Ecologically Nothing Ever Really Dies

EcoLogically Nothing Ever Really Dies, Only transformed from one useful form to another...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Environmental consciousness: The new competitive edge for companies

Should organizations care about the implications that their products and services have on the environment?  The simple and direct answer is yes. It is not just about our natural environment being able to sustain life on this planet for present and future generations. It is about a new and imminent competitive edge that is set to make a big difference in business in the 21st century.
In today's world, corporate activities are too frequently subsidized by non-monetary "external" costs paid by the environment and the earth at large. This has led to a backlash from environmentalists who constantly call for strict regulation of operations and punitive measures on business. However, it is my opinion that businesses should be able to self regulate and consider the impact of their activities on the environment and life of the planet as a whole. A new trend which business cannot afford to ignore is rising over the horizon, born from the damage that human activities led by industry and business have inflicted on the environment. The growing “going green” movement is here and here to stay. Business should therefore embrace this new trend and capatalise on it to advance their corporate interest or risk being knocked down by versatile competitors.

Michael potter, in the Harvard business review: business and the environment states “Managers must start to realize environmental management as an economic and competitive opportunity, not as an annoying cost or an inevitable threat.” Business and trade ethics in the world over are evolving very rapidly, making sound environmental consciousness a significant component for good business management. Yet despite these observations, few companies especially in low income countries like Zimbabwe take this new trend seriously.  However, if business intends to continue to stay vibrant and relevant on a local and especially global scale, environmental considerations should begin to feature consistently in business strategy. 

All businesses place warranted value on financial accountability through regular financial reporting and performance evaluations. In the 21st century, as a result of rising concerns on the pressure being placed on our environment by business, similar value may well be placed on environmental accountability through regular environmental reporting and performance evaluations.   Companies should start developing environmental strategic frameworks which envision a sustainable future. This can be done through consistently analyzing environmental trends and pressures against company activities. Companies can then go on to channel operations into currently acceptable environmental impact levels and start considering the financial potential of greener products and activities.

Given that the environmental consciousness of an organization can set it apart from others, companies may consider the following:
·         Incorporating environmental issues in core business actions (practicing eco-friendly day to day activities, analyzing environmental trends, developing innovative eco-friendly services and products, investing in staff environmental education etc.)
·          Taking stock of company environmental responsibility (how does our activities or products impact the environment?  How can we measure our ecological footprint?  What action can we take to reduce the impacts? )
·         Account for environmental performance (Environmental reporting, monitoring and evaluation)
·         Develop partnerships in tackling environmental challenges among business, government and civil society.

While Zimbabwe may still be in its infancy in developing environmental standards and codes of ethics, individual companies in Zimbabwe should however consider becoming trailblazers in the current “green revolution” through self regulation. Vast benefits can accrue to these environmentally conscious companies. The companies may become “best practice” models in their respective industries and for the business community as a whole. In some instances, new laws and regulations may be modeled after the practices of these trailblazers, thereby ensuring that they stay ahead of the curve and demote competitors to merely playing “catch up”.
Taking the green initiative seriously will help companies demonstrate integrity. As the company operates nationally or globally and interacts with many societies and organisations whose values greatly differ from one location to another, by holding consistent moral and social positions, the company is viewed by key stakeholders as true to their word and principles. This will make them less vulnerable to attack or criticism. Expectations and demands from society often well exceed those of law and policy makers. It’s the everyday citizen who has the most influence on what constitutes current environmental challenge. Ignoring these voices of concern can cause irreparable reputational damage. Those companies that hold themselves to a higher standard, and go beyond compliance will enjoy the most highly regarded reputations. It is companies that go the extra mile that reap the rewards in the court of public opinion. And it is companies that voluntarily raise the bar that often unearth a myriad of commercially interesting business opportunities. Since the environmental question is top of current international agendas and concerns, taking a proactive stance is likely to build a company’s reputation.

One of the outstanding qualities of good businesses is the ability to recognize opportunity. In the 21st century, the environment is one such opportunity. Business should be in tune with the wide range of environmental concerns of the world, and position itself to address them in a way that profits them. The environmental question is bound to be a catalyst of business innovation, will your business be a leading force in this revolution or settle for chasing the rest of the pack?

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