Greener By Design 2009: It's Not Just Consumers Driving Businesses to Change


From left to right: Chris Nelson, Steve Gutmann, and Dr. Rich Liroff; Photos by Jaymi Heimbuch

What exactly are the drivers pushing businesses to go green these days. While we often like to think it's consumers and their growing eco-awareness, there's realistically a lot more to it. Three experts sat on a panel at Greener by Design today, explaining the new drivers pushing businesses to green the way they do things. Rich Liroff, Executive Director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, Steve Gutmann, Senior Commercialisation Manager of EcoSecurities, and Chris Nelson, Director of Global Commercial Development at UL Environment talked about three new drivers nudging businesses forward in how they think about products and methods of production.

According to Gutmann, a major driver is a business's carbon footprint but not in how we typically think of it. Rather than CO2 emissions, businesses need to think about paying attention to the expense of energy. Energy costs are going to rise, and if a company can be highly energy efficient, they'll also accomplish the goal of a lower carbon footprint. Gutmann stated that for 95% of business entities, the cap and trade system won't really affect them, but energy costs will. So, a big driver for a lower environmental footprint will be rising energy costs and efficiency. Chris Nelson seconded this, but noted that measuring energy intensity and efficiency can be difficult since the way manufacturers produce goods varies so much across the board.

Dr. Liroff looked at another footprint businesses need to think about if they plan on staying in the game - their toxic footprint. He pointed out that distributers like Wal-Mart are starting to take a close look at the toxicity of products they're putting on their shelves and will begin to only allow those with the very least toxicity to make it into the store and out to customers. So even if a company couldn't care less about the environment, they'd better phase out toxic chemicals if they want to stay in business. And that will help also lower their environmental footprint.

Nelson also noted that green labeling is a place for businesses to be particularly responsible. He noted that right now, if a label goes beyond recyclability or energy efficiency, the information is usually lost on consumers. However, as consumers increase their awareness and skills at identifying green factors, businesses would be wise to be very careful about how they use a green label on their products and how their products are vetted.

More on Greener by Design:
Greener by Design 2009: What the Heck is GreenOps Recyclables Tracking?
Greener by Design 2009: Innovators Show Off New Twists on Old Products
Greener By Design 2009: HP and a Computer Box Meant to Last Forever
Greener by Design 2009: It Doesn't Matter If It's Sustainable If It Isn't Cool, and Other Insights
Greener By Design 2009 Will Explore Greener Products for Leaner Times
Greener by Design 2009: Putting Designers in the Center of Cradle-to-Cradle Thinking
Greener by Design 2009: Joel Makower and The New Normal
Greener By Design 2009: William McDonough and Designing with Intent

Tags: Designers | ICFF/ New York Design Week | One Planet Living

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