On the eco-bandwagon

Just try and find a business today that isn’t labelling itself or some part of its operations environmentally-friendly. Pretty tough, isn’t it? From supermarkets to energy companies to banks, green is undeniably the hue du jour.

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There are many reasons why the bandwagon is so stuffed with those seeking to appear sustainable, but does it really matter what their motivation is so long as they are changing their ways in some respect?

Appearing cuddly and caring for their customers is far from the only reason businesses are ramping up their environmental credentials in today’s market.

Cutting costs is a popular reason many businesses are adjusting their environmental standards and encouraging staff behaviour change. Impressive financial savings can be made by making even simple changes such as ensuring staff turn off their computers at the end of the day.

If a thousand PCs are left on continuously without using any power-save function, they will use up to £70,000 of electricity annually. That is just one stunning stat of many that makes it clear how crucial environmental behaviour change can be for a businesses’ bottom line.

There has been leadership exhibited from a growing number of chief executives in response to the mounting evidence of climate change. For example, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was an epiphany of sorts for the head of Wal-Mart. Chief executive Lee Scott admitted he was previously skeptical of the company’s environmental critics and saw ‘going green’ to be simply a PR move.

But after the hurricane, not only did the company help thousands of victims get back on their feet again, but they also rolled out a comprehensive environmental policy. The catastrophe inspired Scott to investigate the science behind climate change and he’s emerged a believer, determined to lighten the mammoth retailer’s footprint.

Very few companies will follow the brave lead of the garden centre chain Wyevale who decided to stop selling climate damaging patio heaters just at a time when sales will rocket to keep die-hard smokers from freezing. They knew they’d take a financial hit but they made the change anyway.

Some changes businesses are not necessarily making by choice – the government is increasing tighter environmental legislation. One example is the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a new scheme issued by Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which will apply mandatory emissions trading to cut carbon emissions from large commercial and public sector organisations by 1.1 MtC/year by 2020.

Recruiting employees may not seem a likely reason to become more environmentally friendly but businesses are increasing discovering that potential hires want to work for an employer that appreciates their impact on the planet. If they want to get some of the best and brightest on their team, these days a company has to have sustainable credentials.

PricewaterhouseCoopers hired Global Action Plan’s Carbon Gym for their graduate recruitment events to help strengthen their environmental message to potential job candidates.

And finally an issue that is close to many businesses’ hearts – PR. The groundswell of interest in the media and public about climate change has made it simply bad business to ignore. From the Stern report to the IPCC findings, the headlines on environmental issues are a consistent, and heated, topic.

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