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.
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.
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”.
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?