The Hands-On Guide to Creating a Successful and Sustainable Business
This book is based on four simple premises. First, human civilization faces an array of profound environmental problems that have already begun to negatively affect the foundations of life on this planet-with human-induced climate change at the very top of the list.
Second, business, in all its forms, is the only force on earth with enough reach, clout, personnel, and assets to confront and correct the most serious environmental problems that face humanity.
Third, every single business in the world has both the ability and the opportunity to thrive and prosper by becoming more sustainable in every phase of its operations and, in doing so, become part of the solution to these critical problems.
And finally, though creating a “green” and sustainable business can be an immensely complex task, the basic steps to doing so can be made both straightforward and understandable to any business owner.
This final premise is the task of this book: to provide owners of any business-from the tiny one-person proprietorship to the largest of corporations-a clear and comprehensive road map to creating a business that is part of the solution to our shared environmental, social, and economic problems.
Part One of this book provides a background on the need for greener business practices and the myriad benefits to greening your own business. An overview of the various theoretical approaches to developing sustainable businesses and a quick look at some green business tools are also presented.
The step-by-step method outlined in Part Two of this book provides a blueprint with which business owners may assess their own company’s operations and prepare a comprehensive environmental plan for taking their business green. Every element of a business’s impact on the environment will be examined-energy and water use, waste generation, transportation, computing and office equipment, supply chains and purchasing, building practices, and product and service design. Most importantly, the real-world steps that will need to be taken are presented in a clear, concise, and straightforward manner.
Definition break: When this book refers to “greening” a business, it is a reference to the continual process of moving towards an elusive goal-a business that produces no waste, is adaptable to innovation, uses the minimum of energy, matter, and the least toxic materials, and uses those materials in such a way that they may be easily reused or disposed of with no harm to the environment-a sustainable business.
Although this book can be used by businesses of any size, it is primarily intended for smaller and medium-sized businesses. Many, but by no means all, large corporations are already confronting many of the issues that are considered in this book. Naturally, large corporations have far more assets and personnel to address these issues and many have already adopted many of the practices and policies that are outlined. Additionally, nearly all of the available books regarding green business practices are geared toward the senior management of very large, even multinational, firms. These materials have fostered a dramatic move among these large corporations toward a more sustainable ecological footprint. In many respects, a few of the world’s largest corporations are leading the way toward the greening of business, in particular, Interface Inc., led by its visionary CEO, Ray Anderson.
However, for medium and small businesses-which comprise 90 percent of the businesses in the world and represent more than 60 percent of all global economic activity-there has been little practical guidance available on the basic steps and systematic process involved in greening a business. In the U.S. alone, according to the Bureau of the Census, fully 5.4 million of the 6 million businesses now operating have 20 or fewer employees. In fact, an enormous 60 percent of all of the businesses in America-nearly 3.7 million in all-have fewer than 5 employees. For smaller businesses, both the choice-and the action necessary-to create a successful and sustainable business may be in the hands of a single person. Many small and medium-sized business have already taken great strides toward minimizing their impact on the natural world. Whatever the size of your business and whatever steps you may have already taken, there are many more opportunities awaiting as you begin the journey to a greener and more sustainable business.
To assist you as you begin this journey, many questionnaires, worksheets, and guidelines are provided that are designed to help business owners in the rewarding process of greening their businesses. Many of these aids, as well as other valuable resources, are provided in Appendices A and B and on the CD that accompanies this book. The many ideas, concepts, facts, and statistics noted in this guide can all be found, and further explored, in the publications listed in the bibliography or in the resources noted in Appendix B.
It is the deep desire of those who worked on this project that this guide help to show the way for businesses to save money, save energy, save resources, and maybe-just maybe-save the world.