The ever-increasing awareness of how manufacturing, consumption and commerce affect the environment continues to offer exciting new opportunities in the business world. Companies that have environmentally focused strategies are making genuine connections with customers, which translates into success with traditional business measures.
But it’s not easy. In theory, every company has the ability to prioritize sustainability and make more environmentally friendly choices. In reality, it requires strong leadership and vision to take on the potentially greater risk or longer timelines for profitability.
Getting the best of both worlds
Environmental and business objectives are not mutually exclusive. In fact, these two seemingly disparate elements can work together to produce bottom-line results.
Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface Inc., faced a wake-up call in the 1990s – 20 years after starting his carpet manufacturing company. He credits “The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken for his environmental awakening as a “spear-in-the-chest experience.” As a result, he steered the company on a path to erase any negative effects Interface had on the environment by 2020. Anderson realized the tremendous influence and economic power businesses have to drive tangible change. The path of his business was forever altered, and he went on to earn the nickname of “World’s Greenest CEO.”
Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia is another leader whose environmental philosophies have become legendary. In addition to leading the way by using ethical suppliers and sustainable or recycled materials, Patagonia’s marketing strategy is famous for encouraging customers not to buy its products. Instead, Patagonia emphasizes the high quality and durability of its wares and pioneers efforts in recycling and developing new materials to help the environment. Given that the company’s sales hit $750 million in 2015, it’s clear that customers support this strategy.
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