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January 23, 2008 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

2008, The Wave Continues…

[Originally posted on my site here on January 6, 2008]

The New Year is always a time for taking stock, looking both back and forward. How did your company handle the shifting sands for business in 2007, the greening of society? Companies across many industry groups were scrambling and strategizing about how to best manage the environmental impacts of everything they do. Green issues were huge in ’07 (see my upcoming strategy e-letter on the crushing flow of media to green issues in 2007 here in a few days).

But 2007 was just the beginning. It was not a fad – or a bad dream for some – but a fundamental shift in how we all do business. Why? Well the Green Wave was a big part of it: the two big forces of the natural world – real resource constraints like water shortages and climate change – and the rising pressure from stakeholders got stronger. But what was the strongest reason to belive it’s not a fad (and one that became much clearer in 2007 )? In short, green business is better business – companies are slashing costs, driving new revenues, reducing risk, and enhancing brand value. Why go back if your business is better?

But the tipping point year is over now and the game is on. So what environmentally-driven challenges and questions will your business face in 2008 and how will you handle them?
I could pick many trends (I believe that most aspects of the Green Wave are getting stronger and still changing fast, even in tougher economic times), but I’ll highlight just a few of the forces that will grow stronger in ‘08 and the coming years.

The “greening of the supply chain” grew legs this past year with Wal-Mart adding its substantial weight to a movement that had been gaining steam for years. The leviathan started asking suppliers to redesign packaging and reduce fossil fuel use, and even demanding more information on exactly how much energy a product used in its creation, from procurement to manufacturing to distribution. The B2B greening pressure means every company will need to track much more data on its operations. This is where we’re headed: a world where every product will carry information with it about how it was made – the energy, water, resource use – who made it and where, how much they were paid, and on and on.

Clearly this won’t all happen in ’08, but it has already begun in earnest. The pressure for more data is part of a larger movement toward transparency in all we do. Dole now puts a sticker on its organic bananas with a farm number on it. Go to Dole’s website and pick the farm number and watch as Google Earth zooms you to a satellite view of the farm itself. This is a fun use of transparency.

Other stakeholders are using the same tools for more critical uses, to expose much more information about where your products, or your energy, come from. Look at Appalachian Voices, a small but very smart NGO that works to combat mountain-top removal mining practices. Put in your zipcode at their site, and see a very clear picture of the mountains that were cut down to power your life. I spoke to Mary Ann Hitt, the director of this group, and for good reason, companies should be nervous about what she and other innovative NGO leaders will do with new technologies. Google is enamored with this kind of interesting use of their tools and has built Appalachian Voices’ data into the popular Google Earth program. Every version includes an overlay of all the mountains destroyed anywhere (along with some other overlays under the “Global Awareness” check-box including WWF maps, biodiversity hotspots, etc).

Are you ready for this level of exposure and expectation of openness?

So next December, when many of your resolutions have fallen by the wayside and you’re not as organized or as on-time as you hoped (I’m shooting to fully adopt the Getting Things Done workflow approach and we’ll see how it goes…), will you be able to say that you made your business better? That your company is on a more profitable path using the green lens? Will you have an action plan to stay ahead of the curve on this critical business issue?

Good luck and Happy (Green) New Year!

 

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