Brent Hardy is Vice President of www.extraspace.com, responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management and has been the driving force for corporate responsibility with energy management and sustainability programs. He also writes about sustainability at the Extra Space blog.
Is Sustainability the New Business Model?
Sustainability is not a new concept. For years there have been companies going out of their way to ensure the products they make and sell have a minimal impact on the environment and on natural resources, but it’s always been at a premium for consumers. The rule of thumb was essentially “the greener the product, the more green you spend on it,” but that is no longer the case. With massive multinational corporations heavily investing in making their business practices more sustainable, it’s a concept that’s becoming more accessible to even the smallest businesses.
What is Sustainability and why should I care?
The core concept of sustainability is to produce goods and services without diminishing the resources needed to create those goods and services. Not so long ago, the sustainable business model was all about catering to a certain consumer who wanted to protect the environment. Typically, those consumers were willing pay more to know that their cup of coffee or their box of cereal was produced in such a way as to be more friendly to the environment. What has changed, though, is the realization that if done right, a sustainable business model can be more environmentally friendly while lowering costs and increasing profits.
The tipping point
The number of companies utilizing sustainable techniques is growing steadily, but as with most major paradigm shifts, it takes a big player to really change the landscape, and in this case, the big player is one of the biggest of all.
As the world’s largest retailer, WalMart has the ability to change not only the way they do business, but the way everybody else does business as well, and their actions of late seem to be committed to embracing a more sustainable model. WalMart and other major retailers have been working with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) to develop a Sustainability Index to serve as a tool both for consumers and retailers allowing them to better-evaluate the products they buy and sell in terms of how those products were produced, packaged, and shipped. The hope is that the Sustainability Index labeling will someday be as ubiquitous on consumer products as nutritional information labels are today.
Is Sustainability a true win-win?
Every business that provides goods or services can benefit from the work being done by the Sustainability Consortium, as evidenced in WalMart’s new Sustainability Index. While not every consumer is as concerned as they should be about the resources consumed in the production or delivery of what they buy, they’re not going to be turned off by the practice, as long as the price point remains where they want it to be.
So what are the benefits to my business?
- Lower costs. The big companies are doing the heavy lifting of finding ways to reduce energy consumption, decrease transportation distances, and reducing waste. Learn from their examples.
- Attract new customers. A growing segment of the population is concerned with the environmental impact of the companies they do business with and those people are potential customers.
- Maintain or even lower the price of your products. Most of us can’t afford to raise prices in the name of being “greener” and the good news is, you don’t have to. Sustainable business practices and production technology are becoming more available and affordable every day, and with a little research you can make your business a more sustainable one without increasing costs.
- Save the world. Ok, maybe you won’t save the world, but if you can increase your business and decrease your impact on natural resources, then wouldn’t you want to give it a shot?
Brent Hardy has been with Extra Space Storage since 2001. He currently oversees all corporate construction & facilities management activities for Extra Space Storage. Brent’s green initiatives have included solar power, implementing energy efficient lighting systems and daylight harvesting.