In many respects, today’s global business opportunities arena has reached a crucial crossroads. While many corporations continue on with “business as usual”, the world at large is suffering drastic consequences as a result of their actions or inactions: The environment teeters on extinction of countless species, with climate change (if unchecked) marking the end of multiple entire ecosystems. Hundreds of social groups suffer in poverty due to not being paid fair wages and exist in hazardous or even dangerous working conditions. Hunger is at an all-time high, especially for children.
In a growing trend, forward-thinking companies—Patagonia and Unilever being two notable examples—have come to the realization that they don’t operate in a vacuum; that their actions both good and bad have ramifications that extend outward to their communities, society, and the environment. Bluntly, it was global corporations that brought about many of these detrimental conditions in the first place, and if positive change is to come it is they who will cause it.
Several leading economic authorities such as Hunter Lovins, founder of Natural Capital Solutions, along with iconic brokerages such as Goldman Sachs, have clearly demonstrated a strong economic argument in favor of companies, products and services that are not only profitable for themselves, but fair and supportive of employees and beneficial to the environment. In short, it is entirely possible and even profitable to exist for the benefit of all stakeholders in a company and in its broader community.
If nothing else, businesses must realize that if things continue as they have, there will no longer be a playing field in which to conduct their “profitable” commerce. They need to redefine their business opportunities as well.
#1: Green Business Opportunities? It Starts with Products and Services
There are dozens of enterprises every year that are founded on the concept of highly beneficial products or services. Examples are articles of clothing made from natural materials that biodegrade when disposed of, or can be recycled. Or buildings composed of non-hazardous components that can safely be re-used or disposed of without harm to the environment. Or clean power systems that do not contribute to our already overwhelming atmospheric carbon load, yet provide energy on a par with the conventional destructive models. The instances become more each day.
It is for those that have been in business for some time that the task is perhaps a bit more difficult. If the product or service provided is inherently destructive, the company must seek other methods of remaining profitable that will align with the improvement of our planet and society. In a few short years they won’t have any choice, so the time to begin is now.
#2: Sustainability Strategy: Fabricating, Manufacturing and Delivery
It then becomes a question of operations that influence green business opportunities. A stark example of the bad side of operations is that of manufacturing, an industry which at their worst has managed to create local environmental dead zones, sicken their workers and local citizens with crippling and in some cases life-threatening diseases, and continue on as though nothing had happened. There are many other examples of lesser but nonetheless overall harm, in numerous other industries.
Contrast this with a real-life example of a textile mill in Switzerland that, several years ago, completely turned around their processes. They began using biodegradable materials that were completely safe for product users and the environment. They altered their manufacturing methods to the point that workers no longer had to wear protective clothing or store hazardous chemicals in special closed-off poison rooms. Probably the singular indicator was the fact that the water coming out of the plant was actually cleaner than the water going into it. And what of profits? They soared.
Again, for a company that has been operating “the wrong way” for many years, this kind of transformation can be an expensive undertaking. But what will be the expense of continuing in “traditional” ways? Eventually there will be no more company, as there won’t be any more market.
#3: Beyond the Company
Outside of a company’s business opportunities stakeholders lies the rest of the world. The company exists in that world, and to that degree must take some responsibility for conditions within it. And thankfully, a growing number are. One company dedicates a portion of revenues to providing clean water to African villages. Another sees to planting of thousands of trees in cities, greatly reducing air pollution and reducing atmospheric carbon. Yet others see to the regular provision of food to families and children that would otherwise go without.
It is no longer possible for a business to exist for itself alone. Moving forward, we must take everyone into account. It is only the enterprises that do that will survive into the next decades—profitably and proudly.
Pipeliner Sales CRM