If there were ever any question about man’s impact on the environment, those beliefs have certainly had holes blown in them over the past month. With the disaster at BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, questions about the ongoing impact on the environment – and the role that government will play – will soon become focused around environmental business risks and how to mitigate them. Today’s news is about stopping the spill; tomorrow’s will be how government and the enterprise will regulate products and processes so that nothing like this ever happens again.
The landscape in our country is about to change from a “pre Deepwater Horizon” (DWH) to a “post DWH” environment.
It is apparent from both virtual and real life conversations with average Americans that we have awakened to a belief that man actually does have a big impact. The thought that one small hole in the ground could wreak an ecological, biological, economic and cultural gusher the likes of which is currently unfolding was previously unimaginable. Small holes make a big difference.
We are now moving toward a new era of consumer engagement and environmental regulation.
The key word that you will start to hear in business and political circles in the next few months is “risk mitigation” or even “risk elimination.” In fact, a 2009 Gartner study projects that by 2014, two-thirds of organizations will address risk mitigation in environmental sustainability. Consumers will demand it and government will, without a doubt, follow suit.
Not only will the disaster affect the operations of oil industries, it will change the business landscape as a whole. Consumers will become more diligent in researching companies that they do business with and much less tolerant of environmental ignorance and inaction. And regulation that in the past has fallen on deaf ears will soon gain new vigor.
It’s easy to forget that in the process of running our businesses, we may be leaving a wake of environmental destruction in our path; a path that can – and now likely will – lead directly back to us. It’s called waste. Waste is a waste. You pay for it on both ends: to get it and to get rid of it. As Adolph Coors of Coors Brewing Co. once said, “All waste is lost profit.” What greater visual is needed than that of oil spilling into our ocean?
Basic regulation on hazardous waste has existed for decades, but regulations concerning electronic waste (e-waste), pollution, recycling and waste stream diversion have had little success at the state and federal level. But trust me . . . it’s coming. Just ask businesses in Vermont, South Carolina and, most recently, New York, who have enacted new laws around e-waste.
Everyone knows it’s better to lead than to follow, and it is better still to lead than to be dragged kicking and screaming. So make your company proactive and start mitigating risk on your own. Take notice and fix those holes before they become your “Deepwater Horizon.”
In every challenge, there is an opportunity. Progressive companies have used environmental sustainability for nearly a decade to strengthen their brand, increase efficiency, build morale and communicate with stakeholders – and to save money too. Welcome to the post DWH era.
Derrick Mains is the CEO of GreenNurture, a corporate sustainability software company that empowers the people to make environmental change in the workplace. Derrick can be reached at Derrick@greennurture.comhttp://www.greennurture.com and followed on Twitter at @enviralmentalst.