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1.2 Leaders Are Already Taking Action

Many people believe that every business, government, enterprise, and even individual contributor can do something to reduce waste, improve the environment, and play an important role in achieving environmental sustainability. The slogan "Think globally, act locally" was coined during the 1960s, and has been used often to broadly promote recycling behavior and communicate the notion that anyone can make an impact and be part of a global environmental solution. Businesses are adopting that principle at the department/site, enterprise, and even country level through awareness programs, proactive guiding principles and policies, new legislation, and government incentives.

Not only is it becoming clear that virtually any stakeholder can do more, but it is also increasingly less acceptable for some stakeholders to do nothing. Today some of the largest companies in the world are developing new guiding principles and governance models that encourage proactive behavior and strengthen environmental stewardship. The reactive status quo, in which corporations and environmentalists would clash in a world of conflicting priorities, is becoming a thing of the past. Companies are designing new business models to accomplish a range of objectives, from recognizing and rewarding employees' knowledge and experience of sustainability practice, to enabling improvements in the extended value chain that include the activities of suppliers and business partners. Accolo, a provider of recruiting solutions for small to midsize companies, is one example of a company giving financial incentives to clients that are working to improve the environment through the EcoPartnership program. Accolo's program offers business partners a rebate on services equivalent to their investment in the environment, with an upper limit of 10 percent.[1] Business model innovations such as this are meeting little opposition from employees. One poll of attitudes in the American workplace found that more than three-quarters of U.S. workers said that it was important for them to have an employer that was going green in a significant way.[2]

Yet even to a sophisticated observer who sees a wealth of new information about the green movement on a daily basis, no clear picture emerges on the master plans at the enterprise level. In some cases, no master plan exists—only a group such as a program management organization (PMO) holistically prioritizing and managing a sophisticated portfolio of "green" initiatives. In other cases, companies are carefully formulating plans to help them realize more value.

More enterprises are consciously developing holistic green strategies that affect all organizational levels, from the enterprise down to departments, site locations, and even individuals. To support the implementation of such a strategy, businesses are also adapting and applying suitable transformation methodologies to achieve and sustain benefits to business operations and to the environment. Enterprises are also developing and implementing business solutions that creatively apply technology in new ways to achieve a more granular understanding of their operations and the impact they have on the planet. Using relatively new wireless technology, networked sensors, management dashboard reporting, and automated alarm management is one way for businesses to reduce waste and optimize their position as environmental stewards.

As more businesses invest in developing new products and improved infrastructure, it's not surprising that standards are also emerging to support cross-company, cross-industry, and cross-geography collaboration and require a high level of technical sophistication and management coordination. The notion of an instrumented world is emerging and even being tested in a number of industries. An instrumented world is, ideally, one in which the state of natural and human systems, and the interactions between them, is known through sensing, and in which computer software applications can lead in their management. The concept can be applied at all levels (global, regional, local, and site) and for multiple domains (company, government, and geography).

In the face of adverse global climate and weather changes, unpredictable energy prices of fossil fuels, increasingly scarce natural resources, impending government legislation, a growing trend for higher corporate social responsibility, and consumer sentiment that favors environmentally friendly products and services, it's not surprising that businesses, industries, and governments are responding in innovative ways that might have been unimaginable just a few years ago. But reducing waste, managing scarce natural resources, saving energy, and operating efficiently have always been good business tenets.

What is different in today's business environment that will enable a clear and sustained focus on improved environmental stewardship? In many respects, the driving forces behind the current wave of business transformation for improved environmental sustainability are more strongly aligned today—and can become even stronger in the future. Businesses are learning that being lean, efficient, and "green" all go together because they can simultaneously reduce costs, lead to revenue growth, and improve environmental stewardship.

The driving forces and science behind the "green" movement to improve environmental stewardship and the need to achieve environmental sustainability is widely documented. Some of these works focus on a single driving force, such as Gore's An Inconvenient Truth [3], focusing primarily on greenhouse gas emissions and their unwanted effects on global warming and associated climate change. Another example is Campbell's Oil Crisis,[4] which discusses the force of natural resource scarcity (oil, in particular) and eventual depletion in authoritative detail. A third book, Lynas's Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, [5] paints a future picture of Earth after the consequences of unabated human pollution.

Other works connect the driving forces with possible future scenarios, such as Kunstler's The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.[6] Some works are highly specific, such as Brown's Migration and Climate Change, which predicts that climate change will displace 200 million people by 2050.[7]

Existing works vary widely in their approach to discussing a myriad of environmental issues, and many speculate on future impacts that will result if humankind's past behavior continues. Regardless of the approach, one common element that the vast majority of recent work shares is the viewpoint that current trends must be changed to avoid decidedly undesirable outcomes. The debate is already underway on whether the current green movement and its projected direction will eventually be sufficient, or whether more drastic and disruptive near-term measures are necessary.

Across industries and enterprises of all sizes, the capability to assess the driving forces that are pushing organizations to improve their environmental stewardship is also helping them to better identify and prioritize new opportunities. Businesses are identifying initiatives that are simultaneously improving both the environment and their own business performance. Esty and Winston's Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage[8] is one work that explores such benefits in more detail. Megatrends and paradigm shifts such as those from the green movement, with so many win-win scenarios for such a wide range of companies, are unique in a world of ever-increasing challenges from hypercompetition. Companies offering products and services aligned with environmental stewardship are benefiting from top-line revenue growth, other companies and consumers that purchase and use those offerings are benefiting from bottom-line cost savings, and the environment itself is beginning to benefit from improved natural resource usage and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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