Courage to Be Authentically Green

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You know, we live in a time when it’s fashionable to be green (image by Shamih). So many companies add the token green message to their marketing that one wonders if there’s any element of sincerity or altruism to it. Then you have companies that have the courage to be authentically green.

That’s one of the reasons why I loved Sprint CEO’s Dan Hesse‘s Congressional testimony this week:

Sprint is committed to the belief that we all share in the responsibility to conduct our businesses in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. We base this on the premise that a company is much more than the products and services it sells; the effect a company has on the environment, the people and the communities it serves reflects a company’s dedication to being not only a good business, but to being a good corporate citizen.

The telecom company is the only one in its sector to rank in the top 100 of Newsweek’s 2009 Green Rankings of top 500 US Corporations. Yes, there’s certainly business benefit to going green, but Sprint’s actions have spoken for itself. It’s gone beyond the necessary steps to simply label itself green.

The halo effect works for Sprint. But I will add that sustainability over time is necessary for green to become believable as a socially responsible corporate asset.

Further, authenticity means more than just having an initiative. It also must reflect the actual corporate culture. WalMart is another company that’s going green like there’s no tomorrow; however, the company has such a negative track record in other areas of human rights (healthcare and wages) that one would have to think wind turbines from Maine to Arizona wouldn’t completely turn the company’s image around. In my mind, WalMart has quite a big hole to dig out of before it can be viewed as a good corporate citizen. The company’s very recent environmental efforts represent a start.

More on this soon.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

3 Replies to “Courage to Be Authentically Green”

  1. Geoff,

    Companies like Meijer quietly “go green” because it makes economic sense. The model often goes like this: a small company comes in, changes out cooler motors for more efficient models, installs proximity sensors to dim and bring up lights when req’d, and changes lights to efficient lighting. The small company provides the capital and work. The profit? They split the energy savings with Meijer (and other grocers). These savings are often the only “wiggle” room a large retailer has in making more money. It is green, but in the best sense: they make more money AND are more efficient. And very little government intervention.

    From Meijer: “For example, lighting in all stores has been changed over to highly efficient fluorescent fixtures. High efficiency motors and improved ventilation equipment have also been incorporated in all stores. Refrigerated cases are being upgraded in many stores with glass doors, designed to keep the cold where it belongs – inside the cases!”

    Sources: http://www.meijer.com/content/content.jsp?pageName=meijer_75th_anniversary_newsroom#awards

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Geoff. If I can stretch this (read: move off topic a bit…), I also think an important element to authenticity is the match of the “good” work. For example, obviously all organizations need to be working towards environmental sustainability if we want this world of ours to be around in the long term. But, that doesn’t mean that every company in the world needs to have “green” be it’s social impact focus or SCR focus, etc. Sprint, as a telcom, could be really successful around social impact initiatives by focusing on access issues or communications/knowledge sharing in developing nations/regions. It is a match to what they do, it’s a match to their strengths and knowledge, and thus creates so many stories within that match that their job of showing their impact can be tied to their own work.

    Just thinking aloud perhaps…

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