Yes, No or Maybe?
I’ve often said that the litmus test for a green business is not so much what good things they do as what bad things they stop doing. InterfaceFLOR has killed off product lines requiring highly toxic materials, B&Q refused to stock patio heaters etc. This is where the businesses have decided to say a clear ‘no’?
But what about activities like short haul flying? Clearly something you’d like to eradicate, but what happens if a dogmatic ‘no!’ would mean causing more emissions? It might be that not flying means a larger low carbon project cannot proceed without swift intervention. You are cutting off your nose to spite your face if you take a hardline, but equally you don’t want to find yourself slipping into bad habits.
There are clearly three levels here:
- Things which should be encouraged;
- Things which must never be done;
- Things which should be discouraged.
Volvo deals with the distinction on the last two for chemicals by using black and grey lists to ban certain chemicals (black) and insist designers/buyers investigate alternatives first (grey). Other companies augment this with white lists of preferred chemicals.
This designation can be applied to any other aspect of business – you can create black, grey and white lists of transport options, suppliers, technologies, energy sources etc, etc. The designation between the three depends on your business, your sector and your priorities. Banning black listed items is relatively easy, the key is to ensure that white list items are always much easier to choose than their grey list equivalents.
But the bottom line is if you don’t have a system you can’t expect these things to happen by magic.