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The Eight Biggest Myths About Sustainability in Business

December 2, 2009

mythpicVijay Kanal of Kanal Consulting recently posted a piece on GreenBiz.com titled The Eight Biggest Myths about Sustainability in Business

He kicks the piece off by saying, “Sustainability should be considered not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes business sense. If an initiative cannot be justified from a strategic, financial, operational, marketing, or employee recruitment/retention perspective, don’t do it. But we have found that in almost every corner of an organization there is a fundamental business reason for being more sustainable.”

For each of the eight myths identified he presents details from companies in the green trenches, such as HP, P&G and Numi Tea, to counter the misrepresentations.

The short piece is a great overview of the business case for going green.

One of the Biggest Fallacies

One of the biggest fallacies about sustainability is that it is a cost center. Kanal stresses,

The problem is that many companies have this perception that it’s going to cost them money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reducing materials, natural resources, and waste will save companies money, while becoming more environmentally friendly. And we are strong proponents that unless there is a positive financial ROI or there is another (strategic) business reason to undertake a sustainability initiative, don’t do it.

He also points out, “It really does help to recruit and retain employees if a company is considered environmentally and socially responsible, in the same way that work-life balance became an important criteria 10 years ago. Today’s new workforce is considering sustainability in their choice of employers.”

The Eight Big Myths

The big myths about sustainability in business he touches upon include:

1.  It’s a cost and we can’t afford it right now

2. It requires lots of staff

3. There’s no money to be made from sustainability

4. It’s just for big companies

5. It’s mostly for B2C companies

6. If we make claims about sustainability, we’ll be accused of greenwashing

7. NGOs are our adversaries

8. We don’t have to worry about the supply chain because we don’t make things

Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact. She is a LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. You can follow her at @GreenImpact.

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