Welcome to the Sustainability Mythbusters series presented by Schneider Electric. In this six-part series (see part I here), Schneider Electric’s Global Sustainability Services team explores common misconceptions related to the topic of sustainability and presents a business case to “bust” each myth.
Think about sustainability and what comes to mind?
For many, it’s likely thoughts of green trees and recycling, reusable cloth bags and big piles of compost. Sustainability doesn’t often conjure up visions of businesses, and even if it does, it’s usually of companies that have long been thought of as green — 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 known for being green or sustainable have nonetheless committed to sustainability as a way to improve their overall business performance. They are not the Burt’s 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 world’s 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.
That’s 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 — and lower costs — or cut down on waste while at the same time trimming a company’s greenhouse gas emissions and improving its use of resources.