by Reid Boyer
Forward-thinking companies realize the value in providing sustainable, renewable, organic, cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, sweatshop-free, biodegradable, and locally-produced products and services. In the long run, our steadfast demand for such products will yield greater profits to ethical suppliers.
I believe that this country’s political process can no longer be counted on to work on behalf of the common good. Citizens concerned about our community’s continuing quality of life boldly voice opposition to heinous acts that toxify the Earth, yet the assaults continue. Special interests motivated by personal profit persistently lobby for mountaintop removal, sludging of farmland, hydraulic fracking, and more. Sometimes citizens succeed in winning temporary pauses in the destructive practices only to face reinvented legislation a short time later. A common—and baseless—scare tactic is to deceive people into thinking we won’t have enough of some basic household need if the polluters do not get their way.
America, regardless of dysfunctional politics, still offers opportunity and personally rewards those able to turn innovative ideas into sustainable business models that serve the common good. In a 2010 Gallup poll over three-fifths of Americans consider themselves either active in, or sympathetic to, the environmental movement. In order to provide our children and grandchildren the joys of a clean and natural world, one that does not make them sick, we need to know how to make our voice heard.
Voting politicians of either party into office hasn’t worked, with rare exceptions. What will work is becoming informed citizens and exercising the people’s rights in bold ways. One of these is to consistently vote with our dollars in support of businesses, products and services that practice principles of sustainability based on today’s three Ps: people, planet, and profitability.
The National Marketing Institute of Harleysville, Pennsylvania, reports that 8 of 10 Americans prefer to purchase green products. Businesses that ethically answer this desire give themselves a competitive advantage. Forward thinking companies realize value in providing sustainable, renewable, organic, cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, sweatshop free, biodegradable, and locally-produced products and services. In the long run, our steadfast demand for such ethical products will yield greater profits to ethical suppliers.
As consumers, we must reward the companies that do it right and not be fooled by pretenders that resort to greenwashing. A simple act like switching your electricity supplier to a wind power-generation company sends a clear message to traditional coal-fired utilities; when enough of us make the same decision, coal producers will be forced to stop seeking unfair legislative advantage and start changing.
Companies like GM had to learn the lessons of economic karma the hard way. After lobbying for years against California’s bid for higher vehicle fuel efficiencies, GM was reduced to begging for a government bailout when Americans stood their ground and rejected their old-style gas guzzlers. Ironically, GM is now betting their future on the Volt electric automobile.
Sustainability, done right, cuts overhead cost. The first major win for recycling in a major industry occurred in the early 1990s when beer and soft drink bottling companies began promoting aluminum recycling. Although they marketed the concept as “saving the planet”, their motive was to save themselves money. It is much less expensive to make an aluminum can from recycled material than it is to mine and process the metal from raw materials. This is a prime example of a wise approach to sustainability in which everyone wins. Reduce, reuse, and recycle make good business sense.
According to a 2011 survey of business leaders drawn from Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) global network of nearly 300 member companies, 84% are optimistic that global businesses will embrace sustainability as part of their core strategies and operations in the next five years. Let’s learn these lessons and teach them to our children, taking note that positive incremental changes count. We have some amazing role model eco-entrepreneurs and managers right here in our community.
I urge all concerned citizens to take your knowledge, your passions, and your convictions about what is right and turn them into a solid financial future for everyone. Employees, owners, investors, and consumers in the wider community have a role. In this way each becomes the larger change we want to see and we all profit from doing the right thing.
Reid Boyer graduated summa cum laude from Park University with a degree in marketing. He publishes the Lehigh Valley edition of Natural Awakenings magazine and operates All Things Sustainable, a marketing and distribution enterprise.
(Published in the 2012 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)