Sustainability Mythbusters Part II: Debunking the Sustainability Myths
Welcome to the Sustainability Mythbusters series presented by Schneider Electric. In this six-part series (see part I here), Schneider Electricâs Global Sustainability Services team explores common misconceptions related to the topic of sustainability and presents a business case to âbustâ each myth.Â Â
Think about sustainability and what comes to mind?
For many, itâs likely thoughts of green trees and recycling, reusable cloth bags and big piles of compost. Sustainability doesnât often conjure up visions of businesses, and even if it does, itâs usually of companies that have long been thought of as green â the Patagonias and Unilevers of the world.
Yet, contrary to what many people may think, sustainability is not all about hugging on trees. In other words, sustainability, especially when it comes to the business case for it, is not all about being green. In the larger, more accurate view, sustainability encompasses a much broader range, from improving energy and manufacturing efficiency for reducing carbon footprints to cutting down on waste, giving back to the community and, yes, taking better care of the environment, trees and all.
In that sense, companies not knownÂ for being green or sustainable have nonetheless committed to sustainability as a way to improve their overall business performance. They are not the Burtâs Bees of the world, but instead the cell phone companies, the beverage producers, the high tech firms. They are companies who see the value in sustainability as a business proposition.
Take, for example, Equinix, one of the worldâs largest IBX data center and colocation providers. The data center sector, in general, is known for its massive consumption of energy. Yet, by employing a flexible approach to buying its energy over the past two years, Equinix has been able to maximize its energy efficiency and save more than $11 million in energy costs since 2011.
Thatâs just one example, but every day, businesses everywhere can take steps toward sustainability that have little relation to stereotypically green ideas and much more to do with operational efficiency, improved outcomes and boosts to the bottom line. Sustainability can go hand in hand with practices like Lean to streamline operational or manufacturing processes. Combined, such an approach can reduce energy use âÂ and lower costs â or cut down on waste while at the same time trimming a companyâs greenhouse gas emissions and improving its use of resources.
Sustainability initiatives can also help companies satisfy demands from investors, customers, regulators and internal stakeholders looking for a commitment to sustainability, either for its environmental or business benefits âÂ or both.
We worked with one of the largest glass manufacturers in the world, which produces more than 30 billion glass containers a year and provides insulation for at least 20 percent of all homes in the United States. Facing pressure to measure and reduce its carbon emissions, the company teamed with us to help set up a system of tracking and reporting on its emissions and set in motion a plan for reduction. Ultimately, the company will cut its emissions, is on track to improve its processes and, by sharing its progress, burnish its reputation with the full range of stakeholders.
Similarly, sustainability often plays a major role in companiesâ corporate social responsibility initiatives, intermingling with endeavors â like charitable donations or employee volunteerism âÂ that provide community benefit. In that case, sustainability isnât necessarily about being green, but about being a good corporate citizen.
There are, of course, times when sustainability actually is about being green. That could mean company-wide recycling efforts or investing in fleet vehicles that run on biodiesel. In some instances, it might include resource stewardship; think about forestry companies that must manage their forestlands sustainably or the mining company that embarks on a wetlands mitigation project as a condition of the permit that allows it to operate in the first place.
Certainly there is a component of sustainability centered around the environment and treading lightly on the planet. But the concept is much broader than that. For businesses, sustainability touches on everything from efficiency and productivity to managing costs and community reputation. Itâs green, to be sure, but thereâs a whole spectrum of different shades blended in as well.
Louis Christopher is sustainability specialist at Schneider Electric. Louis is responsible for research, analysis and development of client specific sustainability strategies and supporting client deliverables such as reporting on greenhouse gas, water and waste inventories. Schneider Electric has a proven record of leading organizations to thriving sustainability programs across economic, environmental, and social dimensions. As a global leader in sustainability services, the company provides an unmatched end-to-end solution that encompasses every phase of the sustainability journey. Through our offering of strategy, technology, and implementation, Schneider Electric is able to drive successful sustainability programs that accelerate business performance. Learn more about Schneider Electricâs Sustainability Services at, https://vimeo.com/58187366, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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