April 22 is Earth day. Like many people, our family will do the superficial things that people do on Earth Day like turn down the lights, and pick up trash that people throw along the side of our road. However, Earth Day needs to be more than just superficial actions. It should be a time to reflect on how what we do as individuals impacts the environment. Likewise, a company’s environmental policies must be more than superficial actions designed to get good PR and instead be instilled in the corporate culture. The fun thing is that when this happens, when environmental factors are embedded in corporate culture, the benefits can be surprising. I saw this article recently in IndustryWeek - the article described how Dow Chemical has leveraged a 2 billion dollar investment in green technologies into a 9 billion dollar savings. Not bad any way you look at it! This is yet another data point that back’s up my assertion that a carefully thought out environmental policy actually saves a company money while helping to reduce the impact on the planet. So, how did Dow do it? According to IndustryWeek, there are really two keys; 1) Embed sustainability considerations into all decisions…in other words, embed environmental factors into the corporate culture! 2) Sustainability must be a top down focus, driven by the CEO. Like so many initiatives, if the top executive doesn’t buy into something, it is very difficult to make it happen. In Dow’s case, the environmental push came from the CEO and as a result, things happened! So, what is stopping you from looking at ways to make your company more environmentally responsible? Maybe the environment isn’t high on your priority list. If so, I’d encourage you to check out Ted Talks, specifically their videos on the environment (if you’ve never seen a Ted Talk, it’s worth checking out!) You can find the environmental articles here; http://www.ted.com/talks/tags/environment. I’ve never come away from one of these videos without a sense of urgency that we have to do something. Let’s look at the other benefits of a top down sustainability program; 1) Save money. Wasted energy and material is wasted money. Look at Dow…7 billion in savings…enough said. 2) Gain customer mind share. When your company is constantly in the news for environmentally sound actions, people are drawn to that. It indicates (at least to me) that this is a company that I want to be associated with. I look at Google and the myriad things they do to reduce energy consumption (solar power, shuttle bus service for employees, just to name a few). Needless to say, I’m a big user of Google services (it doesn’t hurt that they make good products too!) 3) Get ahead of the regulations. The government is under significant pressure to reduce environmental impacts and will continue to create new laws and regulations to address these issues. When these regulations come out, companies need to respond…unless, of course, you are already meeting them. If you are exporting to other countries, you need to conform to their environmental laws as well. Having a strong environmental position will make this easier. 4) Employees feel good about the company. This is somewhat ‘touchy-feely’ (forgive me if you don’t go for that), however, it is an important factor. People want to work for companies that they can be proud of. If your company is recognized as an industry leader in environmental issues, that is something people feel good about. Happy people are more productive and creative and that is better all the way around. So what are you doing to make your company more sustainable? You may not save 7 billion dollars, but over time, you will save money and help the environment. Do you agree? Do you think I’m a tree hugging nut ball? Comment back and let me know.