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The Key Differences Between Green and Sustainable

Written by  Shannon J. Winslow-Claunch

Green focuses on broad environmental impacts, but typically limits social considerations to direct human health impacts. For instance, green does not consider wages, working conditions, hiring practices, or philanthropy. Sustainability on the other hand is a holistic approach to business and what most Fortune 500 companies consider to now be the moral imperative. In 2010 only nineteen percent of S&P 500 corporations published reports on sustainability, but in 2015 seventy-five percent published reports on topics such as reducing supply chain risk, reducing waste and costs and gaining competitive advantage. This change toward accountability is proof positive that green is no longer enough and that sustainability matters.

where to start

1. WHERE TO START: SET SMART GOALS

Make your company’s sustainability goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. Track KPI’s such as Energy, Waste, Transportation, Water, Products, Human Resource Effectiveness. Consider what is most important to your leadership team and what types of processes and results are in fact measurable. Then get to reporting current standards. The best KPI reporting includes transparent data, accurate numbers, timeliness of results, quantifiable results, meaningful information and it should involve employees and customers.

report on energy

2. REPORT ON ENERGY

Keep in mind your cost, consumption, BTU’s, energy, intensity, renewables, recyclables and the numbers of resources used, such as cars and tress. Find new ways to benchmark energy and uncover things you can do to improve and eliminate energy waste. Find cost effective investments and engage employees and facility occupants in coming up with solutions. Consider purchasing energy saving products and put computers to sleep when not in use.

A REALISTIC IMPROVEMENT COMPANIES CAN EXPECT TO ACHIEVE IN ANNUAL ENERGY SAVINGS PER YEAR IS ABOUT 2-10%

report on purchases

3. REPORT ON PURCHASES

Streamline your buys by eliminating or reducing different models of same item types. Start with high volume and high dollar items first. Audit products purchased as green alternatives. Conserve current resources with supply swapping among departments. Create an Environmental Preferred Purchasing, (EPP) Policy. Consider supplier’s ethical standards. Report your company’s social donations: in kind, time, dollars.

Strive to move toward a closed-loop supply chain in both environmental and social footprint. Inventory materials you use; put each material in one of two buckets: those produced through natural systems and those that are human-made. Where possible, move from human-made materials to natural ones. Move from nonrenewable sources of energy and materials to 100% renewable ones.

report on water waste

4. REPORT ON WATER, WASTE & TRANSPORTATION

For Water, consider getting help from an expert and taking a comprehensive approach. Track cost, consumption, non-potable consumption for landscaping, sewage, and improvements. For future goals consider improvements with native landscaping, green roofs, porous pavers and retention ponds.

For Waste, report on total spend for green vs. non-green products, vehicles, office supplies, electronics, cleaning products, and the percentage of green products used. Engage colleagues, conduct a waste audit, talk to a waste hauler and compare open top and compactors, hazardous used motor oil, universal fluorescent lamps, reuse pallets, Set future, greener goals.

For Transportation, report on vehicle types; trucks, vans, cars, fuel types and consumption and cost, maintenance cost and miles driven. Some ways to improve include routing and truck loading, driver training focused on minimizing idle time and progressive shifting. Focusing on equipment: improved maintenance, improved truck aerodynamics. Focus on fuel: more efficient tires, ways to increase your company’s purchase of alternative fuels. When developing future goals consult transportation.gov, EPA, SmartWay, Transport Partnership and look for savings in hybrid trucks.

report on ethical

5. REPORT ON ETHICAL & SOCIAL STANDARDS

Learn the details. Tell what you’re doing, and what your suppliers are doing. Report on normalization factors, square footage of facility vs. numbers of employees in building; number of computers vs. sales dollars and number of customers. Do you have a Sustainability Officer, and an inclusive culture? Ask, “Are WE passionate about sustainability, and “Do WE care about future generations and our social legacy?”

82% OF COMPANIES PUBLISH ANNUAL SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS

Sources: Sustainability Practices 2015: www.conference-board.org/sustainabilitypractices, Verdantix’s 2014 Global Survey: Sustainability Budgets and Priorities

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