Do businesses really want to “go green”?

Earth RecyclingAccording to the “2010 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study” released yesterday, American consumers and Fortune 1000 executives doubt that there’s widespread commitment to “go green” among corporate America. The survey was conducted online last month among 2,605 US adults and 304 Fortune 1000 executives. Among its findings:

  • Corporate America may have embarked on its “sustainability” journey but still draws public skepticism. Only 29% of executives and 16% of consumers believe that a majority of businesses are committed to “going green”—defined as “improving the health of the environment by implementing more sustainable business practices and/or offering environmentally-friendly products or services.” About half the executives (54%) and consumers (48%) surveyed believe “some” businesses are committed to “going green.”
  • Financial inefficiency, market reluctance and unclear measurement are roadblocks to corporate sustainability. Executives cite insufficient ROI (78%), consumers’ unwillingness to pay more for green products or services (71%), and difficulty in evaluating sustainability across a product life cycle (45%) as the top barriers to more businesses “going green.”
  • A lack of human capital dedicated to a sustainability strategy is a major concern. Most companies have merely added responsibilities for green efforts to the primary duties of a team (35%) or to a C-suite or another senior-level position (15%). Only about one in 10 say they have a C-suite or other senior person dedicated solely to sustainability (12%). About a third (31%) said there’s no one at their organization primarily or even partially responsible for green initiatives.

My Thoughts: So, do businesses really want to “go green”? Not based on the results of this particular study. It starts with top-down commitment by a C-level manager (and team) whose only duty is moving the sustainability strategy forward. This is clearly lacking. The second bullet point above can be summed up as $$$. In the right instance and using the right methods, all these anti-sustainability monetary objections can be answered. It’s no wonder most consumers don’t believe companies want to “go green” based on the aforementioned corporate apathy and financial opposition.

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2 Responses to Do businesses really want to “go green”?

  1. Ed Dedman says:

    Mark, from a vendor perspective over the last few years, I’ve had quite a few companies inquire about “green” alternatives – materials with more sustainable attributes, reduced environmental impact, or similar appeal. The bottom line has almost always been that those alternatives would have cost them more money, and invariably, they chose to stick with their current “browner” choices. Green, sustainable – whatever you want to call it, money still matters most.

  2. Arthur McLeod says:

    The other big issue is how do companies define their “green” initiatives?

    If you can reduce your process energy consumption, with a decent ROI, you are going to do it. That’s going green.

    If you can downgauge your “brown” product, or switch to a stronger lighter “brown” product to reduce material cost, is that not greening it?

    And is not every successful application of flexible packaging to supplant ridged packaging a green initiative?

    We’re all greening all the time, but usually we call it improving efficiency, or in the flexibles market, sales growth.

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