Out-Greening the Competition

By Features Business on Main

Unless you’ve been stuck under a rock, you know that “going green” has been one of the biggest trends in business this past decade. A simple Bing search of “going green” generates more than 200 million results. To help businesses turn sustainability from a trendy buzzword into a long-term commitment, New York City-based management consulting firm GreenOrder takes a strategic approach.

First, its clients need to understand that “green means better,” said GreenOrder president Andrew Shapiro. “[In] the old days, green usually meant a sacrifice — not today. Green should actually convey to a consumer that this product or service is better than what you can get in the market.”

Since 2000, GreenOrder’s staff of scientists, lawyers and management consultants has helped companies like GE, Polo Ralph Lauren and General Motors create operational efficiencies, spur energy innovation and create new products and services to drive profitability.

How GreenOrder works
Just as there weren’t easy solutions when businesses made huge transformations to keep up with globalization or the digital revolution, GreenOrder stresses that there are no quick fixes when it comes to sustainability. “We’re looking at that broad landscape and asking companies, ‘Are there smarter ways that you can go about utilizing resources?’” said Shapiro.

This approach involves a rigorous analysis of everything from environmental policy, to the buildings and transportation fleet a company owns, to the manufacturing of a product. After conducting a lifecycle analysis for client Polo Ralph Lauren’s staple product — the polo shirt — GreenOrder identified new shipping practices that decreased greenhouse gas emissions and expenditures.

Working with one of the largest banks in the world, GreenOrder helped develop a process for its customers to go paperless. “This proved to be a triple benefit for the bank,” said Shapiro — it reduced postage costs, paper costs and the number of trees being cut down.
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Taking green to the next level
Companies are realizing that to win in the 21st century, they have to be ahead of the curve in environmental stewardship and innovation. This is a key form of differentiation from competitors in the marketplace.

“The trend of everyone going green is great,” Shapiro said, “but we’re trying to take things to the next level. You can out-green your competition by operating, creating and engaging in ways that are superior from an environmental standpoint.”

There are numerous green strategies that small- and medium-size enterprises can undertake to save capital and create lasting environmental benefits. Most businesses have two things in common: They either own or lease property, and they procure items like equipment and office supplies. To become more efficient, Shapiro recommends that companies look at lighting and window treatments for their properties, and researching greener products to purchase.

“It’s everything from the materials you use to how you get them to your plant or facility to how you put them together and then how you ship them to market,” said Shapiro.

Beyond the metrics
Sustainability goes beyond the tangible, easy-to-quantify financial benefits of going green. GreenOrder’s clients are starting to see that the way a business manages green issues is a proxy for good management as a whole. “For businesses that want to be seen as a leader,” Shapiro said, “so much of a company’s market cap is coming from intangibles like reputation.”

Companies that can execute on sustainability and corporate responsibility will be able to attract cutting-edge investors, strategic business partners and the best employees.

“Nobody wants to end up on one of those lists of the 10 least-green companies,” Shapiro said. “If you have a bad reputation, people aren't going to invest in you. They’re not going to want you in their community.”

Antonio Neves is an award-winning journalist, host of Business on Main’s Web series, “Cool Runnings,” and a correspondent for NBC NextMedia. Find out more at www.antonioneves.net.

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