The global energy consumption is predicted to rise by nearly 40 percent by 2030. As we transition into a low-carbon future, we have an opportunity to improve the sustainability impacts of all energy resources. In fact, clean energy is starting to make more economical sense around the world. While prices of coal and oil-generated energy are rising, at the same time the cost of renewables is going down.
While the moral justification for environmental-sustainability didn't make the business case, today, the business case is about resiliency and staying a viable (and thriving) business in the future. If you want to achieve that, you need to address shortage of natural resources, be socially responsible and deal with environmental issues.
At the GreenBiz Forum last week in San Francisco, Patagonia's founder and thought leader, Yvon Chouinard, talked about our need to have an economy that doesn't destroy the planet, our only home. The GreenBiz Forum provided insights into sustainability progress in corporate America and environmental trends.
In a lively and inspiring discussion with Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor at the GreenBiz Group, Mr. Chouinard talked about making viable decisions that lessen impacts on the environment and society, and enhance economic growth and development. He called to “consume less, but consume better and improve our quality of life.” In comparison to Europe, he said that Europeans consume 33 percent less than Americans and have a higher quality of life.
Furthermore, whenever Patagonia did something 'green' the company thrived and increased sales, even through the recent recession. Every time Patagonia has done the right thing for the planet, the company has grown. The prevalent notion is that ‘going green’ costs a lot, but in the past few years it became apparent that companies benefit from any step toward sustainability and actually save significant costs. ‘Doing the right thing’ is not that hard, Chouinard said. Patagonia listens to customers, is uncompromising and follows customers’ demand.
Corporations make a lot of low-quality products and as cheap as possible. But consumers can change that, he said. Chouinard talked about what it means to be a citizen of the Earth and what it means to be a ‘consumer’ – citizens take care of their planet and have the power to enact change by voting with their money. Consumers get products pushed toward them, endlessly. For example, Apple Inc. is considered a world innovator, however the company makes products (like the iPhone, iPad, etc.) that are not repairable. So when a product breaks or if it is one years old or more, Apple wants consumers to buy the newer versions, essentially pushing disposable products continuously.
Chouinard also said that he doesn’t use the word ‘sustainability’. For centuries, history has demonstrated that resilient companies focus on three priorities: quality, innovation, and controlled business growth. He prefers “making products responsibly, not making products sustainably.”
As a legendary role model, he called for us to simplify our lives, where business is part of the solution and not part of the problem. To change our government we need to change business, because it runs government. To change business practices, change consumers’ attitudes. According to Chouinard, let’s make consumption un-cool! Let’s make it unfashionable!
Patagonia website: www.patagonia.com
Environmentalism and current campaigns: http://www.patagonia.com/us/environmentalism
GreenBiz "State of Green-Business Report 2013": http://www.greenbiz.com/research/report/2013/02/state-green-business-report-2013