Green Business And Your Bottom Line
Green Business And Your Bottom Line
Spencer T. Brown (Founder And Inventor) gives expert video advice on: What is an 'ecological footprint'?; Why is it important for businesses to be green innovators?; What could happen if my business fails to respond to environmental concerns? and more...
What is an 'ecological footprint'?
An eco-footprint is, by definition, the impact that your choices will make on the ecology. For example, an eco-footprint is what you're leaving behind. As a product designer, we have a huge amount of influence on how consumers will leave an impact. So, we can design a product with minimal eco-impact or we can design a product that, when you use it, has a large amount of eco-impact. An example would be, again going back to my Recopack, I designed this product from trash and it takes 74 bottles and when you use it, you're actually having a positive eco-impact. Why? Because we're taking trash out of landfills and you're not buying a cardboard box that uses energy, water and transportation costs to transport this box all over the place for you to then build it, tape it and then dispose of it after one use. So, renting the Recopack is a positive eco-footprint, and has a positive eco-impact. A negative eco-footprint is buying a big gas guzzler and driving it around. You're leaving a carbon footprint, it's an eco-footprint.
Why is it important for businesses to be green innovators?
It is important if they want to stay in business. Let me explain that. We will go back to the 60's just for a second. During the 60's the entire topic of business in life was 'Proud to be made in America'. Then, in the 70's, it was the quality American product. In the 80's, industry in business really looked up to their brand. Disney became a brand, Nike became a brand, and Coca-Cola really branded themselves. In the 90's, technology was the platform that you have to stand on in business to survive. You have to integrate cell phones, fax, internet, and web pages. Now that that's done, there's a new platform that you have to stand on to. That's being green. What the consumer is looking for is, if they're going to buy goods and services, they want to buy something that they consciously know that is not going to have a minimal impact on the environment, and a minimal impact on their lives: the quality of their lives, the health of their lives. When business says, 'Well, we don't want to be green' or has green washed themselves to rush to be in this platform, at some point the consumer will look at it.
What could happen if my business fails to respond to environmental concerns?
There's so many different organizations that are certifying businesses. I'll mention Lohas, and Leeds and Green seal and Fore Steward Council. In terms of not being able to green, that's just an excuse. I can personally, just from my own 2 years of building a green business, go into any business and look at inefficiencies in the process, and look at fax machines, and look at how they actually might have regular toilets. You can run low flush and switch your light bulbs and put in some new technologies, but if a business says "we can't be green, then you'll just have to be like the plumber who's working 9 to 5 on a copper line phone. You just won't have any business or any customers. Eventually consumers will just push you out. They'll solve your business problems for you. They won't buy your goods and services because there will be a competitor who has taken the steps to make his business more green and more environmentally friendly.
How will going green sharpen my company's competitive edge?
It's so fantastic to see a business that's archaic and old and has a blueprint and the ownership; the managers and the president, and they are really frontiers and they're risk-takers and they look at this and they say, "We're going to do some changes in this company. We're going to make this company more accountable for our trash. We're going to close-loop our manufacturing cycle." Take a look at Erolais Carpets. Fifteen years ago before the industry, in particular carpet, was analyzed as being a huge polluter they were taking the first steps. Now they're rewarded because it's one of the most innovative, green, closed-loop, zero-waste manufacturing processes in the world and they can't make enough carpet on their process. How are archaic businesses when they decide to go green rewarded? By a couple different ways: more customers, happier workforce, more productivity and the cost of being green, if you do your research and you work with local vendors and local suppliers and you streamline and add technology, you end up with more profit than running an archaic, wasteful organization.
How might going green increase the longevity of my business?
In order for a business to service its customers, the business really needs to look at what the customers are looking for, and ensure that quality across the board is very high in most products. Distribution channels are very efficient. Websites are great communicators. But, the customer is still looking for a great alternative. Looking forward, if a company decides that being green is the right thing to do, they'll actually obtain more customers, and by obtaining more customers they'll make that next transition to that next platform. Right now it is definitely green. If you are working towards being a truly green company, and really analyze what you do in your industry, and what type of impact it has on our landfills, and the consumer feels that your product is genuinely green, then they'll support your business.
How does a green business affect the local economy?
It's amazing to see when a small business or idea is brought to market and they look at their local suppliers. We'll take a look at a restaurant, you're seeing a lot of organic restaurants popping up and they emphasize the local grown products. That's a very green decision because rather than having asparagus flown in from around the globe, the energy, the transportation, they're serving what's available in their local agricultural market. Doing that is interesting in that it's really saying this is what we've grown locally. It supports our local farmer, it has a very low cost of transportation, and we're providing it so you're understanding that you're actually enjoying the fruits of our local community. It's a very bonding, very organic, very communal way of looking at a restaurant in that application. Another application is when you're renting RICO pack, we're renting these boxes made from our trash. The trash isn't coming from Florida. We're a California based business, it's coming right from our landfills right in Orange county, right in LA county, so we're close-looping it. It's taking our local trash, using our local economy to come up with a localized solution that has a national and international scale. That's a very green way of conducting business. In addition to that, as the consumer is becoming more conscious of their choices, would you rather buy a product that has been shipped all over the world, or would you rather buy a local product? That's a choice you need to make, and in making that choice, it's electing to do the right thing which is you're supporting your local economy, your local farmer, and it's cyclical, it's organic. The money that you spent for that dinner that was made from organic vegetables eventually pays that farmer. That farmer might need to buy your goods and services and will stay local as well, so it's closing that loop on economic localization that is so important in a great community. That is not to say that when you make a product to only make it for your local market, but that if you have a green product and if you're buying local, you're doing a very green thing.
How does a green product affect production time?
Being green does not make your business product production cycle faster. It makes it, if anything in the beginning, slower, because you have to do more research. You have to ensure that the materials that you are buying are recycled. You have to make sure that it's sustainable. There's a lot of walking the streets, a lot of fact-finding, a lot of going into companies and seeing how your raw materials are being processed. That takes time. After you weed out the chaff and you get to the kernel, what's interesting is that you find that you don't have a lot of competition. You might be one guy. We're the only people in the nation making a recycled moving box, and because of that we have an endless capacity in industry to use different machines versus other people who are making virgin resin boxes that are waiting in line, and I don't have to. Why? Because I have a green product and so it's a niche product, and when you have a niche product, companies are learning how to do business with green people. Green people and product designers are learning how to integrate their green product into industry, because sometimes you have to have mechanized processes. It's not that it's slower or longer to bring a green product to market, it just takes more steps in the beginning. Like all product design, if you do it once, twice, three or four times, you become more efficient and you can bring your product to the market faster the more you make it.