message to the outside world.  In the hypercompetitive world of strategy consulting, this can only help.

Below is a “Top 10 list to green your client site” that Deloitte released this week.  Clearly from its title, this is a series of ways that Deloitte employees can help the environment, and do so in very visible ways to the outside world:

  1. Unplug. Unplug “orphan” chargers and power cords which still consume energy when they are plugged in. Nearly 75% of all electricity used to power electronics is consumed by products that are switched off.
  2. Print less. Just because you’re at the client doesn’t mean you can’t reduce the amount you print! Consider having “paperless” meetings. With overhead projectors, we can eliminate the need for paper during meetings.
  3. Print duplex. To reduce your paper consumption, “duplexing“ can be done on copiers and printers.
  4. Use a reusable cup. Use a reusable cup or mug & save those paper or styrofoam cups from going in the trash.
  5. Recycle. Recycle paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, cardboard, and electronics in your local office.
  6. Turn off the lights. Be sure to turn overhead and task lights off as you leave offices and conference rooms. Also, avoid the need for unnecessary lighting by taking advantage of natural light whenever possible.
  7. Power down. Update your power management settings on your laptop to “stand by” or “sleep” after periods of inactivity when plugged in. If you only keep your computer on while you are actually using it, and put it on “stand by” for the rest of the time, you can cut energy use by 55%.
  8. Dress appropriately. Heating and air conditioning are typically the largest sources of energy use in the office. Dressing in layers can help your body adjust to temperature changes in the office. Keep a spare sweater in the office rather than turning up the thermostat or using a space heater.
  9. Travel less. Consider videoconferencing and other technology options to reduce your travel.
  10. Travel green. When traveling, be as environmentally friendly as possible. Bring a reusable mug, carpool and rent the most fuel efficient vehicles, reuse towels and linens, turn off the heating or air conditioning, and turn off all the lights before you leave your hotel room

The newsletter concluded with the following statement: “These small changes will make a big impact. Thank you for taking part in the efforts to make our office a little greener!”

This actionable series of tips, although just a start, provides a simple roadmap to Deloitte consultants of ways to easily go green when on the road at a client site.  None of these tips are difficult to implement, but all are sensible and can have an impact.