Financial Times: Why sustainability is still going strong

financialtimes_logoA friend of mine sent along the following link to a piece written by Duke professors Daniel Vermeer and Robert Clemen, about the importance of a refined sustainability strategy during this economic crisis.  Vermeer is the executive director of the Corporate Sustainability Initiative at the Duke Fuqua School of Business, and Clemen is professor and faculty director of the Corporate Sustainability Initiative.

The piece, published last Thursday in the Financial Times, is titled “Managing in a downturn: Why sustainability is still going strong” and is a must-read.  Vermeer and Clemen’s main point is that given the current difficult business climate, organizations will understandably make changes to their sustainability and corporate governance efforts.  However, they warn against doing the bare minimum, as those organizations that fail to show a “commitment will find themselves at risk when the economic conditions improve.”

They make some interesting points, introduce some interesting people like Marcus Roberts, especially in the conclusion, and I wanted to make sure all of you saw it.  Here’s the link to the full story.

News roundup – it’s about the wind

As I have written in the past, renewable energy is critical to our nation’s future – not only from a carbon emissions perspective but also for national security reasons.

My firm’s adoption of and support for renewable energy (we offset 100% of our energy with Green-e certified wind power through Renewable Choice, the firm that both Whole Foods and Burt’s Bees work with to offset their energy usage) has enabled us to offer products and services to our clients that have helped them support the environment, without adding any extra cost to their respective bottom lines.  Because my firm made the commitment more than two years ago to absorb the additional cost of these wind power credits, we have been able to grow our business in turbulent times and attract new and progressive clients.

I am pleased to share two exciting news pieces:

  1. A PDF of an article published last month by the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News magazine (a live link is not yet available).  The staff collected a range of good and bad marketing campaigns from 2008 and asked various marketing professionals to chime in.  They asked me to comment on the marketing of T. Boone Pickens’ wind power initiative (which is now on hold due to economic concerns) – the news brief is on page 1 of the attachment.
  2. An article in The Somerville News (a newspaper in my company’s home market) about recent successes my family firm has had as a result of our green initiatives (one correction I need to make is that the reporter spoke with my brother, David, but refers to him as Steve, who is my father and president of the company).

In this increasingly difficult business climate, I can certainly attest to the importance of corporate sustainability and social responsibility programs as a means of differentiation from one’s competition (not to mention the right thing to do!).  Although organizations are looking harder for lower prices than they have ever done before, they are also very much interested in working with a partner who they respect and can learn from.  If your company does not have sustainability initiatives in place now, I implore you to start thinking about them.  Not only can they help you generate interest from prospective clients, but they can also help you save money (on energy, water, etc) – which is now more important than ever.

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.

Newsweek: Green really means business

I had the chance to read an excellent essay in the 9/22/08 issue of Newsweek, by Zachary Karabell of RiverTwice Research, which I strongly recommend.  The main message of the article is that in an era of high energy costs, a company that has sustainable business practices will likely be able to save money and reap positive financial returns as a result.

Karabell writes that “sharply higher prices for oil and raw materials” have made “reductions in energy use economically viable and strategically important in a way that no amount of green activism ever could.”  He continues by discussing Wal-Mart’s efforts to “green” its supply chain: “To maintain its razor-thin margins at a time of record oil prices, which are raising the cost of importing goods from China, Wal-Mart has radically altered how its products are made and how they’re transported. One example: making detergent more concentrated, which leads Wal-Mart suppliers to use smaller plastic containers, which in turn use less petroleum to manufacture those containers, which can then be shipped with more containers in each carton, which leads to less cardboard, which makes it possible to transport more units on each ship or truck, which then reduces the amount of gas used to get those units from the factory to Wal-Mart outlets. The result: Wal-Mart maintains margins and reduces its resource consumption as well as that of its suppliers.”

Karabell also goes on to mention other profit-driven reasons for companies’ sustainability efforts: international regulatory rules as well as studies showing that companies that receive high environmental marks have shown above-average return on investment and stock price performance.

I have frequently written about the importance of green business practices, not only because they are the right thing to do but also because they help the bottom line.
Whatever the reason, the fact that companies like Wal-Mart, Du Pont and Google, to name a few, are all investing heavily in making their businesses less resource intensive, and therefore more profitable, is a great step.  Our national government has not done enough to create incentives for companies and individuals to invest now to save resources and money in the long run, so it is incumbent on the business community to take the initiative.

Relative to my business, Grossman Marketing Group, we strongly urge our clients to not only operate their core businesses responsibly, but also to make the effort to bring that message of sustainability to their constituents through their marketing and communications campaigns.  Whether it’s a piece of direct mail or a giveaway at a tradeshow, by leveraging environmentally-friendly materials, and clearly communicating what they have done to make their pieces less resource-intensive and the savings derived by doing so, they will send a values-laden message to their core customers and donors that will help reinforce their brand and build relationships for the long term.

Here’s a link to the full Newsweek article.

Boston Globe article on Green Movement in Somerville, MA (where Grossman Marketing Group is headquartered)

Over the weekend, the Boston Globe wrote an article on a Somerville, MA green movement that is catching on. The program, called GoGreen Davis Square,focuses on Davis Square, which is near Tufts University, and it involves local businesses. The goal is to make Davis Square carbon neutral – which for a large group of service-based businesses, would be a huge accomplishment.

I wanted to point to a specific comment from local business owner, Jennifer Park, on the potential business benefits of going green, namely increased customer loyalty, something that I wrote about when I discussed the green efforts of the Lenox Hotel: Click here for that blog post.

Park, who owns two establishments, Diesel Cafe and Bloc11Cafe said of the effort: ‘‘I think it’s built — even increased — loyalty of our customers for the kind of people who care about this area,’’ she said. ‘‘It gets people thinking about this stuff.’’

Grossman Marketing Group is also involved in the program, although we are not located near Davis Square. As one of the largest employers in the city, and an organization that has benefited from “going green,” we believe it is important to demonstrate to other local businesses that going green is not simply an additional cost – rather it is good for the world in which we live, and has major benefits as well.

To read the entire Globe story, please click here: Article