Better Green Business: Driving Forces and Challenges That Organizations Face
1.1 Environmental Stewardship Presents New Growth Opportunity
Since the turn of the millenium, environmental stewardship has gripped the collective intellect of humankind. Environmental issues have challenged our self-awareness and sparked a global initiative to respond to such critical issues as global climate change and natural resource conservation. As a result, attitudes toward the environment are changing to encourage innovation in conservation. The benefits that arise will surely outlive our current generation. Enterprises of all sorts and sizes are developing more environmental impact initiatives, a trend that continues to accelerate as more attitudes change. The U.S. government's executive and legislative branches, along with other governments worldwide, are also focusing on energy efficiency and alternative energy policy, along with their relationship to economic growth, employment, and national security.
Seldom has the need for large-scale transformation been so clear but the necessary course of action been so difficult to define. "Global warming," "global climate change," "greenhouse gasses," "resource scarcity," "environmental risk," and "carbon footprint" have quickly become common household terms and are mentioned daily in news and science reports. Business communities also are increasingly discussing these topics in company newsletters, in announcements to the investment community, and at shareholder meetings. Enterprises are certainly changing in ways that improve the environment, and environmental change continues to remain a top priority for many businesses, even as cyclical industry forces work to redefine other long-standing pillars of stability and growth. Environmental stewardship is one area of new business activity whose driving forces are so strong, responsibly compelling, and widely appreciated that the call to action can appeal to every industry, enterprise, and organizational level, from the most senior executives to the newest entry-level employees.
In the past, new legislation, community pressure, or customer safety concerns often prompted corporate environmental initiatives. Reactive calls to action for specific environmental concerns—such as acid rain, ozone layer depletion, excessive pollution, and smog, especially in and around urban areas—also drove these initiatives. In many countries, tremendous progress has been made through legislation to reduce automobile exhaust emissions, lower pollution levels in the air we breathe, and improve safety by eliminating the use of lead-based paint. All stakeholders, from government lawmakers to corporate executives and consumer advocates, helped enact these changes. However, scientific evidence tells us that global warming, and the associated climate change, is accelerating, fueling a growing consensus that more pervasive changes need to occur. Many people believe that government regulation should play a role in achieving effective change, but that it's only one of several forces that will drive the needed change into the future.
All governments, individuals, and businesses must play an important role in protecting the environment. By developing environmentally friendly strategies, adopting transformation methods that support environmental stewardship, and implementing solutions that reduce environmental impact, enterprises of all sizes and across all industries are already heading in this direction.