America, regardless of dysfunctional politics, still offers opportunity and personally rewards those able to turn innovative ideas into sustainable business models that serve the common good. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, six in 10 Americans consider themselves either active in or sympathetic to the environmental movement. In order to provide our children and grandchildren the joys of a clean and natural world, one that does not make them sick, we need to know how to make our voices heard.
Voting political candidates of either party into office hasn’t worked particularly well, with rare exceptions. What will work is becoming informed citizens and exercising the people’s rights in bold ways. One of these is to consistently vote with our dollars in support of businesses, products and services that practice principles of sustainability based on today’s three Ps: people, planet and profitability.
The National Marketing Institute of Harleysville, Pennsylvania, reports that eight of 10 Americans prefer to purchase green products. Businesses that ethically answer this desire give themselves a competitive advantage. Forward thinking companies realize value in providing sustainable, renewable, organic, cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, sweatshop free, biodegradable and locally produced products and services. In the long run, our steadfast demand for such ethical products will yield greater profits to ethical suppliers.
As consumers, we must reward the companies that do it right and not be fooled by pretenders that resort to greenwashing. A simple act like switching your electricity supplier to a wind power-generation company sends a clear message to traditional coal-fired utilities; when enough of us make the same decision, coal producers will be forced to stop seeking unfair legislative advantages and start changing.
Companies like GM have chosen to learn the lessons of economic karma the hard way. After lobbying for years against California’s bid for higher vehicle fuel efficiencies, GM was reduced to begging for a government bailout when Americans stood their ground and rejected their old-style gas guzzlers. Ironically, GM recently announced they have improved profits with smaller car offerings and they are also betting their future on the Volt electric automobile.
Sustainability, done right, cuts overhead cost. The first major win for recycling in a major industry occurred in the early 1990s when beer and soft drink bottling companies began promoting aluminum recycling. Although they marketed the concept as “saving the planet,” their motive was to save themselves money. It is much less expensive to make an aluminum can from recycled material than it is to mine and process the metal from raw materials. This is a prime example of a wise approach to sustainability in which everyone wins. Reduce, reuse and recycle principles make good business sense.
According to a 2011 survey of business leaders drawn from Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) global network of nearly 300 member companies, 84 percent are optimistic that global businesses will embrace sustainability as part of their core strategies and operations in the next five years. Let’s learn these lessons and teach them to our children, taking note that positive incremental changes count. I urge all concerned citizens to take your knowledge, your passions and your convictions about what is right and become the larger change we want to see.
Here’s to Earth Day—every day! Reid Boyer, Publisher