Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is Your Company a "Grey" Business?

During the past year, news outlets have been littered (forgive the pun) with stories highlighting Fortune 1000 companies investing in new green initiatives. Throughout 2008, numerous surveys released by Harris Interactive, Intellitrends, Bentley, and Mintel indicate an increasing consumer awareness in going green. Similarly, a growing consumer segment now assesses a company’s environmental policies before making the decision to purchase a good or service. This trend has not gone unnoticed by professional marketers. “Grey” companies, those publicly displaying a cursory interest in environmental sustainability, are surely receiving briefs involving these surveys. In response, many are scrambling to repaint their products and corporate images to match the expectations of a Green business. World-renowned names including CitiBank, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, and Clorox each have allotted billions of dollars into various ecocentric technologies and strategies. Industry experts see this transition of capital funds not as a simple fad, rather, a long-term trend in the way business will be conducted beginning now and stretching far into the future.

Companies engaged in a restructuring of their sustainability policies are reaping the benefits by virtue of an increasing sales volume, a decreasing employee turnover rate, and, of course, diminishing energy costs.

So what exactly is a Grey business? In the past, the terminology “grey to green” referenced initiatives for river cleanup efforts stemming the negative effects of storm water runoff. As with many words and phrases over time, the modern meaning is shifting; it now relates best with environmental sustainability. In the growing “green” diction, a Grey company may either represent one which is not sustainably producing environmentally friendly products (and may be engaging in greenwashing), or simply a conventional business that has yet to adopt more sustainable operating practices. A continuously updated Green language dictionary may be found on this Community Portal.

Too often, media attention gravitates towards either large Grey companies announcing enormous green investments, or on new environmentally focused startups. Left out of the spotlight (and the green movement) are existing small and medium sized companies, representing 90% of the nation’s enterprises. Currently, most are simply weathering the economic slowdown, and few, if any, possess the assets to duplicate the initiatives of certain Fortune 1000 examples. However, if expert claims and public surveys are correct in predicting the continued growth of environmental sustainability from a growing trend to a human necessity, companies not adopting sustainable practices may suffer.

Fortunately, modifying a company’s environmental policies and practices does not necessarily require any large investments. Likewise, once a company has adopted a series of guidelines, their marketing efforts can be modified accordingly to take advantage of these changes. Businesses seeking advice and assistance may smooth the process by taking advantage of packaged programs including the Approved Green Business offered by GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. According to Keith Winn, COO/VP Marketing, small and medium size companies in nearly any industry can simply and affordably move from Grey to Green by utilizing their affordable stepwise program. Included within an Approved Green Business Program is assistance for marketing services as well as green benefits for employees, customers, and members, if applicable, to best promote and educate on a variety of green concepts.

With both national and international attention now firmly set on efforts to mitigate and reduce climate change, increase sustainability in all regions, and create energy independence, going from Grey to Green is a strategy every business should consider.

Photo credit: motoed on Flickr

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The New Green Language

Embracing new, environmentally sustainable ideas is often confusing. New terms like “Greenhouse Gases”, “Carbon Footprint”, "Greenwashing”, and even the “Three R’s” (nope, not what you learned in school) are tossed about by a new generation of green techies but for most of us, they may as well be speaking in Latin. Before a company can truly become green, the principals must understand the dynamics, procedures, and the corresponding terminologies.

Let’s start with Recycle. Sounds easy. Most of us are familiar with recycling glass bottles, plastics, and newspapers. The confusion starts with plastic coding, that little number inside the recycling logo on the product. All recyclable plastics are now coded with a numerical value between 1 and 7, representing the type of material used to produce them. However, in most parts of the country, only plastics coded 1-3 are generally being recycled. The others end up in a landfill for the next eon or so. So, instead of simply recycling, we now use the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Carefully consider the waste before purchasing an item; try to purchase an item that can be reused at least several times; and, of course, continue to recycle what you know can be recycled.

Greenhouse gases refers to all gases in our atmosphere, but generally refers to the elevated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2 ), a major contributor to global warming. A carbon footprint is a measure of human activity on the environment in terms of greenhouse gases produced, in units of pounds of carbon dioxide. Just about everything we do, from washing our clothes to driving a car to lighting an office building, increases our impact or carbon footprint. The major environmental goal in Going Green is to become as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Greenwashing is the intentional or unintentional misleading of consumers into believing their product or service is environmentally sustainable and comparable or more effective than it’s conventional counterparts. Companies must take extreme care to not overstate, and make sure to back its claims, or consumers may lose faith in green purchasing, setting back the entire movement.

These are just a few examples of the new green jargon. A more complete listing can be found at the online GreenProfit Community portal. Learning the new green language can not only make you green savvy, but can also help you to develop a healthier and greener business environment.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Environmental Responsibility vs ROI: Is There a Balance?

Green is truly the new black on the American business balance sheet. We read almost daily announcements citing Fortune 500 companies and small, but well funded, start-ups engaging in new green initiatives, all speaking of exciting technologies and strategies rapidly becoming a part of daily life. Fueled by the ever-increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, companies are seeking to couple environmental and social responsibility with an enhanced bottom line. Recent surveys by Intellitrends, LOHAS, Bentley College, and even Sun Microsystems share the consensus that going green is not a fad, but a new trend in business.  

While it may seem everyone is going green, the truth is only a fraction of small and medium size companies are actually participating. The question is, with all the survey evidence and news coverage, why wouldn’t a company just jump in and go green?

The answer is two-fold: Cost and Education. While we all read about industry giants including GE, CitiBank, and Clorox investing billions in major projects and initiatives, the same numbers are simply far out of the reach of even the most well established small to medium size businesses. Such extreme proposed investments are also made more difficult during a slow economy. Watching the industry giants build new LEED certified buildings, construct wind farm installations, or invest in Bio-Fuel research and technologies, while impressive, creates an uninspiring mood for smaller entrepreneurs, and helps to widen the gap between “the big boys and the little boys”. As a result, a huge market segment is becoming rapidly excluded from the going green efforts. This group, arguably the most important in the US, composing over 90% of active business entities and, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2005 data, employing over 58 million people, is mistakenly being led to believe that Green requires green.

What these companies do not realize is that they can initiate small-scale and far less expensive changes to their own business practices, while still realizing financial savings and increased profits through becoming community leaders in environmental sustainability. We have all read how a homeowner can make a simple change from incandescent to CFL bulbs that will save thousands of watt/hours per household, and provide a long term savings return on the initial investment. Such an example of a transitional change also has indirect benefits: the CO2 reductions due to lower power requirements as well as a waste stream reduction (CFLs last 5-10 times longer than incandescent bulbs). Now imagine this homeowner passing on that knowledge to their friends and family. Small investment = large returns.

In coming issues we will provide ideas that small to medium size companies may embrace to affordably journey towards becoming models of environmental leadership. Readers can expect to learn about various strategies covering methods of capitalizing on the emerging green marketplace. We will also examine the “dark side” of the new green industry, now called “greenwashing”, and some tips on how to recognize the specter of false promises and keep your company’s image truly green.

Photo credit: HaMeD!caL on Flickr

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .