Natural resource sustainability and environmental protection are becoming growing factors in modern day business practices. According to a 2011 report based on U.S. Census Bureau data, green businesses in the United States comprise a $175 billion industry that employs nearly two million workers. American businesses have come a long way, but many businesses have yet to make their mark in the green space.
With increasing environmental consciousness taking root at both the consumer and government level, more and more businesses are being challenged to review and address their own environmental impact. As sustainability becomes less theory and more common day practice, companies are increasingly looking to integrate environmental thinking into their operations. And the incentive goes beyond just ethical motivation; government agencies across all levels are progressively altering regulatory environments to incent eco-friendly policies and practices. Fundamental changes are occurring in business behavior, such as the shrinking amount of energy, water, and toxic materials that are used in production practices; increased construction of green buildings; production of more energy-saving technologies; shifts in the auto industry to build hybrid and electric vehicles that consume less fuel and emit fewer pollutants; actions by businesses to incorporate metrics to measure their environmental responsibility practices, and a new era of government regulatory compliance designed to tackle climate change.
Business leaders are taking greater note of the advantages to be gained by going green in an era where environmental considerations are gaining influence in consumers’ purchasing decisions. That’s supported by a Cohn & Wolfe 2011 consumer perception survey that revealed no less than 73 percent of American consumers say it’s important to buy from green companies. A major contributing factor is consumer belief that unhealthy or unsustainable products threaten their well being. Increasingly, consumers are looking for products that are reliable, high quality, trustworthy and sold by companies that care about their customers.
- For those companies that choose the green path, they stand to benefit from:
- Brand loyalty in that more people are opting to stay loyal to brands that demonstrate a commitment to the environment.
- Competitive advantage whereby being recognized as a green leader can differentiate a company’s brand among competitors.
- Employee retention in that environmentally conscious employees are more likely to identify with an employer whose principles are aligned to their values.
- Cost savings whereby cutting waste such as unnecessary energy use means money saved.
According to the Cohn & Wolfe study, consumers intend to purchase more environmental products in the auto, technology and energy sectors compared to years past. Available from some utilities and energy retailers, companies and individuals are turning to carbon offsets and renewable energy credits (RECs) to reduce the energy-related environmental impact that results from their everyday activities such as driving, heating, cooling and lighting their homes and businesses. For example, by investing in renewable energy such as wind or solar power projects, consumers can offset their own carbon emissions that are produced by conventional, brown energy sources. Businesses can demonstrate their environmental responsibility by offsetting their emissions through carbon credits, that is, compensate for the carbon dioxide they emit by preventing the same amount of pollution from happening elsewhere.
In the building industry, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is also gaining influence. A globally recognized standard, LEED provides verification that a building or community has been designed and built to improve performance and reduce emissions. New and existing buildings can earn points towards LEED certification by offsetting their energy consumption through high quality carbon offset and/or REC products.
More than ever, organizations are making the link between energy efficiency and increased profitability according to a 2011 Carbon Disclosure Project report. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership asserts that “the voluntary purchase of renewable energy credits allows business…to help grow the U.S. renewable energy capacity in a way that is most cost-effective and offers a compelling, verifiable and transparent way for an organization to meet its environmental goals.” Paul Simpson, CEO, Carbon Disclosure Project adds that “managing carbon emissions and protecting the business from climate change impacts is fundamental to achieving sustainable and strong shareholder return.”
If you do choose to offset your energy-related carbon footprint, be sure to look for an energy provider that invests in projects that meet the highest environmental standards such as Green-e certified renewable energy credits, and carbon offset projects that are CAR (Climate Action Reserve), VCS (Verified Carbon Standard), or ACR (American Carbon Registry) certified.
About the Author:
Nancy Donnaperna is a business writer with close to 15 years of experience in corporate, B2B, and direct marketing communications in the insurance and energy industries. She has written for a variety of internal and external audiences managing a broad range of messages from corporate social responsibility policy, to brand building, to crisis communications, and a variety of material in between.
Currently, Nancy leverages her expertise at North American energy retailer Just Energy where she leads the communications and social media portfolios, and serves as a major contributor to the company’s public relations campaigns. A penchant for creative prose, Nancy has penned several fictional pieces with contributions to short story anthology, Wordstruck.