Making “green” part of your corporate culture will help stem the tide of global warming.

 

We should all work toward environmental stewardship, for a cleaner, better earth. (Photo: NASA)

Do you ever get something on your mind and just can’t let it go - one of those things that you just want to “get off your chest”? Well, this column is the result of that feeling I have regarding what I believe to be a critical personal and management matter for all of us.

The Debate

There seems to be a great debate raging over global warming that has been transformed into a political issue. The debate centers on two suppositions about the subject: that there is no global warming or that the earth is indeed in a period of global warming today.

If you accept that we are in a period of the earth’s warming, is it a natural occurrence within the solar system or is it man-made, or both? I am not a scientist, a climatologist, or a politician so I am going to keep it pretty simple.

 Apply Logic

In our lifetime, those of us in the wood products industry have seen a lot of change both here and around the world.

In this country we have seen the clean air we enjoyed during most of the last century vanish. The scary thing is that this trend is spreading around the globe. If you travel now to remote corners of the world, you will find cities such as Bangkok, Cairo, Saigon, and Beijing where it is all but impossible to breathe without choking. The forests of South America are being cleared at an alarming rate for the production of food and the rivers are becoming polluted.

The global industrial revolution that is taking place in developing countries is already impacting the environment far greater than that of the industrialized world during its evolution decades ago.

The sheer amount of pollution that is sure to come from China, India and other countries is difficult to contemplate — and this will be added to what the western world is producing today.

There is but one logical conclusion about pollution and the environment: It’s going to get worse if we humans don’t intercede. The sheer number of cars on the planet is enough to cause concern.

The global growth and desire for a better life in third-world countries clouds the future with questions concerning what environmental concessions will be made. We don’t have the luxury of thinking Mother Earth will somehow adapt.

Assume It’s True

If you subscribe to the theory that all we are doing to the environment is not nor will not contribute to global warming — take care. If you are wrong, our grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to face a very difficult time and our dream of them having a better life than we have had will be no more than a wishful thought.

I really don’t care about the fight between the political left and right. I am not willing to gamble on anything short of an all-out responsible effort to reduce the amount of natural resources we consume and the waste we spew into the environment in the process. The reason is simple: This decision will result in a better place for my grandson, Benjamin, and his children to grow up.

The debate is becoming silly and irrelevant. As responsible wood products industrialists and inhabitants of this planet, we should assume the worst case scenario and act accordingly. Let’s accept the hypothesis that there is global warming and that we need to do everything we can to embrace a greener lifestyle and encourage others to do the same.

The reality, however, is that most of us have already made a conscious decision to let someone else worry about this issue. Instead of being proactive, we’ll continue our lifestyles and the way we run our businesses.

Let’s show the world that we can prosper in our industry without harming the environment. We also need to demand the same from our overseas suppliers and help them learn how to manufacture wood products and protect the environment at the same time.

Green Is Good

If you are not with me on this, you need to come to terms with the fact that green wood products companies are going to be the long-term survivors in this century. What started as a movement 10 years ago is reality today. What most shrugged off as a “Tree Hugger’s Movement” just a few years ago frames the way Ms. Suzie Homemaker thinks and acts today — the way she makes decisions when she is shopping for groceries, for furniture, or for kitchen cabinets.

Thus, I submit that green is good for two reasons. The first is that it will help the environment (including any global warming real or perceived). The second is that it will put a furniture or cabinet manufacturer at a competitive advantage over those who choose to ignore the trend. I will go so far as to say, “He who goes green first — wins!”

I, for one, hope that Jesse Ausubel is correct when he says that progress is being made in slowing the deforestation of the planet and that we may have turned the corner toward a net gain in forest acreage around the world. (“Seeing the Forest for the Trees,” Feb. 2007 Wood & Wood Products.) I am encouraged to see that LEED is being taken seriously by developers, builders, suppliers, and manufacturers. I am proud that “conservation” is no longer a dirty word. Most of all, I am glad to see companies making “green” part of their company culture.

Now is the time to create a green culture throughout your company. Begin by looking at your raw materials and see if they are from sustainable sources. Make sure your process equipment is suited for the job and that your utilization of materials, energy, and other resources is highly efficient, and that your process waste is low. Educate you employees on working in a green environment.

Encourage green innovation within your company that will offer your customers something unique. Your goal should be to become recognized in the marketplace as one that cares about global warming, and that you are doing something about it. Make your company a part of framing a bright future for your customers’ grandchildren and I guarantee you will see positive results on your bottom line.

Tom Dossenbach is the president of Dossenbach Associates Inc., a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail tfd@dossenbach.com. Visit his Web site at www.dossenbach.com. Past Management Matters columns are archived on www.iswonline.com.

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