Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson

ray_anderson_au

In 1994, Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson set an audacious goal for his commercial carpet company: to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth. Now, in the most inspiring business book of our time, Anderson leads the way forward and challenges all of industry to share that goal.

The Interface story is a compelling one: In 1994, making carpets was a toxic, petroleum-based process, releasing immense amounts of air and water pollution and creating tons of waste. Continue reading

Setting Sustainable Goals

goal_settingTell me if this sounds familiar. You’re gathered in a conference room, the senior leader in the room says that the purpose of this meeting is to establish your company’s environmental, sustainability, or recycling goals, pick your topic. Now here’s where it gets good. The meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes and she needs the goals for her meeting with the executives tomorrow.

Don’t laugh. I’ve been there. If you haven’t, good for you. You are one of the fortunate ones. I’m still surprised that after all this time we still have the mentality that goals can be pulled out of the air and then we act shocked when we are unable to accomplish the, often publicly, stated goals.

So, how do you go about establishing goals for your programs? Is their a better way? I think so and that’s what we are going to talk about. Continue reading

How do you define waste?

WasteLow hanging fruit…you’ve heard it before. When you are trying to get your organization started down the sustainability path, consultants and authors tell you to reach for the low hanging fruit. They want you to succeed, so they point you in the direction of quick wins. For many of them your waste stream is one of the first places they encourage you to look, and by waste stream they are referring to what you place in a dumpster. They talk about examining what it is that you are placing into the dumpster. They want you to be able to identify the items that you are throwing away and re-think how they got there. This is something you should do, but lately I’ve had several companies remark when I was introduced to them as the guy that is going to help us identify waste reduction measures say, “Oh, you’re the guy who is going to start our recycling program.” In my head, I’m thinking, “Oh, if it were only that easy!”

Continue reading

Speaking the language of Sustainability

apples_orangesOver and over I have the same discussion with sustainability professionals, they want to know what they can do to enhance their presentations to fully engage their listeners, to open their audience’s mind to the possibilities that exist. Many times when they have a chance to talk about what they were doing or what they were planning to do within their organization they felt as if their message and plans were falling on deaf ears. Their audience was constantly checking their blackberry’s or looking as if they wished they were in any place other than sitting in a room listening to him or her speak.

Sound familiar? Continue reading

Sustainability – Linear versus Circular Economic Model

garbage canGrowing up in the United States I’ve heard America referred to as “The Land of Plenty” or “The Disposable Society”. The quote “Go West young man” was often said to me as a young man, maybe jokingly or perhaps they were serious, while I was wondering what to do as I grew up. (And before you email, yes, the quote first appeared as the title to the 1851, Terre Haute Express editorial written by Mr. Soule and is often credited to Mr. Greeley.)

These expressions implied to me that we were living in a limitless country. Free to use what we wanted, expand as we wanted with no thought to where the next supply of “stuff” was coming from. Continue reading

The Triple Bottom Line

John ElkingtonIn 1994 John Elkington coined the term, “Triple Bottom Line” (TBL). He has written that he was looking for a new language to express the expansion of the environmental agenda that his company SustainAbility had been focused on. John felt that the social and economic dimensions that had been presented in the Brundltland Report needed to be addressed by his firm in order to affect real change.

TBL framework allows an organization to focus on not only the economic value they create, but also on the social and environmental value they create or decrease. Continue reading

Greenwashing

greenwash“Green is the new black”, “It’s not easy being green” or “Clean and Green” take your pick. It seems like we have an abundant supply of green marketing slogans and they get the mainstream press. I guess it makes sense, they are marketing materials and companies are paying big bucks to get their message heard above everyone else’s. I think that this may also be one of the reasons why so many people only view sustainable development as a marketing activity. There is even a website that is dedicated to evaluating green advertising, greenwashingindex.com.

So, what is greenwashing? Continue reading

Why Such a Fuss?

Herman Daly

Herman Daly

So, why all of the fuss now over this thing called sustainability? You hear it everywhere, people are talking about it at meetings and conferences are being held in its name. What was the tipping point that brought this concept to mainstream America. I’ve heard it described as the perfect storm; Katrina, Al Gore’s Oscar and then the Nobel Peace Prize.

This may have given the environmental issues of the planet press coverage, but what about the Social and the Financial aspects? What caused them to be pushed to the boardroom and news desk? Asked another way, have the Social and Financial aspects been pushed to the forefront? Continue reading

Sustainability, a Competitive Business Strategy

strategyFor years we in the business world have had an adversarial relationship with the environment. Think about it, we even call it Environmental Compliance. Compliance, doesn’t that mean that we are meeting the established rules. We saw it as a cost of doing business, something that we had to do. We didn’t look at it as a possible area of differentiation, innovation or cost reduction. It was just a problem child that we had to deal with. Continue reading