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Companies Should Reach For ‘Carbon Advantage’

Instead of focusing on ways to offset carbon emissions, Dave Douglas writes in a Business Week article that companies need to invest in creating more sustainable versions of themselves. “We need companies to go beyond carbon neutrality to something I call ‘carbon advantage,'” Douglas writes.

There are two ways to achieve a carbon advantage. The first, according to Douglas, is “to use efficiency and resource reduction to provide a fundamental advantage in your operations and products.” Wal-Mart is doing precisely this by reducing product packaging throughout its supply chain.

The other road to a carbon advantage is “to use innovation in green products and services to offer customers a competitive advantage.” Last May, GE announced that revenue from its eco-focused products rose past $12 billion in 2006.

Douglas also says that there’s increasing evidence of a new, virtuous business cycle: “Companies seeking sustainability look for sustainable products and services, which provides further opportunities for sustainable companies.”

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One thought on “Companies Should Reach For ‘Carbon Advantage’

  1. Back in October, I chaired a track on sustainability and “green” supply chains at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) annual conference. Mr. Douglas’ comments echo one of my key takeaways from the conference, namely that being “less bad” is not the same as being good. Ken Alston, CEO of MBDC, made this point in his presentation at the conference; it’s also a key message in the influential book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the founders of MBDC. Most corporate sustainability reports highlight year-over-year reductions and long-term targets for carbon dioxide emissions, energy consumption, and other metrics. But focusing solely on reductions, while important and necessary, is not enough. To borrow Apple’s phrase from years ago, companies also have to “think different” and address sustainability not within the confines of existing supply chain processes and constraints, but by designing completely new products, processes and ways of working that are inherently sustainable. I address this topic in more detail at http://greensupplychains.blogspot.com/.

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