So what does it mean that now, after all these years that it makes financial sense to consider things other than the bottom line? It is after all safe to say that big business is taking big steps to make even bigger profits by improving its environmental fitness.
To pick an easy target, let’s take a look at Wal-Mart. The once ignominious retailer, great smasher of small town character (or great vulture of struggling local economy, depending on your viewpoint) has been auditing its energy and waste streams for the past 6 or 7 years. As described by Lovins and Cohen in “The Way Out: Kick Starting Capitalism to Save Our Economic Ass,” they have also, and possibly more importantly, been holding their suppliers and vendors accountable for their own environmental responsibilities (p.29). And while these moves have positioned Wal-Mart into a new era of “sustainability,” it is still largely a response to market demand. Yes there is an expanding global awareness of our impacts on our environment, but is likely consumers’ seeking savings of their own that is driving the shift towards lower energy consumption. But big corporations and retailers like Wal-Mart continue to undermine small community values, creating only an illusion of success. Populations continue to grow and spread and what is left is still a society based on the model born of the automobile and raised on saving a buck.
So gold is the new green. That is to say large amounts of money can be made or saved by making environmentally responsible decisions. In fact, big time CEO’s are chomping at the bit to save the world. According to Peter Lacy and Rob Hayward of Accenture.com, in their article “Green is the New Gold” (confusing, I realize), big business is hungry for environmental stewardship. “The failure to establish a link between their sustainability initiatives and business value is the fastest-rising headache for CEOs—37 percent of those surveyed, to be precise, compared with 30 percent in 2010 and just 18 percent in 2007, the year of the first study.” If there is any sense of cynicism here it is because I am cynical. Green is not necessarily the new gold, but I surmise vice-versa. Either way, I am happy that the greater industry tide is shifting. It is in fact what has led us into many of the innumerable environmental wrongs of the past we are faced with righting today.