The Three Big Challenges of Green Business
If going green is a Herculean task in itself, it is one with three massive challenges, just like Cerberus the three headed dog (who looks a bit of a poodle in this classic woodcut, but never mind). Those three slavering jaws that could wreck your efforts are:
1. The Supply Chain
For most organisations, the supply chain is the biggest part of your carbon/ecological footprint. With complex, global chains, it is very hard to trace where materials and components come from. For example, huge number of big brands have black-listed paper giant APP for their destruction of rainforest, but the company hasn’t gone bust, so it is almost certain its products are finding their way to the consumer through some circuitous route. Likewise if you want to develop greener products or install greener technologies, you will often find the supply chains are weak – low quality, high prices, low reliability. This will change over time as demand rises, but it is currently a serious brake on progress.
2. Company Culture
It is very telling that at least 80% of my work this year has involved engaging with clients’ staff to get their buy-in to sustainability. Without that buy-in – from the boardroom table to the guy sweeping the yard – green programmes will stall. This is where real leadership and hard graft are required – it is not easy. (Don’t forget to check out my guide to fostering green behaviour at work.)
3. Consumer Behaviour
Whether you are selling houses, kettles or washing powders, the biggest factor that will determine their environmental impact is how they are used by the consumer (or other end user). Proctor & Gamble may have developed Ariel Excel Gel (aka Tide Coldwater) which will wash clothes at 15°C, but all their work will be in vain if the consumers’ dials drift back up to 40°C. A zero carbon house won’t be a zero carbon house if the doors are left open in mid-winter with an electric fire blazing in every room. Persuading those people to buy your green product and then use it correctly is a function of marketing, product design and clever messaging.
Big challenges indeed – worthy of a true superhero. Hercules used strength, guile and determination to complete his tasks – virtues required of the successful green business leader, too.