Successful Businesses (Not Governments)
Lead the Green Charge
Don’t be fooled by the dismal lack of progress in government venues on climate-change agree-
ments or environmental legislation. The smartest companies are already pushing the frontier
to bigger and bolder green agendas to gain competitive advantage, with the added benefit of
enhancing their reputations for true corporate responsibility.
—Bill McBeath, chief research officer, ChainLink Research
here was widespread and justifiable disappointment in the outcome of last year’s U.N.
Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. It
is toothless since it is not legally binding, sets no real targets,
companies like Wal-Mart and GE having made sustainability a
centerpiece of their strategies, being lean and seriously green
has become mainstream; a necessity for businesses, not just for
public relations and reputation, but more concretely for the
was drafted by just five countries, has no guarantee or firm bottom line. In his last public speech as CEO of Wal-Mart, H.
commitments on the climate funds to help developing coun- Lee Scott said, “As businesses, we have a responsibility to soci-
tries comply, and won’t be assessed for progress until 2015. ety. There is no conflict between delivering value to share-
Countries are supposed to submit updated emissions targets holders, and helping solve bigger societal problems.”
and action plans by Jan. 31, 2010, but don’t hold your breath
In short, as supply chain innovation has been the com-
for much bolder commitments.
mon characteristic among the most successful firms, we are
Meanwhile, under the American Clean Energy and Secu- witnessing the same phenomena with sustainability and
rity Act of 2009, it is projected that regulated firms will use green practices becoming the hallmarks of the most effec-offsets to render the proposed cap non-binding for all practi- tive, winning firms.
cal purposes for the next decade or two—i.e., they can continue business-as-usual emissions until 2017 (according to
conservative estimates from the CBO) or all the way through It is likely that a cap and trade bill will pass in 2010, but it will
2027 (according to the EPA). In any case, the recession will almost certainly fall well short of what’s needed to truly
likely create a glut of emissions permits for several years. address climate change. Sadly, progress on the international
The Senate’s Kerry-Boxer bill is not much better and in a front is likely to be even more anemic. However, leading busi-number of ways even weaker.
nesses will continue to increase their commitments to sustain-The average company can’t just sit back and wait. With ability, based on the competitive advantage it affords them.