Green business

Europe’s biggest home improvement chain blueprints sustainability

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Richard Gillies has one of the biggest jobs in sustainable business. As group sustainability director for Europe’s largest home improvement business, Kingfisher, he has hardly had time to catch his breath since joining the company 12 months ago. Twenty-nine years at the UK retailer Marks & Spencer’s saw Gillies rise to eventually lead the company’s world-renowned Plan A strategy under the tutelage of Sir Stuart Rose and, later, Marc Boland.

Today, another program — Net Positive — occupies his mind as Kingfisher bids to take soon-to-depart group chief executive Sir Ian Cheshire’s vision to turn the business into a restorative organization that makes a positive contribution to both people and planet.

I met with Gillies at an interesting time in the company’s evolution. Kingfisher hopes another acquisition will further broaden its reach into Europe and consumer offering with franchise stores (it seeks clearance to buy the French DIY chain Mr Bricolage). And Véronique Laury will become the fifth female leader of Britain’s top 100 companies when she jumps into the position vacated by Cheshire in January.

The business case for rethinking fracking

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You’ve probably heard that fracking is supported wholeheartedly by the business community, and that only environmentalists see problems with it. But that’s not the case. In fact, a growing number of businesses and business groups are finding that there is a strong business case to be made against fracking.

Of course, there are some economic advantages to fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, as it’s technically known. As a result of this process, which has allowed drillers to reach fossil fuel reserves that were previously viewed as not economically feasible to tap, the U.S. has boosted oil and shale gas output, reduced energy costs and pushed the country closer to energy independence. It’s gotten to the point where President Obama claimed the U.S. is the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”

Proponents of fracking also like to note that natural gas, with fewer CO2 emissions than coal or oil, can serve as a “bridge fuel” as the country continues to transition to clean, renewable energy.

All of this would be enough to make one think that fracking is nothing but good news, for the economy and for all industries.

Working together, EHS systems and CSR rocket a company to success

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Making environmental, health and safety compliance sexy may seem impossible, but the Sustainable Performance Forum Americas 2014 conference came close. With former NASA astronaut Capt. John Creighton on stage, a Discovery Bar in the lobby and over 500 attendees with roles spanning the sustainability spectrum, enterprise software company Enablon turned an enterprise event into an industry influencer.

Now in its sixth year, SPF Americas attracts EHS compliance managers and sustainability innovators. Rule enforcers plus silo breakers makes a potentially combustible mixture, but these elements can transform organizations — if they can find a way to work together.

The EHS system is a catalyst for transformation. Sophisticated EHS software platforms can collect and parse Big Data, allowing compliance managers to work efficiently while contributing to their company’s knowledge pool. Analytics captured for risk-management purposes can improve performance and even support CSR programs and sustainability reporting.

9 ways sustainability drives profit

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Today most executives recognize that sustainability must be integrated into their organization’s core strategy — not to say that they necessarily understand why. In fact, too many are still content wearing some kind of sustainability PR badge just because the “About Us” section of their website gives sustainability a one-paragraph mention.

For their sake and ours, here are nine reasons why all of us might want to redefine how we approach sustainability.

Ebay, Kindle and Skype rule among the greenest apps

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Ebay, Skype and Kindle now have more in common than being three of the most widely used smartphone apps. They are also the best apps for promoting sustainable behavior, according to a recent study by the WSP Group, a U.K. environmental consultancy firm.

Supply-chain fixes are the secret sauce for three NY companies

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Sustainable organizations can become preferred business partners, thanks to the demand for sustainable suppliers. Organizations that integrate sustainability into their operations likely will generate more revenue, retain and potentially create jobs, and reduce the risk of jeopardizing potential business.

Both of us work at the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, which assists companies in the state with their journey along the sustainability continuum. Through NYSP2I’s “Sustainable Supply Chain” program, manufacturers learn to identify opportunities to become leaders in their industry sector by recognizing their impacts, determining a strategic certification or label to pursue and educating stakeholders on making sustainable purchasing decisions.

NYSP2I has assisted several companies with identifying opportunities to meet customer demands while reducing environmental impacts. Three are discussed here: a food manufacturer; a start-up packaging company; and an established granite countertop manufacturer. Each had an obstacle to overcome in order to gain or retain customers.