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Compete On Green Or Fall Behind

In the quest to go green, the first step a business needs to take is to start measuring and tracking their environmental footprint, including how much energy and water it consumes, how much and what type of waste it produces, and how much of an impact its processes and products have on the environment.

“And that’s not easy,” said Andrew Winston, sustainability guru and co-author of Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage, in an interview with Elizabeth Striano, a consultant and writer on sustainability and environmental issues, and founder of A Green Footprint LLC.

Winston outlined the key steps a company needs to take to go green:

1) Eco-tracking -? developing tools to track your environmental footprint
2) Mindset -? thinking broadly about the value chain, both upstream and downstream
3) Redesigning -? rethinking what you do and how you do it
4) Re-imagining -? your products and processes; innovation is critical
5) Culture -? set ambitious targets; start small but think big

“Starting to measure – that is the critical first thing to do. You’ve got to get some hard data,” Winston said. Keeping metrics includes knowing exactly what is in the supply chain, both upstream and downstream. Upstream means knowing the footprint of suppliers; downstream refers to the impact of customers when they use a company’s products. It also includes thinking long-term about payoffs from investments in environmental initiatives, including intangibles like brand loyalty and customer commitment.

“It is hard work to go green,” Winston said. “But either you compete on this, or you fall behind.”

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