We are a society plagued with guilt. I tossed a plastic six pack ring (uncut) into the trash the other day and instantly had a flash of a baby seal tangled in my thoughtless discard, with an R.E.M. song playing in the background.
Thankfully for me, the manufacturing world is making up for my carelessness by collectively “going green.” New equipment promises greater energy efficiency, less emissions and less waste. Industrial facilities can go green by becoming LEED certified; or, if they are looking for simpler solution (and less paperwork) they can make smaller changes such as adding thermally insulated windows, installing skylights, switching to florescent lighting, or using reusable pallets.
There are a multitude of reasons for manufacturing to go green, including everything from better environmental stewardship to healthier employees. I’m certainly not arguing against sustainability practices. However, at the end of a day, a company is not successful unless its products are selling. Sustainability sells. Customers want to buy from companies that operate in an environmentally friendly matter and produce environmentally friendly products because it helps alleviate the guilt imposed on us from every possible angle as green marketing campaigns tell us how we are single handedly destroying the planet.
My question is, if going green wasn’t producing a profit, would manufacturing continue its sustainability push?
Take Wal-Mart, for example. Wal-Mart’s newest green initiative aims to reduce packaging 5% by 2013, which they are estimating could save 667,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Oh and by the way, this noble initiative will also save Wal-Mart $3.4 billion and helps the company to market itself as an innovative leader in sustainability practices.
I came across a tee shirt the other day made of recycled cotton and plastic soda bottles. Across the front, it said “I’m going green.” This epitomized my questioning behind the growing green wave. Would a person buy this shirt because it is good for the environment, or simply, do they want everyone to clearly see how much they care about saving the planet?
I suppose you could say that as long as companies are “doing the right thing” when it comes to the environment, their reasoning behind it is irrelevant. But personally, before I become financially loyal to a particular product or company, I’d like some assurance that said company stands behind its green principles profits aside, and that I am not just buying into another transient marketing trend.
(Click here to read IMPO Editor Anna Wells’ counterpoint take on going green)