"There's a green business revolution taking place, but it's just getting started," says Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com, a website and research firm that has studied business and the environment since long before it became trendy.
Concludes Makower: "If you believe in the adage, 'what gets measured gets managed,' then it's clear why many of the major impacts of business aren't being well managed, at least on the macro scale."
A business is sustainable if it has adapted its practices for the use of renewable resources and holds itself accountable for the environmental and human rights impacts of its activities. This includes businesses that may want to operate in a socially responsible manner, as well as to protect the environment. Many profit-oriented corporations will forge an image of social responsibility through various marketing and public relations techniques, although this apparent image does not necessarily mean that they are sustainable.
To the casual observer, the greening of mainstream business may appear to be a recent phenomenon, but it is no ephemeral fad, according to writer and green business strategist Joel Makower. Rather, he says, it represents a shift in how business is being done, born of a confluence of global challenges: energy and natural resource constraints, global security concerns, growing public health problems, and the specter of disruptive climate change. And opportunities: a wealth of new enabling technologies that allow business efficiency to increase dramatically, dematerializing and detoxifying products and services along the way. The merging of economic and environmental interests may engender one of the biggest business transformations in decades, spurred on by a societal imperative to harness the unparalleled power of the private sector to address the world’s most pressing environmental problems.
Companies of all sizes and sectors have come to recognize that being a greener business can create new forms of business value, whether increased sales and reduced costs, or forms of value that are indirect (increased quality, reduced risk, increased ability to attract and retain talent) or intangible (enhanced reputation or becoming a preferred trading partner). Not every company derives such benefits, but many have found ways to turn the emerging environmental ethic into a business opportunity.