When the going gets tough…
You have to be living on the planet Zog not to notice we are at a time of great economic uncertainty – with whole economies teetering on the brink, banks still in part or full state ownership and the dark shadow of redundancy hovering at the back of people’s minds. Green might seem like a luxury at such a time but many of the world’s biggest names – Wal-Mart, IKEA, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, P&G and Unilever – are not just sticking to their sustainability strategies but boosting them.
Crudely speaking you can do two things to increase profits: cut costs and boost turnover.
While cutting jobs is attractive due to the size of wage bills, cutting energy, raw material, waste and water costs is easier and cheaper – you don’t have to pay electrons redundancy. I know of one organisation which has a £2 million road fuel bill who are literally telling their drivers that every £25k they shave off that bill will save somebody’s job.
Boosting turnover has a similar story. Yes, public sector spending is being cut back, but that makes tendering more competitive not less, and green tender points might just give you the edge. Other big buyers such as retailers and brands looking for contract manufacturing still want to go green – which means either their suppliers go green or they find suppliers who will.
Despite all this, some companies are retracting on green issues – I’ve been advising a couple of highly talented sustainability experts in the ways of the independent consultant recently as their employers are cutting back. Both will make great consultants which means everyone can benefit from their skills, but it is a great shame nonetheless.
A piece of advice that has resonated with me for years is that the Tour de France is won on the uphills not the downhills. It is tough out there, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t afford to go green in a recession. You can’t afford not to.